Part of the reason I chose to tour the USA this summer was to attend the TBEX 2012 conference in Keystone, Colorado. It happened to fall on my 25th birthday, and what better way to celebrate your birthday than with 600 other blogging friends?!
It seemed a perfect excuse to combine my birthday with a travel blogging conference and a tour of the US of A. I don’t like to tell people it’s my birthday (I don’t like a fuss), but I do like being abroad doing something fun.
A few days prior to the conference I was talking to my friend Rob from Stop Having a Boring Life on Skype, and I managed to persuade him to come to TBEX and see what it’s all about. A few minutes later and he’d booked a last minute ticket to Denver International, pretty cool eh?
I’m one of those bad bloggers who is writing about the event over 2 months after it happened, but tough…here’s my account of the events as they happened anyways.
Day 1: Birthday Drinks at Wynkoop Brewery in Denver
Rob and I had booked the same AAE Denver 11th Avenue hostel, and I’m pretty glad I knew someone else staying there as it felt pretty sketchy on arrival. As it turned out the hostel was actually OK and I don’t think you should always judge a hostel by appearances.
On the evening of my birthday we went for hot dogs at Biker Jims, then made our way to Wynkoop Brewery for beer tasting and networking with other bloggers. I was super excited to meet Dave n Deb from The Planet D for the first time, and they are just as awesome in real life as they are online!
Since I had to get up at the unearthly hour of 6am the next day for the TBEX Road Rally, I didn’t want to party too hard so Rob bought me a birthday gatorade from the store down the street from the hostel…2 bottles of gatorade for $2, what more can you ask for?!
Day 2: TBEX Road Rally & A Taste of Vail Resorts
Day 2 I had to get up at the crack of dawn for the TBEX Road Rally. I’d been signed up for the Adrenaline theme, but in my head I secretly wished I’d opted for something else. There are some things, like jumping out of a plane or abseiling down a cliff, I’m OK with. But there are 2 things I’m scared of- bikes and roller coasters. And I just had this gut feeling that both would come up. Which they did.
As soon as I arrived at our meeting place, I was asked to sign some sort of waiver for riding bikes. Erm NO WAY. I had a scooter accident in Bali a few years back and I’ve completely lost my confidence on anything with two wheels. Perhaps I’ll get it back again, but this was not the day to do it.
So while the others in my time rode their bikes to Elitch Gardens, I had a nice long chat with our van driver on the drive over there. It turns out he had some awesome stories to tell and was an absolute legend!
He was in his 60s (or was it 70s?) and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro! He also told me a pretty romantic story: he was looking through an REI brochure for his first solo trip and decided to book a tour to the Greek Islands, but the booking agent said he wouldn’t enjoy it since it was more of a couples tour, so he chose another destination. Fast forward several years later and he collected a nice lady and her friends from the airport in his shuttle bus. They got to talking, and it turned out he knew her from school and they ended up falling in love. He recently handed her the REI brochure for their first holiday together, and she picked out the Greek Islands! I love a good romantic story and it shows you can find the right person at any age!
Even though my heart was in my mouth the whole time, I did the roller coasters at Elitch Gardens. I got talking to Ava Apollo from Be My Travel Muse and I think our mutual fear on the wooden roller coaster (so scary and rickety) definitely sealed our friendship!
I was in Team Pink along with Ava, Dan and Audrey from Uncornered Market and Kelly Peras from Flip Flop Caravan. I have to say, we made an awesome team! We were being scored throughout the road rally for creativity, so we made flamingo poses in every photo!
Next up was Red Rock, where we had to make a Beatles music video, which you can see here on Youtube.
After that was zip-lining which was much more my style!! We completed a course of 5 zip-lines and had to climb several wooden towers- this is was when we all noticed the effects of the altitude in Keystone!
Since we were running out of time we shot our second music video in the car. It had to have a bicycle theme so we mimed Queen’s Bicycle Race in the car…the result was rather funny.
To mark the end of the rally we did shotskis at the summit, then made our way to registration for TBEX 12!
That evening we went up in a gondola to the top of the mountain for the opening event- A Taste of Vail Resorts. TBEX really pulled out all the stops for this one!
After the first gondola ride we were presented with a glass of champagne and a cookie, before switching to a second gondola. The views as we ascended the mountain were stunning, and the whole thing felt very sophisticated indeed.
The food at the Soiree at the Summit was definitely the most memorable part of the evening. Although I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth, the dessert tent was very impressive! I’ve never seen so many desserts in one place before! My particular favourites were the chocolate spoons with raspberries…yum!
After networking and catching up with my fave travel peeps, we headed back down the mountain to the after party at Kickapoo. Here’s a pic of me with the fabulous Abby Tegnelia from The Jungle Princess and new travel blogging friends.
Day 3: Expedia Summer Shindig
Day 3 I slept in till late and caught up on work, then headed to the conference to listen to the SEO seminar from Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz about “SEO Without Selling Your Soul”.
The Expedia Summer Shindig evening event was held at the Stables with a theme of “How the West was Fun”. There was line dancing, a mechanical bull, a BBQ, free cowboy hats, rum and cokes (no whisky?!) and a huge open fire.
The West was certainly fun!
Afterwards Ava, Rob and myself headed back into town to Kickapoo Tavern, where we got talking to @robertpatterson and @brooksethomas. Major thanks to them for making my birthday so entertaining- not only did they have the whole bar singing “Happy Birthday” but they also provided plenty of laughs when Robert pretended to be a bouncer and started ID-ing everyone that came through the door!
Day 4: #TBEXBACHPAD
Day 5 was #TBEXBachPad party! During the day I went to the How to Be a Rock Star Host: Breaking into the Travel TV Biz seminar with Monica McCarthy and Julia Dimon.
In the evening we had a bunch of bloggers over to our amazing #TBEXBachPad, which was one of the nicest places I’ve ever stayed in. Check out the views from our balcony:
The place was HUGE and even had a moose head on the wall!
I was rooming with the lovely Kelley Ferro from TripFilms, who I first met at World Travel Market, and who introduced me to my first Santacon experience in New York!
The evening’s house party was a great end to a great conference- a bunch of bloggers, all swapping thoughts and getting to know each other!
As usual with these events, for me it wasn’t about the seminars or the networking, it was simply about making new friends and cementing friendships with others.
While I’ve been to a few travel events in the UK and met a lot of Europe-based travel bloggers, I had yet to meet many of the travel bloggers based in North America, so this was the perfect opportunity to do that.
I had a fab time at TBEX and Keystone turned out to be a really great place to host it! The parties were fabulous and it was a a great way to celebrate turning 25!