People who know me know that I’m a tad emotional (read: cries at mountains and Christmas carols). It’s a trait I inherited from my mother, along with blonde-ish hair, chronic hiccups and a severe case of the giggles (side note: thanks to Daniel Noll of Uncornered Market who taught me this past weekend at TBEX how to cure hiccups by having someone plug your ears while you swallow water—oh yes, the tips travel writers share at conferences). So it’s little surprise that saying goodbye to TBEX Europe left me, well, a little blubbery.
Last week’s TBEX marked my third time attending the event. For those who aren’t familiar with TBEX, it stands for Travel Bloggers Exchange—a conference for travel bloggers, vloggers, writers, editors, videographers, photographers, social media mavens, industry reps and anyone and everyone who works in travel and new media. For me, it’s grown from an event I first attended out of curiosity and ambition to one that will continue to be on my calendar year after year.
No matter what conference I attend, I always get the post-conference blues. Spending days with likeminded people while indulging my inner student (as well as inner frat kid—it’s no secret that the best networking at any conference takes place over several beers at the parties that go until 4am) is my idea of bliss. And when you add in the bonus of being in a foreign place—and in this case, a magical place like Ireland—it becomes the kind of event that turns my eyes to leaky faucets.
In nine days that felt like nine months in the best way possible, I toured the cities and remote regions of Ireland, from Dublin and Belfast to Sliabh Liag and Malin Head, and made friends from around the globe, from European backpackers to American expats to even someone I went to high school with (but we didn’t know each other back then).
My head is spinning with stories to write and angles to find, so much so that I don’t know where to begin (also, I’m a jetlagged disaster). And so I’m starting here, with a love letter not just to Ireland, but to all the places I’ve found and people I’ve met in my travels to date.
It’s easy to forget how much is out there in the world to discover. And I sometimes take for granted how fortunate I am to have seen the places I’ve seen and to have met the people I’ve met. That is, until I find myself in a place where time doesn’t necessarily just fly by (like we normally interpret as a sign of enjoying something), but rather, it stands still. My time in Ireland was like a series of eternal moments that carried on much longer than they actually existed. The week did whip by in a blur, but the moments and people felt like a lifetime of experience. Even now, back home and in bed, typing into my laptop, it feels like months have passed since I left for Dublin last Friday. A friend said much of TBEX and Ireland felt like déjà vu for her. It wasn’t quite the same for me—it wasn’t a sense of having been there before, but more a sense that it was how things had just always been.
Given that this year was The Gathering—an initiative by Ireland’s tourism board to encourage people to return to their homeland, no matter how far reaching their Irish roots—it feels eerily appropriate that the people and places of Ireland and TBEX ’13 attacked my emotions so intently. I cried at the scenery and cried as I hugged goodbye to people who had been strangers a few days prior. I hadn’t gone to TBEX expecting to find anything more than some good Guinness and networking. Instead, I found something that felt a lot like home.
For those who couldn’t make it to TBEX Europe, here’s a peek of what went on, courtesy of Failte Ireland: Opening night party at the Guinness Storehouse.