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Talking Travel and Seattle Love at TBEX

Seattle is a depressing city, my fingers typed as I lay in a firm, yet thin hostel bed in the center of Vancouver, British Columbia. It was 3:00am and this was not bound to be a piece about hating Seattle, but rather a homework assignment. Wait…homework? Haven’t I been done with school for  a while now? No, no. Homework for the TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange), a conference for travel bloggers from all walks of life that was held there a few weeks ago.

Sure, most of the seminars weren’t terribly helpful as you may have heard, but there was one that I found particularly useful….Narrative Travel Writing.

You see, Narrative Travel Writing is really something I would like to do more of. When I saw that one of the sessions would be presided over by travel writing greats Don George who wrote Lonely Planet’s book on Travel WritingPam Mandel from the blog Nerd’s Eye View and Andrew Evans, National Geographic’s “Digital Nomad,” who writes narratively in 140 character tweets, I knew I must attend.

On Day 1 we were given an assignment. Write about our experience getting to TBEX in 300-500 words (which is where my 3:00am writing exercise comes in). On Day 2 we broke into small groups and read our pieces aloud for constructive criticism. It was by far one of the most beneficial moments from the weekend and I would like to share my piece with you now having taken into account some of the suggestions that were made during the class:

Seattle is a depressing city. Or so I thought when I interned there during the winter months and saw nothing but Seattle’s famous rain. Three months, I worked, with a mere three days of sunshine. It wasn’t hard to see why the city was famed for its coffee! “The summers make it completely worth it,” I was told. So when it was announced that TBEX 11 would be in Vancouver, British Columbia, I knew I must return for a June visit.

It was a sea of rain and clouds when my plane touched down. “What have I just gotten myself into?” I thought. This no different than winter! But as I arrived in downtown, the sun began to peek through the clouds. Inspired that this may become a beautiful day, I decided to take all my gear and walk 2.2 miles to the house of the friend who I’d be staying with.

It was a lovely journey as I passed an array of ever changing buildings and neighborhoods, cutting through the famed Seattle Center. As I stared up at the famous Space Needle for the first time in 5 years, I was taken by massive amounts of plant life that surrounded it, one unlike anything I had experienced back home. I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe all that rain was worth it after all?

As I crossed the street, I saw a nearly vertical wall of road sitting in front of me. This was the simply enormous Queen Anne Hill, the only remaining obstacle on the journey to my friend’s house. Remembering that my backpack was a slim 32 liters, I took a deep breath and began to climb. Higher and higher I went, watching the scenery shift around me. Young 20-somethings turned into families with small children. And as I finally reached the top of the hill, I turned around and saw the most spectacular site.

There was downtown Seattle, as seen from a bird’s eye view. There was the Space Needle with Mount Rainier towering like a sleeping giant in the background. There was the glistening water of Puget Sound.

Downtown Seattle

This was the Seattle that everyone told me about. A city that was insanely beautiful in the summer months. And right there and then, I got it. This was why people lived here! And as the days leading up to my departure for Vancouver rolled on, I couldn’t help but think just how nice it would be to move there! With the scarred images of a Seattle winter absent from my mind, the city was fully redeemed in my eyes!

Eileen from Bear Shaped Sphere was also in my group and has shared her piece about her lengthy journey from Santiago, Chile if you want to check out another example.

As for the rest of the conference, sure it was highly disorganized and communication on behalf of the producers was seriously lacking. But the chance to meet so very many of my fellow travel bloggers that I’ve gotten to know through Twitter and make loads of new friends from this truly awesome community made the entire trip worth my while!

Jade Prepares to Go Zip Lining!
Jade from Vagabond3 prepares to try the Zip Line!

This was an experience that I will cherish for a very long time! From delving head first into the Canadian hockey frenzy to zip lining at Grouse Mountain (where, full disclosure, we were guests of Tourism Vancouver) with my scream buddy Jade from Vagabond3 (pictured above) to feeling out of place while experiencing fine dining on a cruise ship and a seemingly endless stream of parties, it was a weekend to remember! I was even giddy as a school girl when I met the truly epic @Banff_Squirrel, only the furriest little tweep out there (and yes, he really was there in the flesh)!

From Left: @kymri, @budgettravelsac, Me (@adventurousness) & @drifitingkiwi with the Banffster himself down in front!

I could go on for ages about all the wonderful people I met and that alone is encouragement enough to return next year. Keystone, Colorado, here I come!

Did you attend TBEX? What did you get out of it? And what are your thoughts on my attempt at narrative writing?


By Aaron

Hey there! I'm Aaron and this is my travel site, where I document my adventures to all corners of the world. My love for travel started at the ripe old age of four, when a midlife crisis uprooted my family to Ecuador for five years. Since then, I've been to countries on 4 different continents. When I'm not blissfully on the road, I reside in New York City, where I become the ultimate travel junkie and spend my days dreaming up my next great adventure! Read More...

27 replies on “Talking Travel and Seattle Love at TBEX”

Cool! Glad you put it up and linked to me so I’d see it. I’ll post a link to it on the original post. Glad you found some things to like about the conference experience, even if the presentations and organization weren’t the high point. I haven’t posted what I thought about the thing in general, though I did last year. In short, this year was better. But it could improve.

Thanks for posting, and see you here and on twitter, and well, in Santiago if you ever make it down here. Cheers!

My pleasure Eileen! Thanks for leading the effort for us to share our narrative stories! I think the reason why TBEX worked for me was because I went into it expecting networking to be the highlight. And it was. Beyond that, the conference itself took a back seat to just about everything.

I will definitely make it to Santiago sometime in the coming years. I’ll definitely look you up!

Yay! I am SO GLAD that you got a second chance in Seattle! That photo is taken from the park that I have been trying unsuccessfully to find and just found out where it was today!

It was great meeting you at TBEX and I’m happy to hear that you give the Pacific Northwest a thumbs up!

Hooray for finding the park (which is called Kerry Park if anyone is curious)! Great to meet you too!

Love it! I have to agree that the relationships I made at TBEX have been some of the best. I didn’t make the narrative writing workshop so it’s interesting to read someone who did.

And yes- Screaming buddies for life!

Me too! I have a childhood friend who I hung out with their and he seems to have summed it up well…”You hate it for 4 months out of the year.” I could say that about our winters in NYC too (though the holiday season is just wonderful!). Shame you guys didn’t make it to TBEX. Would’ve been great to meet you!

“The summers make it completely worth it,” They told me the same about Vancouver. And yes, the summer is awesome, but still too wet for me sometimes. 😉

Anyway, TBEX was a great experience for me. It’s good to know more about your experiences trough your blogs. It’s like the TBEX11´s spirit was still alive!

Hahaha it wasn’t so much the “wet” that got to me during the winter, it was the “depressing.” It doesn’t actually rain THAT much, it’s just constantly drizzling and overcast. Makes you wonder if that’s why there’s so much coffee in Seattle! 😉

Glad to hear you enjoyed TBEX as well! See you next year?

I was very curious to see what you wrote about Seattle as most of us here are quite defensive about our city. And after reading your post, I was pleasantly surprised that you had good things to say. Indeed it is a beautiful city; and not just what you can see under the sun, but in other ways, too. Work brought me to Seattle years ago, but the city itself kept me to stay and that says a lot.

Good job on the narrative – I truly felt like I was there with you. Too bad I didn’t make it up to TBEX this year. It looks and sounds like there was way too much fun that was had.

There was indeed way too much to be had! Shame you didn’t make it up! 🙂

I’ve learned from Seattleites that folks are defensive about their city. And I don’t blame you! There’s a whole lot to love, from the incredible outdoors to a nice laid back mentality. And there’s public composting! That’s something that i really wish NYC would start doing but even our recycling program pales in comparison to yours!

That’s a very good piece on Seattle, Aaron. Nice job. Everything you say about Seattle could apply to Vermont, too. The winters here are so long and grey, I often find myself muttering “WHY do I live here???” and then summer comes…and I remember. 🙂

I had dinner with a childhood friend when I was in Seattle and he summed up the weather beautifully. “For four months a year you absolutely hate it.” I could generally say the same thing about NYC too. Seems gloomy weather is universal! And thanks!

A few years ago, I had a chance to visit Seattle and it was indeed beautiful. I had a great time exploring the area and walked all the way from SafeCo to Key Arena one day. It’s a great city to explore. I have lots of great photos from Queen Anne (same shots as you) and UW.

I honestly enjoyed your writing of that piece on Seattle. Very well written! That is my one regret from TBEX – that I didn’t go to the narrative writing class. I think I could have learned so much and think it is the one class I wanted to attend. Thanks for sharing your experience in Seattle and Vancouver!

Glad you liked my narrative piece Jeremy! That class was by far the most beneficial at TBEX for me.

And agreed about Seattle. I didn’t take one bus the enitire time I was here and walked just about everywhere, including up through Magnolia, as far down as the train station and as far west as the interstate. It’s a great city for exploring!

I loved TBEX! Naysayers aside and even though I worked so much I didn’t get to have as much fun as most other travelers – I still loved it. The narrative travel writing course was my favorite as well.

Glad you enjoyed TBEX as well Kirsten! Must have been fascinating to have been in your position during the event!

If not for TBEX, we might not have had dinner at Flour + Water months later! 🙂 I’m going again this year, and I hope to make more friends and essentially make the world an even smaller place.

This is true! If not for TBEX, I wouldn’t have even met you! I’ll be there this year again too!

Thanks Monika! Yes it certainly is exhausting! I’d come to hike it a number of other times throughout my visit (sans backpack), as I only took one bus the entire 4 days I was in the city (to the train station on the last day, as it was very early). But yes, that view is just breathtaking!

TBEX is such a memorable experience I live in Seattle for 2 years and all that I can say is I have to enjoy the every moment because not everyone has a chance to visit in this kind of place.

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