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 Writing, Pam 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.
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!
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)!
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?