Travel Narrative

TBEX 2013: Why I’m Afraid to Attend A Travel Blogging Conference

I’m going to be at The North American Travel Blog Exchange Annual Conference in Toronto during the first week of June.  It’s months away, and I’m already a bit nervous.

Ok–‘a bit nervous’ is an understatement.

Why? Well, not for the usual reasons.  The usual reason most writers are afraid of any type of conference or convention is because of the social factor.  As a group, writers are rather introverted.  I am the exception to that rule.  I’ve made friends at laundromats, in line for the ladies room, and–in the virtual world–in comment streams and travel forums across the internet.  I live to meet new people.  I’m not afraid of being able to make friends at TBEX.

Do I look shy? Because I’m super-not!

I’m also not afraid of not being able to make friends at TBEX.  Having traveled solo more often than not over the last few years, I’m completely at home with my own company.  So that’s not it, either.

No, what I’m afraid of is much deeper than social anxiety.  I’m afraid that attending TBEX will end my blogging career forever.

Years ago, I attended The Breadloaf Writers’ Conference at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont.  Often considered one of the premier writing conferences in North America, I was thrilled to be accepted.  It was an actual dream-come-true for me.

And then I arrived and learned what a shitty, shitty writer I really was.  I learned that, as a public school teacher, I was more than a shitty writer–I was as shitty writer worthy of (at best) pity and (at worst) contempt.  Upon hearing that I teach middle school, fellow conference attendees would literally stop speaking to me mid-sentence and wander away.  I am not making this up (and I can also tell you that using the word ‘literally’ in anything is a hallmark of terrible writing.  Ooops.)

Four years later, I call myself a blogger.  I’ve had what I consider success; I’ve been able to share my travels and travel advice with others, I’ve made some friends, I’ve made some connections, and I’ve generally enjoyed myself.  I taught myself how to move from a WordPress-hosted account to a self-hosted account, cleaned up the look of my site, and honed my blog writing skills.  I became a passable photographer, learned how to use social media in a way that works for me, and even wrote a few guest posts on other travel blogs I admire.  I’ve been hosted by several tourism boards, independent tour companies, and hotel chains.  I even created an entire unit–and accompanying site–to teach blogging to my 140 eighth grade students as a way to enrich my nonfiction writing unit.  In short, I’ve been able to do what I love as much as possible and share that love with others.  I can’t think of a better way to spend every single one of my non-working, non-sleeping hours.

But all of these things I learned on my own, through trial and error.  I’ve never been told the ‘proper’ way to do things.  Not once.  And come June 1st, I’m going to learn that proper way from lots of people who are far more knowledgeable and far more successful than I am–and likely far more successful than I’ll ever be (though a girl can dream).  I’m so, so afraid that I’ll become paralyzed by how much I’m doing wrong, change the way I work, and give up in frustration or despair.

I’m also very afraid that I’ll finally get to meet many of the bloggers I idolize–and many that I should be idolizing but don’t know yet–and feel so inferior that I’ll also give up in frustration or despair.

Don’t get me wrong–I know that I have a lot to learn.  So much, in fact, that I’m sure there are things I don’t even know that I don’t even know (follow that?)  I’m not perfect and The Suitcase Scholar could stand a great deal of improvement.  That’s why I’m going to TBEX.  I’m not afraid to learn that I need to do things differently; I’m afraid to learn that I’ve been doing everything wrong all along. 

I love The Suitcase Scholar.  It is the thing that makes working a full-time job I don’t love completely worthwhile.  Every day, at the end of the day, I leave behind that-which-earns-me-money and spend time working on that-which-brings-me-joy.  I don’t want TBEX–or anything else– to take that away from me.

UPDATE:  Many days after this post was written but several days before it was published, it snowed.  What does this have to do with anything, you ask?  It means that I need to deal with yet another snow make-up day at work (I’m a teacher); thus, it will now be INFINITELY more difficult for me to attend TBEX.  Given my trepidation–and this new roadblock–should I consider skipping it?  Share your opinion in the comments below.  Thanks! 


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