Hitchhiking, Hot Tubbing and Hobnobbing at TBEX

By June 21, 2012 Featured 20 Comments

I spent this past weekend at TBEX 2012, a conference catering to travel bloggers, and let me tell you, it didn’t turn out at all like I expected.  I made some fast friends and reunited with some old ones, learned more than I knew but less than I expected, and networked with travel industry representatives and other travel bloggers.

The Soiree at the Summit

The Soiree at the Summit event the night we arrived into Keystone Colorado. Photo by Graciel Cecilio.

TBEX in a nutshell

Taken directly from the TBEX 2012 site: “TBEX (is) the world’s largest gathering (of) travel bloggers, writers, and new media content creators”.  The conference was started about four year ago by Kim Mance and up until this year was apparently wrought with problems.  Not having attending any of the previous three years, I can’t speak to the past except to stay that my expectations for this year’s conference were not very high.  I decided to attend this year because of the networking opportunities the conference presented.

Although there were some hiccups from my perspective, I really didn’t expect the level of quality and organization that was apparent from the first night.  From the fully catered “Soiree at the Summit” hosted by Keystone Resort and Vail Resorts to the scheduled sessions that all ran on time and provided high quality content, the time and effort put into making this a successful conference was apparent.

Pine Ridge Condos

The Pine Ridge Condos where a number of TBEX attendees were staying during the conference. Photo by Jason of Jason's Travels.

My Experience

TBEX started earlier than expected for me with the shuttle ride to Keystone, Colorado.  The two-hour trip was filled with introductions, our hopes and expectations for the conference, and a little bonding over “Game of Thrones”.

Having arrived just in time to register, I caught up on some emails before going to the opening “Soiree at the Summit” party.  As I had arranged to stay with six other bloggers (aka “the Pine Ridge Seven”) at a condo 30 minutes from Keystone, my primary mission that night was to locate members of the group, else I’d be sleeping in a gondola.  Little did I know I’d become quick friends with two of my condo-mates, Matt Karsten of Expert Vagabond and Graciel Cecilio of Pinay On The Move.  For a glimpse of our accommodation, Jason of Jason’s travel did a great rivew of the Pine Ridge Condos,

The altitude hit everyone hard.  Moving faster than a walk at the party Friday evening and sleeping later that night were difficult activities at best.  Since Matt and I were up at the break of dawn, he convinced me to hitchhike (Matt took the photo above) to the conference, not something I’d ordinarily do mostly because of the unpredictability of arrival (I’d rather spend my day exploring than waiting 3 hours for a lift).  To my surprise, it took only 10 minutes after putting the signs out to get picked up by another TBEXer heading to the conference.

The Pine Ridge Crew

Four of "The Pine Ridge 7", these were my condo-mates at the conferences. Left to right: Graciel Cecilio, Michela Baxter, Matt Karsten and myself. Photo by Graciel Cecilio

Saturday was mostly sessions and networking, with a western-themed party hosted by Expedia that evening.  Highlights of the day were seeing Jodi Ettenberg again after almost two years, getting my learning on, meeting new faces, watching Matt parade around in a bull costume and a relaxing soak in the hot tub at days end.

Sunday was more of the same with a really cool and unexpected “speed dating” event thrown in the middle.  This was the highlight of the day for me as I was able to interact with a side of the travel industry that is sometimes difficult to reach.  That initial introduction might not lead to anything immediately, but it certainly helps put them on my map and vice versa.

Things I’d Love To See At The Next TBEX:

Speed Dating Organization

Speed dating shouldn’t be just for Bloggers meeting industry folk but bloggers meeting bloggers.  I saw Nomadic Matt running around just before the speed dating kicked off looking for a place to situate himself for his meetings.  Later, in between my own meetings, I spoke to an industry rep without a table who was trying to figure out how she was going to find the bloggers she had scheduled meetings with.

Keystone Colorado

Our view from the location of Friday night's Soiree

More Sessions

There were only four breakout session time slots on the schedule, each having five talks along a theme.  With two of those themes focusing on business, I had to decide which session to attend during each time slot, meaning I was always missing a session I would have liked to attend.  One option might be adding a couple of hours to each day, allowing for additional break out session slots so that sessions with similar themes could be moved out of conflict with each other.  On that note, I have notes from the four sessions I went to if anyone would like to trade.  Email me and we’ll chat.

Better Location

I’ve been to a variety of conferences in a variety of cities for a variety of reasons.  This is easily the furthest I’ve had to go to get to/from the airport.  This distance directly affected my conference experience with a couple of panelists for the last talk I saw on Sunday who had to leave early to make sure they made their flights.  My own time spent networking was cut short Sunday so that a member of my carpool could make her flight.

On top of the distance, the altitude hit everyone like a ton of bricks.  Headaches and sleep issues were the most common complaints I was aware of.  I made it through 10 days of burning the candle at both ends during SXSW in March and felt more tired after two less strenuous days at TBEX.  Keystone was beautiful and looks like an amazing place for a vacation, but the location took more out of the conference than it added.

Heading to the "How the west was fun" party

Here's a photo taken by Graciel of us heading to the "How The West Was Fun" party hosted by Expedia.

More early information

I knew the TBEX dates far in advance but only found out about the advance activities after booking my flights.  I would have loved to participate in the rallies and “prebex” but arrived too late to do either one.  Next year I’ll plan on being there a couple days early, but new attendees not in-the-know might have the same problems I did this year.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the conference was, for me, a great success.  The sessions were mostly lively and informative.  The parties were fun and well catered with some great food and drink.  The networking opportunities, both planned and random, were ample and valuable.  I learned a ton, met some great people, made some new friends and came back with new ideas and more motivation than ever.


  • http://expertvagabond.com/ Matthew Karsten

    My experience was similar to yours Travis. I picked up some great tips & new ideas from the TBEX 12  sessions, met a ton of great people (including you), and made a few industry connections that will easily pay for the costs associated with attending the event.

    The biggest complaint I have is the organization of speed dating sessions. A map showing where PR/Industry people were located would have been most helpful, especially if provided well in advance of the conference.

    As for hitchhiking, you’ll only hear horror stories from people who’ve never actually practiced it. I hope you’ll consider it in the future too! A fantastic way to meet interesting people on the road.  :)

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, I’m certainly more likely to hitchhike again in the future, although this was pretty much a closed environment.  Maybe you’ll have to write a post on how to do it with pertinent info like how long you’ve waited on average :P  

      As to the speed dating event, I’d agree, maps and/or names on the cards would have been grand.  That’s an easy fix though and I’m sure they’ll have that taken care of next year (or even at the Spain conference).


    • Anonymous

      Yeah, I’m certainly more likely to hitchhike again in the future, although this was pretty much a closed environment.  Maybe you’ll have to write a post on how to do it with pertinent info like how long you’ve waited on average :P  

      As to the speed dating event, I’d agree, maps and/or names on the cards would have been grand.  That’s an easy fix though and I’m sure they’ll have that taken care of next year (or even at the Spain conference).


  • http://twitter.com/grachececilio Graciel Cecilio

    It was good to meet you and the rest of “The Pine Ridge Seven” (I didn’t know we had an official group name?). I wish we had a hot tub photo =) Also, wished I could have tried hitchhiking with you guys but then that would defeat the purpose of me renting a car!

    Matt, can’t wait for your hitchhiking post. I think women like me are curious to know how safe safe it really is.

    • Anonymous

      I just dubbed us :)  I suppose it should really have been 8 but “The Pine Ridge Seven” has a certain ring to it, and I’m not sure Jeremy even actually set foot in the condo :P  

      It was refreshing that I had no plans or expectations of who I was going to meet that weekend and came way meeting the two of you, pretty much at random, and having an amazing time :)  

      Looking forward to the next hot tub get together.  


  • http://www.anothertraveler.com/ Robert

    Sounds like it was a great time.  I wish I would have been able to attend.  Hopefully I’ll be able to attend the next one in Spain.  

    • Anonymous


      I’m not sure where you’re currently located, but I’d highly recommend going to Spain if you can make it happen.  I would totally go if I could afford the airfare to get out there, but coming so close on the heels of this recent trip I just can’t make it work.  That said, I’ll plan on being at the next US one in 2013, so hopefully I’ll see you there.


  • Lenore Greiner

    Greart post, Travis. Glad I’m not the only one who didn’t appreciate TBEX’s location & the distance from the airport. And I agree that the altitude was a killer. That said, Vail Resorts treated us so well that they created the best conference experience ever. And now my cowboy hat wistfully occupies a spot in my office.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Lenore.  Yeah, I agree Vail Resorts treated us like kings and queens, and that was an amazing experience.  I just wish it wasn’t so high up and so far from everything :P  

  • http://quirkytravelguy.com/ Scott – Quirky Travel Guy

    I initially disliked the location, but the more I think about it, the isolated location meant that when people went out at night, they all ended up at the same place, because there was nowhere else to go. And that was fantastic for networking purposes. If TBEX had been held in NYC, for instance, everyone would have gone their separate ways in terms of nightlife, and I wouldn’t have had nearly as many cool encounters with other bloggers.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, you’ve got an excellent point.  I think I’m all for isolation minus the altitude and distance from transportation.  There’s gotta be at least a few places close to an airport while still limiting our nightlife options.

  • Jeremy Branham

    I liked the location overall as everyone was pretty much together so lots of opportunities to hang out.  I didn’t like it when I got up at 4 am to drive to the airport on Sunday.  I know a number of people hit traffic in Denver also so being far away was a pain.  The conference was better than last year.

    I agree with you on the sessions.  I would have liked to go to more of them but was forced to choose which ones I wanted.  As for Pine Ridge, glad you enjoyed accommodations for the weekend! :)

    • Anonymous

      It was a great time overall.  Looking forward to Toronto.

      You thinking about setting up a similar situation in 2013?


  • Anonymous

    This is an amazing adventure…I wish I went with you haha. I really want to hitchhike across Canada. Any advice?

    • Anonymous

      I am by no means an expert hitchhiker :P  I’d just say be safe and trust your gut.


  • Anonymous

    Good review of the event. I have never been, but I just got my ticket for Toronto in 2013, so it is helpful to know what to expect. Should be no altitude and distance to the airport problems next year. They must have read this report.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, I’ve only been to Toronto once and am looking forward to going back.  Hopefully I can combine that with a stop in New York as well.

      See ya there!


  • Anonymous

    Great event… It was actually good opportunity to share and meet wonderful bloggers. Its a great platform and get together of all the travel bloggers, this time missed , planning to attend next one. 

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, it was amazing.  Met some great people and can’t wait for next year.

      So you’ll be in Toronto?

      – T

  • Therunawayguide

    Hey Travis, I have been thinking about heading to TBEX for a while and now I think I definitely will. I met up with Nomadic Matt the other day and a few other travel bloggers in NYC and had a great time. Hopefully I will meet you at the next TBEX. Thanks for the insight, Leif