Last month I volunteered at TBEX (Travel Blogger’s Exchange) in Andalucia, Spain. TBEX is a fantastic travel community that organizes events worldwide to bring together creators, DMOs (Destination Management Organizations), and brands. I learned about TBEX through my good friend and fellow travel blogger, Tash Haynes. I saw they would have an event in Spain, and as a travel blogger who focuses on Southwest Europe, I knew I had to go. I had this crazy idea of DMing them and asking if they had a volunteer program.
They had never accepted volunteers before, but they did have a need to assist the videographer, Rex Smith, so they said yes! The next thing I knew, I was booking flights and hotels for my travel. I first arrived in Malaga, where I spent a night and a day, and there is a separate blog post entirely about that experience. I was pretty exhausted and jet-lagged from the flight, so I took an Uber to my hotel, Senator Marbella, located only a few blocks from the beach.
This hotel has a rooftop pool with great views, a grand lobby, and awesome staff. They also have a spa, but I didn’t have the time to test it out. The hotel was located only a block from the conference venue, making it the perfect stay.
Format for the TBEX Europe Conference
Before the conference officially begins, there are 2 days of day trips were available to sign up for. These trips are designed for travelers to know specific locations in the region, and participants get wined and dined by the local community! I am so grateful I was able to attend one of them. I ended up on the trip to Mijas, a fantastic town I will share in a near-future blog post.
After the two days of tourist trips, the conference officially began with two full days of conference time. The conference took place at Palacio de Congresos y Exposiciones Adolfo Suarez and was set up as follows:
- Keynote sessions
- Breakout sessions
- Power networking
- Closing party
Keynote sessions were sessions everyone attended together in the main conference room. Then there were several breakout sessions happening simultaneously, so I got to choose which one to attend. The topics included branding, travel writing, business, and marketing.
Then in the afternoon, I had the chance to sign up to meet with different brands, speakers, and tourist boards. All the attendees could sign up via Blogger Bridge to set up speed power networking. This in itself is amazing. As a creator, to be able to sit down with brands and tourism boards to learn more about how you can collaborate and work together. This is such a unique opportunity and one of my favorite parts of the conference.
I loved meeting the gals from Stay 22 and signed up for their affiliate link program for flights and hotels. I also really enjoyed chatting with Lander from Basque Tour. Such a nice guy and I can not wait to visit the Basque region in Spain.
After the two days of the conference, there were two days of family trips. I couldn’t sign up for any because I was late in registering, but I have seen some fantastic photos and posts.
Key Take-Aways for Me
This is the second travel-related conference I’ve attended, and you just can’t beat the energy. There is such power in joining fellow bloggers and creators that fuels you! The energy in itself is so worth it. I was able to network with top creators, journalists, and brands, but it also felt as though we were equals and peers. I think overall, when you attend a conference, you need to go to it with no preconceived notions to get the best experience.
I attended the conference with the spirit of serving. I wanted to serve every chance, as I was so grateful to be there.
I have a saying: True networking happens at Happy Hour! In the case of TBEX, I found that it happened in the in-between moments, the moments we took to chat, share experiences, and tell stories. I met some incredible people, and the fire for travel writing has been lit! I am excited about all the new opportunities that the travel community has to offer and that I’ll be able to keep sharing my travels with all of you.
I would like to thank the TBEX Fam (Rick, Jan, Patrick, Patty, Donna, Shane, and everyone working on this event). Putting up events like these is a huge task, and they had to postpone it for two years due to the pandemic. I say they did an incredible job.
Thank you to the local tourism community and local hosts, Vive Andalucia, Vive Costa Del Sol, and Marbella Tourism, for showcasing your beautiful region to us. I am in love with Andalusia. It is sunny 320 days of the year, has a beautiful history, generous people, and of course delicious food.
I also met a group of Luso-Brazilian travel bloggers, with whom I hope I can remain friends for life. Jussara from Sister Wave. She is originally from Brazil and has created a huge community for women travelers via her app.
Dayanna is a Brazilian travel YouTuber living in Germany and sharing her travel experiences with Portuguese-speaking travelers.
Silvia Romao – Portuguese travel journalist and speaker. I was so inspired by her session and her tips on writing. I am so glad we met and hope to plan a trip with her in the future.
Monica from Passaporte No Bolso – is a sweet travel creator from Portugal and will be my go-to Portugal expert for when I visit again.
Filipe – A Portuguese travel blogger ( Alma De Viajante) who knows more about Brazil than I do.
Amazing new Travel Connections
Jackie from Enjoy Travel Life. She lives in Boston and covers travel tips on her blog. I loved her aura and related to her a lot.
Matthew from Matthew Luca Travels. My new travel BFF. We were able to hang out throughout the conference via classes and dinners, and I loved how we kept bouncing ideas off each other in regards to our niche and tagline. I can’t wait until we meet up again.
Eulanda from Hey! Dip Your Toes In. Eulanda was on the day trip, and she was the opening keynote speaker along with her husband Omo. They talked about traveling during and after the pandemic, and lessons learned. She is a huge creator and yet the nicest, most humble person. You must follow them on IG. I love their storytelling style for the videos and how they are raising the bar for diversity in travel.
Meredith from Bag Lady Meredith San Diego – She is an adventure blogger & content creator. Meredith and I ended up spending our free time on the Mijas trip together. We went shopping, then we made it a point to have a beer at the oldest bar in Mijas. I learned more about how she has been traveling the world and currently lives in the Canary Islands.
Mansoureh from Travel with Mansoureh. She is a journalist & travel content creator based in England. I loved watching her video skills as she filmed for her YouTube channel.
Tbex Europe 2022 Closing Party
Rick, the director who accepted me as a volunteer, had specifically told me not to miss the closing party. Boy, he was right!
They took us to Coritijo de Cortes, a venue about 20 minutes away. When we arrived, they serenaded us with music and gave us red carnations. As we entered the villa square, I felt I was on a movie set. We had Dom Pedro pouring Moscatel (a sweet drink out of this barely and making these cool moves), while sangria and drinks were served all around. The bar was to the left, and over to the right, you had a huge Jamon being freshly cut. The sun was shining, and everything was kind of magical. I was taking photos and helping Rex set up some interviews.
A bit later, we were called to go up the steps, and then we were mesmerized by an Andalusian horse show. The horses and dancers were spectacular.
Then we headed back, and new music started playing as they opened the paella station. It was like the singer was singing to the paella and to the fact that we all gathered together to enjoy this beautiful meal. The sun was coming down, making it better light for Rex to get his video interviews, and the next thing I know, I was like the host on the red carpet interviewing first-timers. Everyone had the same advice: If you are a travel content creator, TBEX is a must!
To end the evening, they had an even bigger surprise for us. An authentic Flamenco show awaited us inside. I had always wanted to see a Flamenco show, and the Flamenco group called Arte de España had so much passion and fire. They shouted Agua, which is like Ole, and I also shouted away as I snapped away with my camera. Here are a few of my favorite shots.