Traverse 17 – My First Travel Blogging Conference

Last weekend I attended my first travel blogging conference. This is what it was like.

Exterior of the Ravesbourne

There are a lot of travel blogging conferences around such as TBEX and WITS. I see a lot about them online and they seem like they’d be both good fun and a good opportunity for learning and networking. I’ve quite fancied the idea of going to one for a while now, but various things have held me back.

They’re too far away, too expensive, not at the right time, my blog isn’t big enough and I won’t be able to take advantage of all the opportunities on offer …

All good reasons, but even so they’re holding me back.

Then I heard about Traverse. The more I read about it, the more my excuses reasons melted away.

  • It was in London – easy enough for me to get to, my former home and a place I now visit regularly.
  • It wasn’t expensive – especially with the Early bird offer. I think I paid just over £60 including the booking fee. The price seemed to include an awful lot too.
  • The timing was right – my weekends get very booked up, but this particular weekend just happened to be free.
  • It was aimed at all levels of blogger – so I didn’t feel intimidated or that I’d be wasting my money and time by attending an event before I was ready for it.

So far so good. I was interested. So then I did some more research and looked for posts from previous attendees.

  • This one from A Life of More outlined some of sessions. It seemed like a lot of good advice was being shared. She also wrote a more general post on what to expect from Traverse and included loads of links to yet more posts on it (it’s a blogging conference, of course there’s going to be a tonne of posts on it).
  • Travel Loving Family wrote about the 13 lessons learnt from attending Taverse 16. These were more general lessons rather than specifics from the sessions and so useful for me to read.
  • As a potential newbie to Traverse this post on  Claire’s Footsteps was perfect for me. She described the conference from a first-timer perspective and included lots of tips.
  • Another post from a newbie perspective is this one from Seanna’s World. (Newsflash: I got to meet Seanna at this year’s Traverse and she has some exciting plans so I’m really looking forward to reading all about them on her blog).

So after my R&R (reading and research) I was convinced that Traverse 17 would be perfect for my first blogging conference and ordered my ticket.

The main Traverse event runs from the Friday evening opening party, right through the weekend and finishes with a party on the Sunday evening. There were also lots of different events going on in the week leading up to the conference that had I been in London I could have applied to join in with.

These included a wide range of activities from junkyard golf (don’t ask, I’ve no idea) to afternoon teas (yes, you can ask and even read about my experience of one, though it’s not the same as the Traverse one). There were limited places for each event and as I wasn’t going to be in London until the Friday evening I didn’t apply for any, so I don’t know how easy it is to get on them. TIP: check your emails regularly so you can apply as soon as they are announced.

I arrived in London later than I’d intended on the Friday and so it was quite late by the time I got to the opening party. It was held in the Skyloft bar on the 28th floor of the Millbank Tower. Glasses of wine and bottles of beer were lined up on the bar. I helped myself to a red and started to mingle.

view from Skyloft
This was the best of a bad lot of photos I tried to take of the the view from the Skyloft. The photo might not be good, but you can still appreciate how good the view is.

Most people were well ahead of me in the wine stakes having already been there a couple of hours, and seemed to be in groups chatting and having a good time. It was really easy to talk to people though as I moved round the large New York loft style space looking at the amazing views of Westminster and the Thames. I tried to get photos, but there was just too much reflection. I was told it had been much easier earlier on before it got dark. TIP: get to the opening party in plenty of time.

A few brands had stalls set up and were chatting to bloggers. I had a quick look, but spent most of my time chatting to other bloggers as I’d already decided my aim for my first blogging conference should be to get to know other bloggers and start building myself a network.

As everyone left the event at the end of the evening we were each given a goody bag containing items sponsored by the brands. They included pens, a money box (I suppose so I can save up for my travels), pen drives, a selfie stick, a big notebook and various bits that took me a while to figure out what they were actually for.

contents of goody bag
The contents of my goody bag. I still haven’t figured out what the blue credit card type thingy is. It seems to have an SD card inside it. Any ideas?

The following morning I was up early and really looking forward to my day. As I’d arrived so late the day before I’d been tempted to blow off the party, but was so glad I hadn’t. I felt like I was starting the main conference already knowing some people and having a much better idea about what to expect. TIP: even if you are late, go to the opening party.

The conference was held in the Ravensbourne next to the O2 arena at North Greenwich. I’d seen the Ravensbourne before, but didn’t know what it was or what it was like inside.

It turned out to be a college specialising in media, technology and design. It’s all open-plan and is a really cool looking building both on the outside which is rather striking and on the inside with different levels overlooking a large atrium and different sized porthole style windows randomly all over the exterior walls letting plenty of light in.

Ravensbourne interior

After collecting my name badge it was time for strudel (there were trays and trays of it, presumably provided by one of the sponsors) and more mingling before the sessions started.

Various brands had stands set up around the main area and there were lots of competitions going on. This is when I should have been networking hard with the brands and trying to get future work opportunities set up with them, but as this was my first conference I was happy just to figure out how everything works. TIP: bring plenty of business cards and if you’re serious about future work opportunities have a media kit too.

Once the sessions started everyone split off into four different rooms. It was quite difficult at times to decide which sessions to go to as they all sounded interesting and useful. I tried to do a mix and match and cover a bit of everything, so by the end of Sunday I’d been to sessions on branding, SEO, photography, video, working with startups and writing. TIP: study the timetable beforehand and get an idea of what you want to attend.

Sunday followed a similar format to Saturday and each day a buffet lunch with sandwiches, bread, houmous and cakes was provided. The food disappeared pretty quickly and the veggie sandwiches seemed to go fastest. TIP: get to lunch early especially if you have dietary needs.

the boat
The boat whipped the water up as it came in to dock, it was actually really calm.

On Saturday evening a boat trip was planned along the Thames with City Cruises. When the day’s sessions finished everyone came together in the main part of the building for beer and chat and then there was an hour or so of free time. I went into the O2 to get something to eat (it’s full of places to eat) and then sat by the river until it was time to board the boat.

wine on the boat
Wine and reflections on the boat. And in case you’re wondering what that string of dots above my wineglass is, they’re cable cars.

Even when I was walking around the O2 and sitting by the river I found people to chat to as our yellow lanyards and name badges made us instantly recognisable as Traverse delegates. TIP: have a stash of your business cards at the back of your name card so your name can still be seen when your name badge flips itself round on the lanyard (which it will do) and so you have an easily accessible supply to give to people.

Thames Barrier from the boat
First we sailed round the Thames Barrier …

The boat was so much fun. It was cold, but it was such a gorgeous evening with a clear sky and lovely sunset that I stayed up on the open top deck the whole time. Plenty of other people had the same idea and I spoke to people I now knew and people I hadn’t spoken to before. TIP: bring clothing appropriate to the activities.

sunset over the Thames
… then we sailed into the sunset

We sailed through the Thames Barrier and then backtracked to Greenwich and finally disembarked in Westminster several hours later. Everyone was snapping away with their cameras and phones and plenty of wine was drunk. We didn’t even have to go inside as a bar was set up on the top deck.

bar on the boat

On the Sunday evening the after party was at Iberica in Canary Wharf. I had intended to go, but knew I’d only be able to have one drink as I was driving and as it didn’t start straight away even staying for just one drink would have meant me leaving quite late for my drive home. So I decided to do the sensible thing and leave straightaway to pick up my van and head for home.

From the photos I’ve seen I think I missed a good night. TIP: don’t plan to leave until the day following the after party.

It was announced during the weekend that next year’s Traverse will be held in Rotterdam. I’m already excited about it and this time I’ll try to be there longer so I can do everything. And go to the after party.

Ravensbourne exterior
Ravensbourne College – the very cool venue for Traverse 17

Did you go to Traverse 17? Would you like to go to Traverse 18 in Rotterdam? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Author: Anne

Join me in my journey to live a life less boring, one challenge at a time. Author of the forthcoming book 'Walking the Kungsleden: One Woman's Solo Wander Through the Swedish Arctic'.

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