Last weekend, I attended the Travel Blog Exchange conference in New York. I was there to represent Blog With Integrity on a panel about blogging ethics, which I wrote about on Marketing Roadmaps earlier this week.
I also hoped to pick up a few pointers for this travel blog that, while very neglected of late, is still very close to my heart. I don’t have many hobbies. Dogs. Photography. Cooking. Sporadically needlework like crochet and needlepoint. I collect a few things — miniatures and Scottish Terrier items, especially pins and bookends. And of course, the living breathing specimens 🙂
And always and forever travel.
Like Kara Williams of The Vacation Gals, my travel blogging is more pragmatic, less introspective than many of the writers at the conference. I’m well past my backpack and hostel days, and I’ve always liked a certain amount of creature comforts. I prefer a shorter trip with a little luxury to a long trip with none.
I write about traveling with my son. What we do and see. And how we survive the sometimes stressful experience of traveling as a family. In all its variations. In the last 2 years, I have traveled with my husband and son, with them plus his sister and family, with my son alone, with my brother and mother, and by myself.
By myself is quieter but not always more fun. Sure, I can wander around taking pictures (my preferred souvenir) and nobody loses patience with how long I can stay shooting the same thing to get just what I want. But I almost always think how much Douglas (my son) would love something. And wish he was with me to experience it. For example, on this last trip, I had a yummy strawbery-rhubarb Crumbs cupcake for lunch, and immediately made plans to bring my son to a Crumbs Bakery next time we are in Manhattan together. Because he would just LOVE it.
Even though my blogging here is as much about family as it is about travel, some of the advice presented at the TBEX conference really resonated.
The opening panel was called “Travel Writing: Upping Your Game.” A core idea of the panel was that travel writers have a quest. It doesn’t have to be big, and it may be the reader’s quest, not the writer’s, but there’s a goal. As one of the presenters commented (I think it was David Farley but my notes don’t say), it’s like the Wizard of Oz. Without the quest, the story is just a bunch of oddballs wandering around.
Allison Stein Wellner, who writes for about.com and Luxist, contributed the idea of the situation versus the story. Originally coined by Vivian Gornick in her book The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative (affiliate link), the idea is that we are in situations, but we tell stories. What makes our writing compelling is the stories. Sometimes this is hard to reconcile with the more pragmatic style family travel blog, but I still think it’s about our stories. Even if they are less introspective, and more about answering questions that our readers might have, we’re still solving a problem. Following a quest.
The other presentation that really resonated with me, even though I don’t (yet) do a lot of video was Lori Rothschild Ansaldi’s presentation on how to create a compelling travel video. In a very accessible and simple way, Lori (who was an executive producer for Samantha Brown’s travel show) told the audience how to research a story, create a storyboard and prepare a shot list, all without using any industry jargon. And she told the attendees that it was okay to get help editing your videos. Amen!
As I always say, know what you do well and do it. And what you don’t? Outsource.
Now, the little more New York.
I stayed at the Hotel Indigo on West 28th. They offered a nice discount for TBEX attendees if you booked by the end of March, and it was walking distance from Penn Station. When possible in New York, I like to walk. You see more and get a little exercise as well. My hotel decision payed huge dividends when I decided, at 3:30 pm on Sunday, to catch an earlier train home. All I had to do was walk the two blocks from Macy’s to my hotel, collect my bag, and book it a few blocks to the station to catch the 4:05 pm Acela home.
On Saturday morning, I walked down Broadway and through the Union Square market. I was terribly tempted by the cherries, but knew I couldn’t eat a whole pint without being sick (and sticky) so didn’t buy any. I took a few pictures on my way.
On the way back to the hotel Saturday evening, I noticed an odd statue of a nude man in Madison Square Park. I didn’t take a picture then but you can see it here in a picture I took during the Gay Pride Parade on Sunday:
Sunday morning, I was walking through Union Square and for some reason looked up and saw:
At first, I thought that somehow they’d moved the statue I’d seen the day before, but then I realized this might be the Manhattan version of Chicago’s cows.
Not exactly. But close enough. British artist Antony Gormley has placed 31 life-size figures of his own body cast in iron and glass fiber on sidewalks and rooftops of buildings near Madison Square Park. Apparently many of the figures are on rooftops, which has caused some consternation, but it seems most folks realize they are statues, not jumpers.
The weird thing?
Going through my photos when I got home, I realized I had captured another image with a Gormley statue. Totally unintentionally. I didn’t even notice the figure on the roof until I was editing my shots.
The statues will be on display until August 15th. If you’re in the neighborhood, look up!