I didn’t really know what to expect when I bought my ticket for Traverse 16. It looked fun: lots of networking opportunities and workshops with the best bloggers in the industry all enticed me. But is my blog developed enough? I thought. Do I have good enough traffic, or a substantial amount of twitter followers?
Turns out, it really doesn’t matter. Traverse is for everyone, and there was a great mix of new bloggers and seasoned professionals in the audience. Not at one point did I feel that it was too advanced, or too simplistic. And from what I gathered from everyone else, the feeling was pretty mutual.
If you’re wondering if you should buy a Traverse 17 ticket, my answer is definitely yes. Suitable for all abilities and ages, Traverse encompasses travel bloggers all over Britain (and beyond!) and helps them out in as many ways possible, with plenty of freebies and inspiration dashed in.
Here’s a rough itinerary of the weekend so you can see what really went down at Traverse 16 and what you get for your money.
I arrived in Cardiff at about 6pm on Friday (after missing my first train from Bristol… whoopsie). I stayed at Nomad Hostel, which was about a 20 minute walk from the centre, cheap by British hostel standards, offered free breakfast and did the job for a night’s stay.
Once I checked into my hostel (falling over and ripping my jeans in the process… did I mention I’m clumsy?) I put a quick slick of make up on and set off for the networking party. The venue for this event was The Depot, an absolutely awesome warehouse space in an up and coming area of the city. Traverse had kitted out the venue with fabulous décor and heaters, a stage at one end and lots of food vans! They’d put on some great entertainment – when I got there there were stilt walkers all over the place and a great band at the end of the room.
So, what do you do when you get to a networking event on your own, not knowing anyone in the room? Network, of course. It was a bit daunting, but it’s important to remember that everyone goes to these events to meet people. And we all had a passion in common – it should be easy to strike up a conversation!
So I grabbed a glass of wine and made my way over to one of the tables, where I introduced myself to Rachel from Vagabond Baker and Lisa from Lisa Loves Sun Life. It turned out they were staying in my hostel too, and we hit it off right away!
Here was my first experience of Traverse’s amazing hospitality – we got free drinks all night and a fantastic complimentary meal! With various vans dotted around the venue, we could choose from fish and chips, burgers or pork (lots of vegetarian options too) with waffles or chocolate mousse for dessert. I chose That Fish Guy for my dinner, where he cooked me up a special fish pie (without flour) and chips – with a gluten free chocolate pudding for afters!
After a few more complimentary glasses of rose and knowing that we needed to be in a good head space for the conference the next day, we headed back to the hostel.
Up bright and early on Saturday (not feeling very rested at all.. hostel life eh?), I got ready quickly, had some breakfast and set off with Rachel and Lisa to Cardiff City Football Stadium (which is where the conference was held – we hadn’t decided to sack it all in and just go to the football instead!). Traverse had put on a free coach service from the centre, so we got there with all the other bloggers in good time. After free tea and refreshments, we made our way downstairs into the welcome room.
The main speaker at the introduction was Tori James– an amazing person who was the first Welsh woman to climb Mount Everest. She gave us an inspiring lecture about chasing and following your dreams, and left me going to my first workshop thinking just maybe, anything is possible!
There were four sessions during the day, interspersed with breaks and with a closing panel at the end.
For each session we could choose which interested us the most. I opted for How to Think Creatively About Your Blog Content, which was instructed by Jen from She Gets Around; How to Improve your Photography with Kim, Sexy Strategic SEO taught by Judith from Mostly About Chocolate and Creating Better Food Content by Niamh from Eat Like a Girl.
Here’s some of the great things I picked up in each mini session.
Thinking Creatively About Your Blog Content
- Listen to the rules, and then ignore them – ultimately do what you want to do with your blog. It’s your masterpiece after all and by doing this you’ll be tapping into your best creativity.
- Keep a notebook and write things down – even if it’s gibberish. Then go back and think about the best things that you’ve wrote. Let your creativity stem from here.
- Don’t be embarrassed! Sometimes embarrassing situations make the best stories (which was music to my clutzy ears)
- When in doubt, drink bucks fizz
- We went into pairs where Lucy from World this Weekend gave me some great ideas for my blog, which I’ll be putting into use over the next few weeks and months!
How to Improve Your Photography
- I learnt a good few tips about how to use my SLR camera – something that I’m not amazing at!
- Composition, composition, composition; it’s all about finding the right set up to make beautiful images
- On Instagram, make all your images have similar colours, or blend them together, it creates a really lovely user experience
- You don’t have to always use the SLR! It’s great a lot of the time; for capturing intense detail or for really professional looking shots. But for Instagram and other social media, phone camera photos can be fine.
Sexy Strategic SEO
- Load time is an SEO factor! I then went home and put my website through a tool we were shown, and discovered mine to be WAY too high. I’ve since been working on things to slow it down (even though I think that means getting rid of my beloved slider… sob).
- Don’t overuse keywords, even if Yoast tells you too. The Yoast plug in is great, but it shouldn’t be stuck to religiously. Don’t worry about keyword density – just make sure it’s in the title and in the body of the text at least once.
- Use google keyword planner to find keywords. I already knew this, but Judith gave us some great tips about finding alternative keywords that are commonly searched for.
- Offering chocolate to all those who ask questions has great results!
Create Better Food Content
- Food and travel go hand in hand because it’s the one thing that connects everyone – we all have to eat!
- Writing about food tours is creating great interest at the moment
- To take awesome pictures of food, use a background board, embellish the food with decorations if possible/ applicable and take in natural light
- Food videos are becoming huge (snapchat, Instagram and youtube being the forerunners with this), so try and get involved with them while they’re still relatively new!
- Not directly involved with food, but this made me realise that I really should be incorporating video into my travel blogging pronto. I already have some great ideas!
Q: How do you get your hashtag trending on twitter? A: Offer everyone who uses it a free drink, of course.
We were all provided with unlimited wine or beer throughout the closing panel, we just had to use the hashtags #traversewhitewine #traverseredwine or #traversebeer, depending on what we wanted to what we want. #traversewhitewine actually ended up being more popular than #resigndavidcameron and not too far off #grandnational! And there were a bunch of very happy bloggers in the audience, who only had to go on their phones and tweet their location and hashtag for a free drink!
Alcohol aside, the closing panel was very informative and interesting; it was foremostly a Q&A session with some of the more well established bloggers, who gave us tips and tricks on creating and maintaining a successful travel blog. Some things I picked up were
- Do what you love; if you’re not passionate about it it’ll show in your work.
- Think of your blog as a business from day one. This might mean putting some money into it before you make any, or investing a great amount of time to see zero results at first. But if you keep at it, you’ll eventually begin to see readers.
- Picking a niche is super important.
- It might sometimes be better to ask industries you’re working with for money, even if you’d be happy to do it for free – some industries will think it a bit weird that you’ll work for free and may even be a little dubious to join forces.
After the intriguing closing panel, it was home time – back on the bus to the city centre and for me, back to Bath to digest what I’d learnt! There was still lots going on in the evening and the next day; but I had to get back home because of prior commitments.
But here’s what I missed out on – and what you also get for your money with a Traverse ticket!
Traverse rented out an area of Revolution Bar, and wristbands entitled all conference goers to lots of free drinks. From what I heard, it was a great night!
The Sunday experiences sounded like a blast. From graffiti creating, to hiking the Brecon Beacons, to visiting the gorgeous beaches of the Gower Peninsula – I was gutted that I couldn’t stay for them! My interest in Wales has definitely been ignited, and I’ll be returning to check out what more of the nation has to offer – hopefully before I leave in the summer!
- Free drinks on the Friday AND Saturday night
- A delicious dinner on the Friday
- Lots of entertainment and use of a great venue on the Friday
- Coach travel to and from the conference on the Saturday
- Plenty of free tea, coffee and cake at the venue
- Free lunch on the Saturday
- A day full with informative and inspiring talks, lectures and workshops from industry professionals
- Lots of freebies from the conference sponsors
- The chance to enter fantastic competitions
- Some slides and notes available after the conference
- A free bar during the closing ceremony
I thought this was fantastic value for money; and the whole conference was executed in such a professional, flawless way that it’s making me almost want to reschedule my next year’s travelling plans so I can attend Traverse 17! (until I remind myself of Aussie beaches… sorry Traverse but they’ll have to win this time).
I’d definitely recommend going to this conference, even if you’re a newbie to travel blogging.
My top recommendations for first timers would be:
- Please don’t be afraid to rock up on your own – everybody there actively wants to meet new people. It’s probably the best place to turn up and introduce yourself to new people. And you could end up making great friends because of it!
- Print business cards! – I didn’t and really regretted it. It’s harder for people to remember a name or find one from their notes that you’ve written down. Business cards make it so easy and seem very professional. Print them off no matter how small or unestablished your blog is.
- Be sure to sort out dietary requirements before you arrive at the venue– another faux pas from the gluten-free pescatarian. The staff were really helpful and managed to whip up something for me, but it would have saved some hassle if I’d remembered to ask beforehand!
- Get out a timetable of the day and work out where you’re going to go, when – there’s lots of information about the sessions on the website prior to the day. Do a bit of research and make sure that you’re in the best workshop for you.
- Chat to everybody – you never know who could end up having crazy amounts in common with, who you might run into in a hostel in Bali one day or who might give you your next job opportunity. I try and do this as much as possible in general life, but here is the place to really make the most of this.
- Don’t worry if you don’t get to do everything – if this if your first ever event, it’ll be a bit overwhelming and you’ll more than likely not be able to squeeze everything in, which is fine. Just see everything as an amazing opportunity, and make notes on what you’d like to do more of at your next blog conference!
- Go over your notes as soon as possible after the event to keep them fresh in your brain
- Do try and stay for the whole weekend if you can! I wasn’t able to stay the entire time unfortunately, but it’s all fantastic experience with meeting other bloggers and being connected – as well as exploring somewhere new on the Sunday!
- Stay in contact with everyone you’ve met on twitter and the rest of social media – and use the hashtags for the event. Keep updated with all the news from the day!
Have I swayed you to get a ticket for Traverse 17 yet? Have you been to any other blog conferences?