One of the main reasons I visited Dublin was to attend a travel blogging programme I go selected for called BlogHouse, which was conveniently timed just before a major travel blogging conference TBEX.
What on earth is a ‘BlogHouse’?
In short, BlogHouse is an intensive training camp of sorts organized by the bloggers of Navigate Media Group, who select a small group of interested travel bloggers from a pool of applicants and bring them together to teach them how to get their travel blogging act together.
You could say it’s a course on “How to be a travel blogger”, though I think more accurately it asks of you “What type of travel blogger do you want to be“, and with those goals in mind, then shows you how to accomplish that with the least amount of hair tearing. (Obviously you can tell who’s been blogging for the longest from the amount of hair they have left, hahaha sorry Andrew :P)
This time around there were 10 of us newbies (the noobs), put through 3 intensive days of workshops on various subjects related to travel blogging, all conducted personally by bloggers who’ve been around the block. I say intensive because it felt like being back in school on a day with a full timetable – the lessons were back to back from morning till evening, with short breaks in-between and lunch, we were all set up in one of the dining rooms – armed with our laptops and phones and wailing when the wifi went down. It was conducted like a seminar, a brief lecture and lots of QnA.
But of course it wasn’t just all formal lessons and study – a lot of valuable takeaways also happened in between sessions, just by hanging out and talking to all these different folk in the house, you’re bound to come away with some incredible ideas. Who knew that travel blogging inspiration could spread so quickly? Now that’s one virus I don’t mind catching.
Wait a minute, you need to learn travel blogging?
Well the truth is, anyone can blog, which is the whole point of the internet in the first place – that within 5 minutes, you can have a page set-up and start calling yourself a blogger. Travel blogging has pretty much exploded in the past few years, and everyone (and their mother) has either read a travel blog or owns one of their own.
BlogHouse isn’t for you if you just want to put up your pictures and tell your story for your friends and family – you don’t need anyone to teach you that. The Navigate Media folk are people who’ve figured out and largely succeeded at turning their travel blog into a viable source of income, and they have a wealth of different experiences between them that make for some fascinating stories on how they’ve reached where they are now. The focus is very much on the nitty gritty things like building your audience and how to monetize your blog, it takes a lot of work beyond just producing good writing/photographs for your blog to become successful – these perks you see bloggers enjoying, they don’t just fall at your feet!
Quite bluntly put, if you have a business goal in mind for your blog, whether it’s to make money, get free trips to travel more or just spread the word about a cause you believe in, BlogHouse would probably be very useful for you. I don’t foresee myself making a living solely off my blog in future, but it’s given me some new perspectives as to why and how I’ve been blogging, and where I want my little blog to go in future.
It also teaches a lot of practical skills that extend beyond travel blogging, like self-branding and pitching and establishing partnerships – practical people skills which are useful for anyone, entrepreneur or not, to know. Also, there were pretty good networking opportunities with both industry folk and other travel bloggers out there. It’s quite rare you get to meet these folk face-to-face these days with email, so it’s a good way to build networks.
Wow, that doesn’t sound like it should be fun…
The thing about travel blogging is that it’s usually quite a solitary affair, and you’re always focused on what you’re trying to do. Being in a room with travel bloggers from all over the world (well, mostly North America and Europe, I was and apparently am the only Asian so far, whee!) who blog so differently and for myriad reasons but who all just love travel – that’s really enough isn’t it? You can come with an open mind and you’re still bound to leave with it too full to stuff in any more new ideas.
Also, you don’t put 16 travel bloggers in a house and not expect to have some crazy moments, especially from being cooped up for too long. The word of the week (that will surely bring me some weird search traffic): Double-Fisting. I leave you to ponder that for yourselves what we got up to.
We did get out of the house once in awhile, and of course we found Nellies, best pub in Bansha with the coolest little old lady running it. Ask any of the BlogHouse folk about Nellies and you’re likely to just get a sigh, a smile, and “She’s awesome!”
And we were staying in a &%*&^ CASTLE. Granted it’s not the turrets and moats type of castle, but Bansha Castle is still a pretty cool house out in the quiet countryside of Tipperary, Ireland. That place was like a maze, it has like a zillion rooms and doors, and it even has a snooker table though I don’t think we ever got around to playing that.
BlogHouse happened before the travel blogging conference TBEX, which was an extremely useful primer as it was easier to articulate and pitch ourselves and our blogs after help from BlogHouse. Also, it made TBEX a lot more fun just because we’d already met each other, and it was nice to randomly run into each other throughout the day, have someone to sit with for lunch and sessions, and then hang out at the parties with after. I’m pretty sure my time in Dublin wouldn’t have been as fun (or as boozy) without this great bunch of folk!
For travel bloggers out there with questions about BlogHouse, drop a comment here or email me privately if you prefer, I’d love to answer any questions you might have if you’re thinking of signing up!
All the amazing people I met
The list of people to thank is incredibly long, but here goes…
Fellow Bloghouse Ireland noobs:
Helen in Wonderlust: Helen my darling roomie who let me have the big bed and the original party queen
A Passport Affair: Megan with her dry humour and constant need for coffee, also coolest mum ever
Indiana Jo: the effervescent Jo who bravely asked all the questions we were too shy to ask and has enough personality for everyone in the room
True Travellers: Andrew who I could always count on to hang out with and a genuinely friendly guy with a really infectious laugh
Travel Addicts: Lance (and Laura by extension) for being the paparazzo collecting the quotatble quotes and having some great travel tips
Sateless Suitcase: Julika, the surprising art historian lover who can seriously bust a dance move
Eille La Cheap: the fabulous Beatrice whose undying love for Hanson and 90s boybands is legendary
The Wanderfull Traveler: Murissa my fellow table-end mate and a breath of sanity from some of the madness happening around us
Nerd Travels: Brendon who honestly doesn’t look anything nerdy and is always ready to get down and dirty
Navigate Media folk
Our mentors who painstakingly groomed and grilled us over the 3 days:
Hecktic Travels: Pete and Dalene, the wonderful and lovely couple who kept us well fed
Go See Write: Michael aka “Who wants to be NICHED” *cue evil laugh*
Bacon is Magic: Ayngelina aka “You should be tweeting this…” *raises scary eyebrow*
and guest stars Indie Travel Media: Craig and Linda the Kiwi couple
Other great people
The Bansha Castle owners John, Teresa and their 2 cute doggies including my namesake Jacky, Leah and Isabel from Hostelworld who came to hang out and were great ladies to talk to, all the other bloggers, companies and BlogHouse alumni who we got to meet like Brendan, Stephanie, Naomi, etc.