Thursday, 13 November 2008

Travel Blogcamp, London 2008 - pints and pondering

What a perfectly timed event this was, following a heavy day at World Travel Market 2008 that began with endless queues at Canning Town and ended with an annoyingly dead mobile phone. Blogcamp 08, superbly arranged by Darren of Travel Rants fame, was the day's highlight. With views across the Thames from the Blackfriars pub, coupled with chat over a pint and far more fascinating bloggers than I'd expected to find, being a British travel blogger suddenly became very enjoyable.

Who came to play?
Darren of Travel Rants played host and chair
Guest speakers
Alex Bainbridge – Musings on travel ecommerce
Karen Bryan – Europe a la Carte
Molly Flatt – STA Travel Buzz
Kevin May – Travolution

Also, PR and Marketing representatives from the travel industry including; Mr & Mrs Smith, TUI, Holiday Autos and Lonely Planet. Freelance writers and SEO providers including Jeremy Head and Mark Hodson, other bloggers and social networking success stories such as Marco van de Kamp of travelersfortravelers

My take on events

All four speakers gave great overviews of their personal take on blogging and I thank them for that. But because I strongly believe that there are few hard and fast rules to this wonderfully liberating publishing medium, and because bloggers by their nature do not passively consume content, I'd say that the most interesting moments arose as the audience began to engage vocally with the themes being presented to them.

Standout themes
Multiple-authors. Rehashing stories. Where does writing stop, blogging begin, journalism end and PR stick its nose in on the action? Blogging as a marketting tool for travel companies. Aggrigated content.


Maybe the difference between Sandwagon and these speakers is that my blog exists purely for expression's sake and to share my love and expertise of travel, the industry and travel publishing. At the moment, I cherish the editorial freedom that monetising my blog may compromise. Plus I'll never be comfortable using so soulless a term as 'content' to describe what I produce online. I'm a traveller, a collaborative member of a community that shares information and a writer with a professional editorial background; at this point in time, not a blogger looking for pay per click bucks.

Feelings on the train journey home

The blogger v journalist v PR debate depressed me somewhat. Why the need to pigeonhole ourselves and in fight? We are all bloggers first and foremost because of the medium that we use. The shades of differences between all of our blogs are based on our individual experiences, personal and professional. We should respect the qualities, experience and causes that individuls bring to the table.

My one big hope for all those involved in Blogcamp is that we don't allow an elite to be created and that commercially successful blogs are elevated above all of those who just love to write and share about an industry they know and love very well. Because if we do that, we're no better than the newspapers, publishers and industry leaders whose editorial constraints we sought solace from by migrating our musing online.

What's next?

For Blogcamp - because I've always envied the collaborative approach of the web development world; their online conferences, their sharing of new applications and know-how, I really do hope that we can organise Blogcamp 2. Darren, I'm sure that Lonely Planet would be more than happy to sponsor it (!) and that we'd all be happy to regroup again.

For Sandwagon - I'll continue to write about travel from a travel writer and editor's perspective. Coming away from World Responsible Tourism Day, I'm more inclined to use my blog to celebrate those in the industry who are working to protect a world in danger, rather than pushing to make lots of cash. Although, I wouldn't turn down enough to buy another pint of Staropramen.

Read the ongoing buzz about Blogcamp at the following links:

Reflections on travel Blogcamp at

Hoorah for heated debate at STA Travelbuzz

Travel Blog Camp, London at Roaming Tales

Busy week at WTM08 at Travel Musings on ecommence

Travel Blogcamp at Mr & Mrs Smith

At Travel Blogcamp at Heatheronhertravels

Travel Blog Camp at

Travel Blog Camp Write up at Trailbeater


Ben Colclough said...

Great summary, pigeonholing is the perfect word. it's a bit like a bunch of music geeks trying to figure out what genre to place the latest hot thing in..
Seriously though, its that crazy itching passion for travel that unites us all, (and which always seems to get that little bit more pressing at this time of year!) so it will always be a pleasure to get together with like minded souls. Thanks for the comment on my blog - you have the honour of being my first ever commenter. Well, other than my mum....

Sandwagon said...

Hi Ben
Great to hear from you. Hopefully there'll be another Blogger Pint & Ponder opportunity soon.
Stay in touch. I'll keep watching yours, if you keep watching mine!


Marco van de Kamp said...

He Yah, thanks for your post about that BlogCamp night. I loved it. Great experience, room full energy.

It was nice meeting you. I will check your links to the other blogs...

Travolution Blogger said...

@Sandwagon - thanks for the write-up.

1) the travolution link goes to STAtravelbuzz. didn't think i was so awful that you wouldn't link to us! :-)

2) you have reinforced my point completely. the pigeon-holing comes from those that fail to understand there is actually very little difference...

bloggers, hacks, travel writers, whatever, we just produce words, opinions, reviews of something we are passionate about - travelling.

"We are all bloggers first and foremost because of the medium that we use" - fair enough.

as blogging platforms evolve the "medium" will actually become less important. [think Huffington Post, TechCrunch]

As some blogs look more like mainstream sites and (most importantly) vice versa, it is natural that the lines will become blurred in the eyes of the audience.

And back to so much of what i say. it's what the reader reads which is the most important thing, not how they read it.

People want to read good and engaging copy, simple as that.

Sandwagon said...

Hi Travolution.

Great to hear from you. I'm pleased to say that your link has now been corrected. Whoops.

Thanks for joining me in the bebate on medium and definition of bloggers. As an ex Managing Editor who had to buy, review, use 'content' based upon the professional title of the provider - ie factchecker, writer, photographer et al - it makes me so happy that blogging has blown the elite apart, opening up travel publishing to everyone with genuine passion and talent.

As you say, as long as what you produce is high quality in the eyes of your readers, then you're already a successful blogger and writer.

The Guild of Travel Writers could learn so much from the blogging community... if they knew it existed.


Matthew said...

Looked at the various comment dotted around - and these ones possibly make the most sense.

Passionate about travelling, engaging copy.

But the PRs I've chatted to since this event all seem keen to learn more (or their directors are frog-marching them into it).

Anyway, wrote a quick post about the night here:

Globetrottingbride said...

Thanks for your post! I love the Italian green dress idea and I'll definitely feature.

Select World Travel said...

I was really sorry to have missed this event, it actually sounds as though it would have been beter missing out on WTM and just attended Blog Camp!
Lee Harrison
Select World Travel

Sandwagon said...

Hi Lee
Thanks for joining the chat on Sandwagon.

The Blogcamp was the place to be on Tuesday at least.

The place to be on Wednesday was in World Responsible Tourism seminars, especially Hard Rain.

Do Select have any plans to begin addressing this issue?

Speak soon,

Select World Travel said...

Funny enough, have been laid up with a bad back, and my wife bought home TTG / Travel Weekly and I read a very interesting article about the amount of water we waste whilst on holiday. It was very thought provoking, and certainly an article I shall be producing on our blog shortly at

Jared Salter said...

Hi Sandwagon,

Thanks for commenting on my blog. Sorry we didn't get a chance to meet in person, but I've bookmarked the Sandwagon blog and I'll be back. Keep up the good work.

theunready said...

Thanks Kelly – was great to meet you too. I have to say I did enjoy the night, and the issues raised, and though I don't think it matters what colour hat you wear – you can call yourself a blogger, a journalist, a wordmonkey or a multifacted content node for all the difference it makes – as long as someone out there is reading, enjoying and engaging with what you produce, then hoo-bloomin-ray.

theunready said...

(This is Anthony from Mr & Mrs Smith, btw)

Caitlin said...

I agree with you - I don't feel the need to harp on about journalism v blogging. I'm both as my day job is as a journalist and I do my blogs in my spare time. The two things are not the same but nor are they at odds with one another.