The first time we traveled to the Galapagos Islands five years ago, I felt as wide-eyed and full of wonder as Jack Skellington when he discovered Christmas (What’s this? What’s THIS?!?! La la la la la la).
Animals with no fear of humans? Four to five different species hanging out together peacefully on a five-foot square rock?! Sea lions that swim up to you when you’re snorkeling, enticing you to play?!? What IS this magical nature-lover’s utopia?!?!?
Returning to the islands on an 8-day, 30-passenger small-ship cruise with International Expeditions a few weeks ago, I was no less impressed with the astounding natural beauty this remote Ecuadorian archipelago has to offer. But because I knew what to expect this time around, I found myself more focused on each memorable moment my daughter and I shared.
Here are seven important life lessons I learned from the Galapagos Islands:
It’s incredible the difference a few years can make in your life and career. And sometimes we only recognize the “pivotal moments” years after the fact.
Back in 2011, GGT was approaching its one-year blogiversary. Mary and I were focused on our freelance work and building our improv comedy company, running the blog in our spare time. We knew exactly what we wanted to do with the site, but had no idea HOW to do it.
One day we got an email from one of our PR contacts: “Ecoventura is pleased to invite you on its press-designated cruise through the Galapagos Islands October 2-9, 2011.” That email changed everything for us, and that trip to the Galapagos started the snowball that led us to where we are now.
It wasn’t until our second day in Belize, just before we were supposed to leave for a tour of Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, that I finally shed tears over the death of my father.
I was stunned on December 27, when my mother called to tell me the news that he’d passed away during the night after a long, gradual decline in health. I was numb at the memorial service a week later, when I reunited with family members I’d cut off all contact with over two years ago. I was distracted by our #JustOneRhino fundraiser and deadlines, too busy and exhausted to allow myself time to deal with the roiling cauldron of emotions buried deep inside me. Continue reading
In conjunction with leading our Branding for Bloggers workshop at TBEX Costa Brava, Mary and I were asked to speak about the importance of journalism skills and research in establishing yourself as an expert.
It’s a topic we’re extremely passionate about, not only because it’s the driving force behind Green Global Travel and Green Travel Media, but also because it’s how I’ve supported my family for the last 20 years. Even now, Mary and I freelance for outlets like Yahoo Travel and dozens of airline, hotel and lifestyle magazines, which provides good income and great benefits for our sites.
We were paired with Natalie Holmes of Context Travel, which offers small-group, in-depth walking tours in 30 destinations across the world. Like us, Natalie has an extensive background in the travel industry and journalism, and she’s responsible for product development, marketing and storytelling at Context.
Together, the three of us co-wrote this 45-minute session, which was billed by TBEX as “Think Like An Expert: Using Research to Stand Out From The Crowd.” We’ve edited the presentation slightly, to read more like a story told in one voice…
Last year at this time, I was unexpectedly nominated to run for President-Elect of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association.
Mary and I discussed the opportunity at great length, but I ultimately had to decline for a few reasons: 1) It was a 3-year time commitment; 2) We were in the process of launching our blogger-driven creative services agency, Green Travel Media; and 3) I wasn’t sure how closely our clearly-defined goals for the blogging industry aligned with those of the PTBA.
A year later things have changed for us dramatically, and I’ve decided to accept my nomination for President-Elect this time around. The main reason can be boiled down to this: My combination of Experience, Connections and Strategic Vision will not only benefit current members of the PTBA, but will improve the blogging industry on the whole and the relationship between travel bloggers and travel businesses.
This is my promise to you: During my three years with the PTBA, more new bloggers will join, more travel industry businesses will want to work with us, and more bloggers will make more money doing work they can be proud of. And I’ll explain why and how…
At age 46, I’m considerably older than the average travel blogger. I believe the wisdom that comes from extensive professional experience is CRUCIAL to leading and building a new organization like the PTBA.
I’ve been managing businesses since I was 18 years old. I majored in Music Business, so half of my course load was in Business, learning everything from sales and marketing to management and accounting. That foundation of education helped me develop the strategies that wound up making Green Global Travel successful. And I’ll continue to use that knowledge to develop outside-the-box strategies that can benefit the blogging industry on the whole.
I became a professional writer while still in college, and I’ve supported my family as a full-time writer for 20+ years now. Working my way up to Managing Editor at my first job, I built up a 15-city network of publications, managing dozens of writers and working with PR people from the entertainment, sports, travel and hospitality fields. I know the ins and outs of the media world as well as anyone, and I’ve shown through my work with GGT how that knowledge can be of benefit in the blogging world.
As a blogger, I’ve been devoted to freely sharing information that can build up our industry from day one. After seeing how certain bloggers treated newbies looking for help, we launched the Business of Blogging Facebook group as an educational resource in 2012, when GGT started to take off. We immediately established a database of helpful blogging-related articles there that anyone can access, and we’re constantly adding to it. Through our internship program, we’ve mentored dozens of bloggers on everything from writing and social media marketing to branding and business strategy.
Lastly, through Green Travel Media we’ve provided paying work to nearly two dozen bloggers in the first six months, with plans for further expansion of our team of talent this year. Collectively, these nearly 30 years of management, media, blogging, teaching and mentoring experience give me all of the qualifications we need in a PTBA leader. I’ve been leading teams all my adult life.
Last year, in anticipation of our “How To Build a Better Blogging Brand” talk at TBEX, we surveyed every PR and Marketing person we knew in the travel industry, including many major DMOs, tour operators, PR agencies, hotel chains and more. We sent the survey out to nearly 2000 industry professionals in our database, and got over 200 lengthy responses.
We asked them each 15 questions related to how they’ve worked with bloggers, how they’ll work with bloggers in the future, what they look for in the bloggers they work with, the challenges they’ve faced in the process, and how we, as bloggers, can improve our craft. What we learned is that, while blogger/brand relations have come a long way, there are still a LOT of negative perceptions about bloggers, a lot of unprofessional blogger behavior, and many agencies who don’t work with bloggers much as a result.
What I believe the PTBA needs are leaders who are connected with and respected by the travel industry, in order to bridge the gap that divides bloggers from PR/marketing professionals. We need someone who has extensive contacts in the traditional media world, who can be an outspoken advocate for working with bloggers and exemplify the type of professional blogger they’ll want to work with. And we need someone who can reach out to companies who might never have worked with bloggers before and help them understand why and, more importantly, how they should do that.
That’s precisely what I’ll be doing during my speaking gigs at Canada Media Marketplace and the New York Travel Festival this month. It’s precisely what I’ll keep doing, whether I’m elected to the PTBA or not. And if you look at GGT’s track record over the past 3 years– during which we’ve worked with dozens of companies who had never worked with bloggers before– it’s what we’ve been doing all along.
Below are my primary goals if I’m elected as President-Elect of the PTBA:
• Work with Laurence Norah and Craig Martin to understand the challenges the PTBA is currently facing, and develop a strategic plan to overcome them.
• Improve communications, both among PTBA board members and with PTBA members, via a monthly newsletter.
• Engage in dialogue with current, past and future PTBA members on how we can make the organization more beneficial to its members.
• Establish a comprehensive resource of educational materials for bloggers to develop their craft, and push for more education for up & coming bloggers who might one day qualify to join.
• Double the PTBA’s blogger membership.
• Strengthen relationships with major travel industry organizations such as Destination Marketing Association International, the Adventure Travel Trade Association, The International Ecotourism Society, the Society of American Travel Writers, etc. for the strategic benefit of the PTBA.
• Improve communications with PR/marketing companies in the travel sphere (many of whom have no idea the PTBA even exists) and help transform how they think of bloggers.
• Quadruple the PTBA’s industry membership.
• Improve transparency in the PTBA’s finances so that members understand how fees are being used, and why.
• Encourage growth and innovation of the PTBA by leading periodic brainstorming sessions amongst board members.
I believe we are at a critical juncture in the evolution of blogging, and I believe that my experience, connections and vision make me the perfect candidate for leading the PTBA forward. Our big picture goal is the same as it has always been– to strengthen and improve the blogging industry on the whole, and to create a future in which more professional travel bloggers can make a respectable living doing respectable work for respectable companies.
Nobody will work harder to make this dream a reality than Mary and I. We hope we can count on your vote, and are happy to answer any questions you may have in the comments! Thank you for your time and attention. –Bret Love