So last week, I told you that I was going to write about Estonia but you know what? I changed my mind!
I changed my mind because I went to TBEX in Spain and got myself into a lot of hot water! Remember how I thought it would be a good idea to climb up a live volcano in Bali. Well it wasn’t! How about the time when I fell off a ski lift in the Czech Republic? I mean, I was lucky that I hadn’t broken both my legs. What about the time that I flew to Korea but I should have been going to Qatar?!
Yep! I don’t know how I get myself into these weird situations and they always seem to follow me around. I usually take them in my stride and laugh them off, but this time I wasn’t really laughing.
So what happened…?
Firstly, let me tell you what TBEX is all about.
TBEX is the holy grail of the travel blogging world and stands for Travel Blog Exchange. The organisation used to be located in North America and Europe but for the first time in 2015, is now based not only in “the West” but in Asia too, and on a cruise-ship in the middle of the sea!
I’ve heard a lot of good and sometimes controversial things about TBEX but I decided to attend the conference for myself and make up my own mind.
I decided to stay closer to home and attend TBEX EUROPE. In previous years, the bloggers conference had been in Dublin (whisky & beer. Yay!) and Athens (ouzo & wine. Double Yay!). This time, TBEX EUROPE was in Costa Brava, Catalunya. In Spain. (tapas & tequila. Olé!) In Lloret de Mar to be specific. Near the beach. Oooooo!
According to the TBEX website, it’s the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers, new media content creators, digital publishing and social-media-savvy travel industry professionals. It’s also a medium for the creative minds of the travel industry to come together, to network, to learn, to negotiate with the travel industry and for those who are so inclined, to take the business of blogging to the next level.
Am I one of the social-media -savvy people?
So what’s the next level?
It’s entirely up to you.
Every year, TBEX partners with fantastic destinations so that bloggers and media people get the opportunity to meet potential business partners or sponsors, meet influential bloggers, get new strategies and tips, network with each other, discover new destinations, share a new experience and well, be entertained and paaaaaaaarty like it’s 1999!
Oh alright then. Paaaaaarty like it’s 2009!
There. Happy now!
TBEX EUROPE promised us an exciting night life, delicious food, outdoor locations and enlightening cultural excursions. Did they deliver on their promise?
They sure did!
And I only got a tiny bite of the apple.
I know right?!
But it wasn’t the fault of TBEX oh dear me no. It was the fault of…
Drum roll please….
In fact, a crash of cymbals please…
It was in truth….
Not an airline. AIRLINES!
My journey to Spain didn’t start well….!
I was really excited to be going to TBEX EUROPE and I was one of the early birds and paid just $127.00 as far back as November 2014, so I was well and truely locked LOL!
Of course, once I booked my conference ticket I reckoned that if we’re going to have a gaggle of bloggers descending on Lloret de Mar, then I ought to reserve a hotel room.
It wasn’t such a good idea.
I’ll tell you why later!
Since I live in Germany and Spain isn’t Poland or Lithuania, then the next thing is to book a flight. I couldn’t seem to get a flight with the times that I wanted, so I booked two separate flights with two different companies. Their names were Vueling and Norwegian.
Now since this was my first TBEX conference. I didn’t really know anyone who lived in Berlin and was going to TBEX too, so I didn’t have anyone to talk to about the logistics. If I had, I would have learnt to leave more than a weekend!
Yep! I didn’t know that TBEX EUROPE doesn’t only mean the conference weekend but actually a week of serious jollification and pre-tours before the conference and a week of a bit of a jolly after the conference! In fact, even though the conference officially took place from April 30th – May 2nd, some people are still in Spain NOW – Living the life of Riley! I don’t envy them in the least, I only wish it had been me LOL!
Anyway, since I had just returned from a two-week trip around the Baltics States, it wasn’t really appropriate or fair, to take off to a sunny destination so soon. So a long weekend it had to be.
As I said previously, the TBEX EUROPE bloggers conference took place from 30.04.15 – 02.05.15. Basically, three (3) days and nicely done over a public holiday and the weekend. Planned nicely, it would have been just the thing to have quite an interesting, but fruitful weekend in Spain. I couldn’t think of anything better.
Until I got to the airport!
I had dashed across town from my office to the airport. Berlin Tegel Airport is a great airport to use as it’s near the centre of the city, and is extremely small. Lovely!
I had never flown with Vueling before but I was excited to use the airline as it was a Spanish low-cost airline that I had seen posters about a year previously, but had never used. TBEX seemed to be the perfect opportunity.
And then the board flashed up that there would be a flight delay which you know, is a thing that can happen to any airline. However, as time flew by, I became visibly unrelaxed as the schedule for the out-going flight pushed back further and further away… My flight was originally due to leave Berlin at 20:45 and arrive Barcelona at 23:15.
My flight didn’t leave Berlin until 22:15 and arrived Barcelona at 00:30! A right old problem as I had pre-booked and pre-paid a shared taxi shuttle service from a company called HolidayTaxis.com to pick me up at about 23:15. Thank goodness for the Facebook TBEX networking page where I found out all about this company in the first instance, as after 22:30, no trains or buses are usually available and transport is either by taxi or hired car!
As you know that I don’t drive, it was imperative that the taxi shuttle took me to my hotel. Speaking of a hotel, I had originally made a reservation from a local establishment in Lloret de Mar right back in December, this hotel was called Hotel Excelsior Lloret. Now it’s probably a perfectly fine hotel but I’ll never know, as from the time I made my hotel reservation, they ignored all my Emails and messages on FB! Short of calling them, I Emailed them every month and then every week and by the time April crept up, I was understandably very nervous, cancelled the reservation, and booked ANOTHER hotel recommended and researched by TBEX EUROPE itself.
Thaaaaaaank Goodness because OMG! With the airport drama that was going on, I still hadn’t checked into my newly booked hotel, so I called them from the airport at 01:00.
They were absolutely great.
Even at that time of the morning they were only concerned about my welfare. The very friendly hotel was the 4-star – Hotel Gran Garbi in Lloret de Mar – that because it was still low season in Spain, had a wonderful weekend-special-and-on-line price of €33.50 that included a buffet breakfast, with a couple of swimming pools, close to the beach and in a (simple) en-suite double room for a single person booking!
You couldn’t get any better but how to get there?
By the time I picked up my luggage it was 01:00 and although I walked through the airport, there was no taxi shuttle service or man-with-a-piece-of paper-in-his-hand-with-my-name-on-it, to be seen.
I was stuck. In the middle of the night. At Barcelona Airport.
I called HolidayTaxis.com and told them what had happened. I was so close to tears, tired, hungry, and fed-up. A customer-service lady – Barbara – promised to call me back in five (5) minutes to see if she could help me.
She did call me back and she did help me.
She was fantastic.
The earliest taxi shuttle that she could get for me was arriving at 04:00 in the morning. I was just so eager and desperate to get out of that airport, that I agreed on the spot.
The airport was pretty empty and only had a few stragglers and the bar staff of the 24-hour Caffé di Fiore, who were quite merry and sympathetic to my plight, probably gave me a larger ice-cold beer than I deserved at a cost of just €2.15. They also let me claim a corner so that I could huddle undisturbed as I was too afraid to actually go to sleep in case, I wouldn’t hear my mobile phone ringing, as Barbara from HolidayTaxis.com promised to give me a ring so that I could make my way to the airport car park.
I stayed at Barcelona Airport through the night!
At 04:20, the driver came, took my suitcase and kindly told me to make myself at home as he had arrived with a coach-bus.
It was just me in the 60-seater, so I did just that.
Lloret de Mar is usually a 2 hour journey from Barcelona Airport but thankfully, due to very little traffic, we arrived at about 05:20. And the male receptionist at the Hotel Gran Garbi was so nice that he opened the kitchen just for me, and asked me to help myself to breakfast!
I almost burst into tears again at his kindness and helped myself to cold cuts, cheese, croissants and a cupcake, with a much yearned for cup of hot chocolate as I just couldn’t wait for the cup of tea!
So did I go to the TBEX EUROPE Opening Party on the beach?
Did I go to the Welcome and Opening Keynote Ceremony?
Did I go to the first breakout Learning Session?
Hardly, I only got there in the last 10 minutes.
So what did I do?
I went to sleep and tried to combat a headache of not sleeping through the night!
THE RETURN JOURNEY BACK TO BERLIN ON 04.05.15.
After my interesting journey into Barcelona, you would think that my return flight to Berlin would be uneventful.
It was actually worse!
I was to fly with Norwegian and I wanted to give them a try as a German blogger called – Globetrotter Girls – raved about how much she loved flying with Norwegian although it too was a budget airline.
I’m sorry to say that choosing to fly Norwegian was a not a good sense of judgement on my part.
My flight was to depart Barcelona at 08:55 and land in Berlin at 11:45 so the taxi shuttle service picked me up from my hotel at 03:20, as it was a Monday morning and traffic in Barcelona can be extremely heavy. I arrived at Barcelona Airport at about 05:20 and then got a message on my mobile phone at 06:04.
The SMS came from the Norwegian airline and read that the flight was delayed until 13:15!
That’s annoying of course, but not too bad when I tell you that the departure time was shifted to 16:30 and in fact, we didn’t even leave Barcelona Airport until 19:00!
Ten (10) hours behind schedule! Ten (10) hours!
I had missed the classes that I was supposed to teach later that evening. I had missed my very nice dinner waiting for me at home and I had missed the time that I should have been wrapping up my Master’s Dissertation paper!
I was not annoyed. I was pissed off.
To the airline’s credit, they very quickly gave out food vouchers and I received one in the morning to the value of €15.00 and one in the afternoon to the value of €12.00.
I was so sleepy that I thought about paying up for the privilege of using the business class lounge but they had no WiFi service! In the end, I made myself a little nest at Burger King and bought a one day WiFi pass for €10.00 which after a few hours refused to work (they refunded the money), and so I went to a classier restaurant, bought some tapas and a small bottle of Spanish plonk resigned to never leaving the airport at all.
My flight arrived in Berlin safely but horribly late at 21:05 and we were finally able to retrieve our luggage at 21:25 making my flight ordeal to be that of fifteen (15) hours!
I have sent in delayed flight claims and wait eagerly for their response. And you’ll be the first to know!
WHAT DID I LEARN AT TBEX ?
- Leave plenty of time for trips, tours and meet-ups both before and after the conference.
- Use the TBEX recommended hotel list when booking your hotel or B&B.
- Networking is key to putting a face to a name in the blogging community.
- Don’t be afraid or shy to say “hi” to some of our blogging stars or key-speakers who are just as human as we are. I finally met Wandering Earl, Nomadic Matt, Legal Nomads, With Husband in Tow, saw A Dangerous Business but she was surrounded by a group of girls, sat very close to The Planet D, gave a hug to Budget Traveller and hung out and met many, other wonderful bloggers who I will mention as I remember them in the next Spanish post LOL!
- Think about your future and where you would like your blogging career to lead to.
- Don’t be afraid to monetize if that is what you want to do, just be realistic as nobody ever “made it” by blogging alone. There’s a huge amount of hard work behind the facade of “success.”
- Think about what your niche market is and if you’re a local destination expert – own it!
- Think carefully. If you do decide to take your business off the blog into the “real world” there would be many things to consider. Not least adhering to the laws of the land where you reside or settle, and such mundane things as licences, insurance, taxes, banking, a virtual assistant, marketing and sales, PR, etc.
- Don’t spend more than you can afford to lose.
- Improve your photography.
- Give back to the community.
- Look at present day trends to predict the next big thing.
- Cruises are the future.
- Airlines are the strongest competitors of social media experts.
- Listen to your readers.
- Look at what excites YOU.
- Educate yourself.
- Get started.
- Build your audience.
- Do things your way.
WHAT DID I LEARN IN SPAIN?
- Spanish tapas is cheap and will fill your tummy no matter what time of day.
- Not every hotel is equal.
- Just because the sun is shining doesn’t mean it’s warm.
- Take more than one (1) pair of fancy shoes.
- You don’t need to speak Spanish to hang out with Spanish locals. A simple smile will get the ball rolling.
- The beach at Lloret de Mar is stony.
- You’re in Spain. Drink some sangria, put on some music and dance the night away.
WHAT DID I LEARN ABOUT TRAVELLING BY BUDGET AIRLINES?
- Don’t do it!
Well, that’s it.
See you in Stockholm, 2016.
This article is not sponsored, but all opinions and the wonderful paella and sangria that I lusted over, are my very own!
I have so much to share with you.
Next week, I’ll be writing about Barcelona and after that, the very interesting Estonia and what we did in Tallinn, Estonia with the help of the Tallinn Card, what the view was like on the ferry crossing from Estonia to Finland with TALLINK SLJA LINE and what we thought about Helsinki in Finland!
The Berlin Music Video Awards will be taking place from May 27.05.15 – 30.05.15. Anybody can apply!
The Berlin Fashion Film Festival will be taking place on 05.06.15.
I’ll be there. Will you?
If you’re not in Berlin right now, then you’re missing out!
May is going to be exciting.
Watch this space!
Have you ever been to Lloret de Mar? What would you do if you found yourself abandoned at the airport?
See you in Berlin.
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