Speaking at Conferences, Hiding in Yurts: An Update

Mt. Rainier on a Clear Day - Seattle
Our recent view of Mt. Rainier on a rare, clear day in Seattle.

This is a story about crisscrossing North America, speaking to audiences in Vancouver, Miami and Denver, recharging in a defunct hippie commune outside of Seattle, preparing to speak to 1,000 people in Portland, and apologizing for withholding a few pages of our story from you over the last couple of weeks.

Have you ever followed a story – maybe on the web, on the radio, on television, wherever – and all of a sudden the story line seems to trail off, maybe even go silent? The protagonist is there one minute, gone the next. And you’re thinking to yourself, “Sh*t, that was just getting good.”

Sound familiar? We pressed the pause button on some things here on the blog and unwittingly left you behind.

So what have we been up to? Speaking, mainly – speaking at conferences and events, drawing meaning from our travels, sharing them with audiences in various contexts, and tying together multiple themes.

In the midst of all this, we’ve enjoyed heckling each other on stage. We’ve left crowds laughing, sometimes crying, often inspired. And while we’ve shared some lessons, we’ve learned a few of our own along the way.

Whirlwind: A Recap of Last Few Weeks

Vancouver: The Future of Tourism (FoT)

Hiking at Deep Cove - Vancouver, BC
Enjoying the view at Deep Cove near Vancouver before Future of Tourism.

This event sponsored by our partner G Adventures gathered more than 500 people in one of Vancouver’s biggest theaters to discuss sustainable tourism.

The audience was one of the larger ones we’ve spoken to. Jitters? Sure. I drank a gallon of water before going on stage, didn’t time my final bathroom break well, then felt a burning desire to dance while I spoke.

Despite my inner squirm, the evening went very well.

When you care about the message and that message aligns with your story, nothing can stop you. Not even your bladder.

According to the U.N. World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), more than one billion people are expected to cross borders for the purpose of tourism in 2012. A force for good? A force for harm? It all depends on the decisions we make.

To this end, we spoke about the confluence of travel, technology and human connections. We shared stories from Bangladesh to Iran to Tanzania to Nicaragua demonstrating how technology can enable travelers to make informed decisions in line with their values so that tourism dollars can find their way to benefit local communities and people.

Our final message: Not only can travel change your life, but it can also change the lives of the people you meet.

What do you think?

Miami: EyeforTravel

Amtrak Train Travel in Florida - Orlando to Miami
Taking the train to Miami…plus never pass up an opportunity for an iPhone photo.

The following week, we switched gears, donned our business hats, dressed like grown-ups (getting out of the adventure clothes and spiffing it up was oddly refreshing) for EyeforTravel in Miami, a travel industry conference focused on online marketing strategies.

Even though we spoke on separate panels, I still found a way to heckle Audrey by urging my crowd to roar with applause so as to disrupt her talk taking place next door.

In this life, in this business, marital rivalry dies hard.

I spoke about how story can be used as a differentiator for brands and how to employ storytelling techniques in online content and social media. Audrey spoke on the use of social media sharing pre-, during, and post- trip for both exposure and conversion.

Sounding like double-speak? Let me tell it straight: tell good stories and generate quality content, and regardless of the context, you’ll set yourself apart.

The topic that seemed to draw the most interest, however, was our nomadism. “What do you mean you don’t have a home?”

A common theme, a common question we continue to work on. Read to the end for the latest developments.

Colorado: TBEX Keystone

Last weekend, we spoke at TBEX, a travel blogging conference now in it’s fourth year. The knockout venue from 7,000 to over 11,000 feet: Keystone, Colorado. At almost 800 people including bloggers and travel industry folks, this conference demonstrates that travel blogging continues its march to maturation.

Taking a Break at the Continental Divide - Loveland Pass, Colorado
Taking a Break at the Continental Divide – Loveland Pass, Colorado

We spoke on a panel – in our oxygen deprived state – on how to leverage one’s skills, blog and brand into new, off-blog business opportunities. While there is no cookie-cutter approach to building a business and making a living from blogging in this vein, we underscored three tricks here: use a planning process, leverage all your skills, including the ones you had before your blog, and most importantly, look to what’s NOT being done.

Easier said than done, we understand.

Like any conference, the best part is putting faces to names, going beyond the avatar, to meeting the actual human beings we continue to interact with every day online.

Bainbridge Island, Seattle: Recharge

Mexico, Egypt, Japan and multiple speaking engagements – all on different topics — in rapid fire. Terrific exercises and terrific experiences. But at some point, the constant movement catches up.

Needed: time and space to recharge.

So we did what all people do when they feel the need to recharge. We retreated to a defunct hippie commune on an island in Seattle’s Puget Sound. We holed up in a yurt on Bainbridge Island, took stock of where we’ve been over the last couple of weeks, and ruminated on where we’re headed.

A Yurt on Bainbridge Island, Seattle
Yurts. No longer just for Mongolia or Kyrgyzstan.

Then we were invited to speak again.

What’s coming up?

We’re in Seattle for a few days before heading south to Portland for the World Domination Summit (WDS) in early July. For those of you unfamiliar with the event, don’t let the boldness of the name put you off. The conference brings together digital entrepreneurship with a more general theme of carving out a remarkable life in a conventional world.

To a crowd of 1,000, we’ll speak about how and why we embarked on our journey. We’ll address the challenges and opportunities of staying married while traveling and running a business together, and the motivations, aspirations and machinations that seem to hold it all together.

Of course, we’ll serve up a few stories to make those points while reflecting on what we’ve learned about ourselves, each other, and our world as we’ve made our way.

All this in thirty minutes. Clearly, we’ve got our work cut out for us.

From there we will return to Berlin, Germany. A familiar ring, you say? It remains one of our favorite cities, a place to return to that feels like home. We’ll finally finish the redesign of the site, catch up with stories and photo essays from Japan, Egypt, and Mexico, and work on some new trips and projects for the fall and winter.

The Importance of Stillness, The Importance of Story

The opportunities before us over the last few weeks have been edifying, affirmative and quite possibly transformative. But the constant activity and movement has left little time for reflection, little time to continue threading the stories that underpin our blog and our connection with you.

So we pick up the pen again.

Thanks always for your patience. Good things are happening. We look forward to continuing to share our journey with you.

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  1. says

    So, so happy to finally meet you guys and who knew that you could even be nicer in person?! It’s been a pleasure connecting with you two the last few months and look forward to continuing to do so!

  2. says

    It’s been a pleasure following your story, and meeting both of you at TBEX. Good luck at WDS, I hope someone records the keynote for the rest of us.

    That Yurt looks damn nice. Knew a guy that lived in one on a mountain in Montana, he skied in and out to it on telemarks. :)

  3. Sutapa says

    Loved this post. Also the fact that you heckle each other during your separate presentations. :)

    One thought though: since you guys are nomads in the best sense of the word, your only home is where you two are with each other. So watch out! Too much heckling might leave you homeless. Just kidding! :)

    p.s – I did not know what a ‘yurt’ was and looked it up. I guess there was electricity inside?
    p.p.s – I wish I could hear some of your presentations! Making a living using storytelling and digital media and making an unconventional living at that, you guys are 1 in a million! So rare and so refreshing.

  4. Sutapa says

    Oh, yes, I see the lights outside, so there was electricity, pardon me. Looks cozy and very peaceful.

  5. says

    Excellent I look forward to hearing from and hopefully meeting two others who don’t have a home and live a nomadic lifestyle. No-one quite gets how I live out of a suitcase all the time. Because it’s FUN and an adventure I say and I get to see a new part of the world all the time.

    Congrats on sharing your message at all these speaking events!

  6. says

    @Spencer: That’s very nice to hear…thank you. Great meeting you, too!

    @Matthew: Great meeting you, too. We’ll poke around at WDS and see what the deal is with footage.

    There’s something special about yurts. Perhaps the simplicity. Perhaps there are no corners in which evil spirits can hide (I think that’s one of the unofficial purposes of the shape of a yurt). As for your friend skiing in and out of a yurt, that is just plain cool.

    @Sutapa: We heckle each other all the time, so it just naturally flows into our presentations.

    Your note of concern and advice is well-taken regarding the potential pitfalls of heckling your nomadic companion. We’re working on that, in all dimensions.

    For this yurt, there was electricity inside. If you’d like to see other yurts, that typically do not have electricity, we took some photos of them (in Kyrgyzstan) here:

    And we wrote some yurt-based stories:

    @Natalie: Thank you. We’ll look forward to meeting you as well.

  7. says

    It was great to finally meet you guys in Vancouver! It’s comforting to know that you two are taking a leadership role in the travel blogging space. I look forward to the next chapter… :-)

  8. says

    Fantastic post! Your photography and insight on this blog is amazing and inspiring. My husband and I have also been traveling nomadically for 5 years now and it continues to be the best choice of our lives.

    I hope to meet you and see you speak at TBEX or the World Domination Summit next year. Best of luck in your travels and experiences.


  9. says

    I think you have found an excellent excuse to slightly neglect your readers. I’m looking for a good excuse myself, hey maybe i’ll join you at one of these conferences someday!

  10. says

    @Sutapa: You are welcome! Will be interested to hear what you think.

    @ava: And you, too. Go road rally!

    @Cam: Great meeting you three, too! Re: leadership role, it’s our pleasure. In a way, it’s our responsibility, too. We are glad to have the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the things of importance to us and to the industry.

    @Connie: Glad to hear it! Looking forward to staying in touch and meeting in person.

    @Lily, Eva: Funny, you are right.

    @Sammy: Thanks. I feel a little better. All of these activities — traveling, writing, speaking, interacting with others online and in person — all inform and help to round out our experiences. We’ll see you on the road.

  11. Neda says

    I’m searching into your articles.Im traveling to the US and I like to know more about intresting places in North America to visit later.Would you link me if there is any other Article specifically about United State specially more western.

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