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  • Writer's pictureJeff Epps

Which Travel Conferences Should You Attend in 2024?


Traverse22 in Brno, Czechia


For me, 2022 was the year of travel conferences (& travel, of course) as I attended six of them. These included 4 TBEX events, 1 TravelCon and 1 Traverse. I also traveled to over 30 countries as well. It was a very busy year for me. At the beginning of 2022 I was looking forward to a very productive year.


Well, it didn't all turn out the way I'd hoped for. I aimed to reach my 100th country by the end of December, but I only managed to reach my 98th one (Palau). Also, with the conferencing, there was some drama with TBEX as I had some disappointing experiences there, which I'll explain in a bit. As far as TravelCon and Traverse, I really have nothing but positive things to say about them. Sadly, TravelCon was discontinued after the 2022 event, but recent news announced that it will be coming back in 2024. I give Traverse a BIG A+ in just about every category that one could give a travel conference, as it truly exceeded my expectations for my first time attending one.


In this article, I'll mention 5 separate travel conferences, some which I've attended and some that I have not. These will be mainly conferences for influencers and sponsors looking to connect with one another, with my personal feelings about them based on my own first-hand experiences and second-hand information from the conferences websites and other people's experiences.


I will also separate and specify what I call "fully-loaded" conferences with "showcase" conferences.


A "fully-loaded" conference includes everything from speakers, sessions, sponsor showcases, FAM (familiarization) trips, midweek experiences, pre-conference/post-conference trips and other perks, whereas a "showcase" conference focuses mostly on connecting buyers with sellers at venues full of sponsor booths, but may offer other perks.


I plan to update this article annually with new information, every January.


For most information about myself, I'll just refer you to my "about" page of my website.


However, I'll mention what I feel is relevant in giving myself a bit of credibility when talking about these conferences and talking about travel, in general. I started traveling in 2017 after I created Outcast Vagabond. I was an English teacher in China at the time and I had spent Christmas in Jakarta in 2016 while visiting a friend there whom I'd met online. Indonesia was my 5th country at the time. It was that Jakarta trip that inspired me to become a world-traveling digital nomad, as well as notable Irish traveler and businessman, Johnny Ward, of OneStep4Ward.com.


In March of 2023 I was invited to be an Executive Contributor for Brainz Magazine.


At the time I became a world-traveling digital nomad in 2017, I was also an English teacher in China and during 2013, part-time, I was a conference coordinator for BIT Congress in Dalian, China, where my job was to get English-speaking professionals to attend conferences and help to manage them. One of the conferences that I worked with BIT was the 2013 Euro-Asia Economic Forum in Xi'an:

Euro-Asia Economic Forum in Xi'an (2013)


I will say this, the Chinese really know how to host conferences and yes, I am biased when I say that.


Before all this I was raised in small town with a single mother, in a trailer, in the Upland South region of the United States. About 25% of the people in my hometown live below the Federal poverty level. So it's safe to say that I'm a country boy. I don't hesitate to tell people this because I believe in keeping it real, and also I don't want others to make the mistake of thinking that I somehow benefit from some kind of privileged American socio-economic status. Growing up we used to dream about places like California, Florida, New York City and Europe. These dreams and vast curiosity about the rest of the world are key reasons I had such wanderlust growing up, aside from my late mother, who was also a traveler and who used to always talk about visiting numerous places around the world.


I am a heritage traveler and I believe that heritage is sacred, like religion, which both often are connected to each other, and that it should be protected and preserved at all costs. I believe that when a person or a population is asked or forced to disown their own heritage, in any way, it is considered sacrilege and it should be forbidden. In many places around the world it actually is sacred, and it is forbidden for people to erase and replace, manipulate or even destroy it. I'm a conservative who believes in the right kind of progress and change, while protecting age-old traditions and customs that make up a populations cultural identity, historical integrity and ways of life. I believe in a more conservative world that protects sacred heritage, and I promote that with my travel media content by exploring the history and heritage of places that I travel to. History consists of what happened in the past, whereas heritage is the tangible items that commemorate the past; such as museums, artifacts, monuments, statues, memorials, battlefields, buildings, etc.


I believe these concepts because of where I grew up and how I grew up, as it's all simply a part of my culture that was ingrained in me. Since I've lived and worked in China for 7+ years, I am also partial to China and Chinese culture, and especially Chinese traditions. In China, there is no "cancel culture" or "revisionist history" where people try to rewrite well-established historical facts in an effort to make the past more politically correct. And the most notable Chinese scholar, Confucius, wrote about how people should worship their ancestors. Given these conservative elements of today's Chinese culture, along with the fact that there is almost no domestic crime here, makes China an attractive place for people like me who want to escape the liberal American madness. With all that said, I do believe that the United States of America is the greatest country in the world. For what it's worth, I'd like to also add that I've always been on the Left when it comes to abortion.


I like to talk about race, race-relations, politics, culture, art, demographics, history, heritage, social issues, geopolitics, crime, controversies and how all of this pertains to people and overall societal well-being. Though it may be taboo for a white person to discuss some of these topics, I feel that it's relevant and necessary when it comes to understanding how these topics affect travelers' experiences around the world. And I feel that by understanding these kinds of topics, one can better predict what will happen in a given place, at a given time, which can help to keep people safe. Understanding the history and the people in a given place, will help one to understand how they themselves will be perceived and therefore, will help one to appreciate their experiences in these places much more.


You can check out my ongoing Heritage video project here.


And my Brainz Magazine article, "The Benefits of Heritage Travel."


I learned a great deal about the value of life growing up where I did and how I did.


However, growing up where I did and how I did comes with plenty of negative stereotypes.


Now let's talk about which travel conferences you should, or should not attend in 2024.


I'll start with the conference I'm most familiar with, and the most controversial...

TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange)


TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange) is a San Diego club that was started back in 2009 with the first conference being held in Chicago, with an attendance of about 250 people. Typically, TBEX holds conferences in North America, Asia and Europe but not always. I first learned about TBEX in 2017 when I was new to travel blogging and digital nomadism, and I was looking for a sense of belonging. I was already networking with people online, following notable travel influencers on their social media platforms and gearing up for my very first travel conference. I started following TBEX in early 2018 after I had learned about TBEX Ostrava, which was to be held in Ostrava, Czechia from July 26th to the 28th that same year. This looked like an opportunity to launch my digital nomad career.


I started following news about the Ostrava conference before I even traveled to Europe for the first time, which was February of 2018, when I covered 8 European countries in two weeks (including Vatican City). I was excited about visiting Czechia the following summer and I started promoting Outcast Vagabond a great deal before the conference to gear up for it. I really didn't know what to expect, other than what I'd read online and watched on YouTube vlogs of other travelers and their experiences. It was all most positive reviews of TBEX, but I did read one article from a prominent travel influencer who had addressed their concerns about TBEX hosting a potential event in Zimbabwe, which at the time had a great deal of political turmoil and had later experienced an ugly revolution via a military coup d'état, which ousted long-time dictator, Robert Magabe. This happened just months after TBEX had announce a Zimbabwe conference and was around the same time the conference was supposed to held there. To make matters worse, the post-conference FAM trips were to take place at the exact same time as the Zimbabwe elections were to be held.


Trying to imagine scenarios of what could have hypothetically went wrong with a conference like this is disturbing, and considering that Robert Magabe's Zimbabwe was notorious for kidnapping and killing journalists, makes it all more difficult to think about. Since travel bloggers/vloggers are essentially considered journalists, this event would have most likely have put them in danger, especially those who are not locals and who tend to stand out.


I love Africa. I'm planning a 6-country African tour during Chinese Spring Festival this year when I'll have 28-paid days off work in February. I work with four African people at my school in Wuhan, from different African countries, and I have several African friends elsewhere around the world. Even these people would tell me not to go into certain African countries due to political turmoil, ongoing violence and civil unrest. And if I were to consult with them about hosting a conference in a notoriously dangerous African nation, they'd think I were nuts. I enjoyed my first trip to Africa in 2018 when I visited Kenya and South Africa. I visited Morocco in 2022. The African continent has much to offer visitors, and it's worth visiting the safe places. But do your research.


I purchased my ticket for TBEX Ostrava in early 2018, before my first trip to Europe, and by the summer of the same year I was on my way to my first TBEX, and first-ever travel conference. The trip to Ostrava was actually part of a greater project that I had going on, which was my first circumnavigation around the world. I had left Wuhan, China (where I was living and working) and made my way to Doha, Qatar. After a couple of days there I flew to Prague, Czechia and spent a couple of days there. Then I took a train to Ostrava and I must say that Regio Jet makes train travel in Czechia great, as they had a chef on board, beer and wine available for purchase and cozy seating options with huge windows to enjoy the Czech scenery. I mingled with other travelers and enjoyed a couple of cans of Pilsner Urquell, my first Czech beer experience, and it really is some great beer.


I checked into my Ostrava hotel after arriving at the train station and being dropped off by a taxi. The conference was being held at the Gong conference center, a former industrial park. Ostrava seemed like an amazing place. TBEX Ostrava broke me into the basics of a TBEX conference.


Typically, there are pre-conference pre-BEX tours for two days before the conference. Then there is an opening-night party, the night before the first full day of the conference on the day that most conference goers are still arriving. The next day there is a first-timers' session before the opening keynote speaker, then after the speaker there are two hours of "breakout sessions" which involve the other speakers who talk about everything from SEO (search engine optimization), brand building, content creation, partnerships, photography skills, YouTube videography tips, travel writing techniques, monetization ideas, etc. Then there is a lunch that lasts about an hour and a half and then another hour of breakout sessions. Then there are two hours of "speed networking" and you can "meet the experts" and mingle with the sponsors at their showcase tables. Then there is an evening party somewhere which you can hop on a conference bus that will take you to the venue, for about 3 hours, then you can take a conference bus back to the conference center and sometimes be dropped off at your hotel if it's along the way. The second day at TBEX is just like the first, minus the first-timers' session and with a closing keynote speaker. There are post-conference FAM (familiarization) trips that the sponsors host which you have to be selected for upon signing up for them.


This is pretty much how it was for the 6 TBEX conferences that I attended from 2018 to 2022.


My first conference, TBEX Ostrava, and my last conference, TBEX Phuket were good.


I enjoyed TBEX Ostrava so much that I created a short film about it, and the whole experience made me fall in love with the Czech Republic (Czechia), notably Czech beer and Czech women.


I gave the appropriate shout-outs for TBEX Phuket because I enjoyed it, too. And it gave me a reason to visit Phuket, which I stayed for several days and rented a scooter to explore the entire Island.


I could have done without the 4 in between, as they weren't so good for multiple reasons.



So, after 6 TBEX conferences, this is what I think...


(I won't elaborate on all the issues or experiences I've had with TBEX, just the essentials for now)


Since TBEX is run by a bunch of older wealthy white people, mostly from California's west coast, it tends to attract more people like this. These people tend to be in their 50s, 60s and 70s and all lived in America during the Civil Rights era when being white benefitted them, so they try to atone for their past sins involving white privilege by managing, promoting and participating in these hard-left liberal travel conferences. Most of them have money and they tend to be hard-left on the political and cultural scale, reflective of what you get with west coast California politics. Many of these people support Gavin Newsom, Nancy Pelosi, Kamala Harris and other notable California politicians.


Anyone who attends at least one TBEX will notice a lot of older white people, many whom are from west coast communities in California. Given the combination of these older people who have money and their hard-left political views, they tend to not only promote hard-left ideologies with the speakers they bring in, who bust on Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis and everything else that is traditional Conservative American during their sessions, but they tend to look down on the rustic, right-wing conservative kind of people, including myself. To be fair, many of these speakers are not like this and they do provide some great sessions that are non-biased, non-political and educational.


I have no problem with older people, in general, as I'm no spring chicken. I just turned 45.


Also, I must say that 90% of the people that I've met at TBEX events are actually great people, it's the other 10% that mostly consist of Rick Calvert's inner circle who annoy me. But I don't take their attitudes personal because I've seen who runs TBEX, I know where they're from, I know what they stand for and I've heard many of them speak poorly of the people in California's farming communities, notably Bakersfield and Kern County. Anyone who is familiar with the California cultural and political divide totally gets all this. If the people who run TBEX don't like people in the farming communities of their own state of California, then they must really hate the people where I'm from in the Upland South. People who aren't familiar with rustic people tend to rely on their own limited understanding of rustic cultures which includes many popular shows, movies and books like Hillbilly Eulogy, Deliverance, Poor White Trash, Ozark, Winters Bone, Out of the Furnace, Justified and others that sadly reinforce negative stereotypes that rustic people are backward, dumb, racist white rednecks who are violent, drunk, druggie kind of people who all support Donald Trump and promote sexual immorality. All of the notable movies, shows and books I mentioned above take place in the Upland South where I grew up. I don't like all these stereotypes because I feel they marginalize people, promote hate and bigotry toward conservatives and simply defies everything that travel is supposed to stand for and that is unity, tolerance, open-mindedness, freedom and every other virtue that every world traveler should have that helps this world to become a better place for everyone.


After all, travel is supposed to teach the world about the rest of the world and debunk these arcane stereotypes that ignorant and uneducated people tend to cling on to. So when educated people support these kinds of stereotypes, it can't be blamed on lack of education, only ignorance.


Another reason I don't take these attitudes personal is because I've been to other conferences, meet-ups, co-working places, etc. and I've heard a lot of opinions about TBEX. A lot of people have a lot of negative things to say about TBEX, but people typically don't post these issues on their social media platforms for their own personal reasons. But personally, I feel it's important to raise awareness of these issues and which conferences you feel you may or may not fit into at all. People who are on the left, politically and culturally, tend to like TBEX, at least for the most part. TBEX also lacks diversity, but to be fair, efforts have been made by Rick Calvert and his staff to fix this problem which include hiring minorities and hosting events in countries and other places outside of Europe and the United States, including attempts to host conferences in third-world countries that are on the verge of collapse. Never mind the risks involved, if a government is willing to spend the money, they're viable TBEX destinations. TBEX is 100% profit-based, so much so they're willing to put profits over people.


Don't get me wrong, I love every bit of California and my Pan-American Highway trip that I took back in 2020, as a part of my ongoing Road Trippin' USA project, helped me to see the best of the best that the Golden State had to offer. From San Diego all the way up to Neah Bay, Washington, it was amazing. I loved seeing the notable beaches and city highlights, as well as the numerous wineries and golden hills of Kern County. But I didn't like the high gas prices nor the statewide wildfires.


Nor do I like California politics.


The person who created the first draft to my logo for Outcast Vagabond is from San Francisco and attended the Art Institute of California in that city. I have a lot of west coast California friends, and no, we don't agree on much when it comes to politics, but we still get along and respect each other.


As of right now, TBEX attracts more of an older, wealthy, white liberal genre of people. But honestly, TBEX demographics will tend to vary depending on which destination it's being held in.


From my experiences as a white, English-speaking minority who has spent the last 15+ years living, working and going to school in places like Miami, China, Philippines, Mexico and traveling to over 100 countries, I cannot endorse the TBEX brand anymore and I will never go back to another one. I'll be honest when I say that sharp cultural contrasts, deep-rooted values and sour TBEX experiences have all led me to this hard-thought decision. I'll be open and transparent with anyone who asks me about TBEX, whether it be via email, Zoom call, face-to-face conversation or whatever. For even a first-timer can see that it's really just a not-so-sophisticated cash grab. The people who run TBEX don't give one shit about the travel influencers, they only really care about the sponsors because that's where the real money is. There is no awards recognition like other travel conferences have, nothing to highlight outstanding talent with respect to travel influencers. If you're a travel influencer at TBEX, you're just a pawn that's being used to benefit TBEX and the sponsors with your presence in these places (money you're spending on food, accommodation, transportation at these destinations, etc.) and with your travel media content that helps promote them. TBEX is also an ideal conference for clueless newbies who are just starting out in their digital nomad careers. Many people you meet at TBEX have been to 50, 40, maybe 30 countries or less. I used to be one of these people and I was as every bit deceived as the next clueless newbie who falls into the TBEX trap.


You don't need to attend TBEX to learn the skills that are taught there by the "experts" who speak at and attend TBEX. Just check the TBEX website to see who is at the events. You can email these people directly, meet them elsewhere, follow their social media platforms, take their free (& paid) online courses (if available), etc. This is all assuming that you can find "experts" who will actually talk to you and not belittle you because they think they're all that and a bag of chips. "Speed networking" is a waste of time, in my opinion, which is why other travel conferences don't do it. Nobody at TBEX is going to pay you for anything. You may get lucky and score a press trip. The only real benefits to attending a TBEX conference, in my opinion, are the networking benefits that you get during the conference and at the opening-night parties and the after-parties. These parties are typically good, which is 100% thanks to the sponsors who are spending all the money and doing all the work toward them. Again, 90% of the people that I've met at TBEX have been great people who are easy to talk to, regardless of their age, race, gender, political beliefs, nationality, socio-economic status or whatever. These are the people who understand the core values that make up the rich fabric of the typical traveler's philosophy and moral code. Again, It's the other 10%, mostly being TBEX insiders, that you really have to worry about, and be conscious of their motives.


I don't think Rick Calvert or any of his inner-circle people are bad at all. I just feel that their motives for organizing TBEX events are warped. I also feel that many of these people are two-faced and hungry for money and hungry for publicity. TBEX, or any travel conference, should try and turn a profit as they are essentially legitimate businesses, but it shouldn't be made so obvious that money is the driving force. There is also a serious lack of professionalism and transparency at TBEX, this is also very obvious. There is a high turnover rate among people who work for TBEX, I 've heard rumors about people not being paid but I can't confirm those rumors. And Rick is known to not respond to emails when people have legitimate concerns about TBEX issues.


As with most travel conferences, you will meet many wannabe celebrities, assholes and bullshitters.


According to TBEX CEO Rick Calvert, I'm "a very weird guy" as he had no problem calling me this during a follow-up Zoom conversation that had to do with my poor FAM trip experience during the TBEX Marbella conference, which by the way, was the event that made me decide that I would not attend any more TBEX events beyond 2022. I thought about asking for a refund for the remaining two conferences that year and not attending them, but since people still haven't received refunds that they were told they were going to get from the 2020 Catania conference that never happened, I knew that there was no way in hell that I was going to get any kind of refund myself. So I figured it was best just to attend the remaining two conferences that year and salvage what I could from them. I know I'm an odd person, and I take pride in being different. I'm socially awkward and I promote my own brand of heritage travel fearlessly and shamelessly. It's my uniqueness that enables me to be myself and do what I do. So it's not what Rick said to me that bothered me so much but the fact that if the TBEX CEO is calling me names when I'm trying to to discuss with him my own personal issues relative to his conference, then what is he saying to other people and/or what are other people saying it to him, about other conference goers? Furthermore and even more concerning, if people are going to be judged for being "weird" at TBEX, then this clearly means that people are going to be judged for being different. If being "weird" is a problem at TBEX, then being different is a problem at TBEX, and this raises a two-part question, what other differences are people being judged for at TBEX, and what other names are people being called at TBEX?


I don't know.


I only know how weirdos are treated at TBEX.


I don't mind being called names, especially by friends, family or my girlfriend, but calling people names during a follow-up conversation regarding a serious matter implies that I'm the problem and that what happened was OK, and that people can be messed with at TBEX for being different.


I made it clear to Rick that I would not apologize for anything because I did nothing wrong. And I sure as hell didn't get any kind of apology from anyone at TBEX.


I do want to point out that the FAM trip that I went on after the Tri-Cities conference (before Marbella) was wonderful, It's just a shame the the one I went on after the Marbella conference was just the opposite. But then again, I was with a different group of people.


I explained to Rick during our post-Marbella Zoom conversation that if someone has a problem with me, they need to talk to ME or HIM about it. If Rick hears something disturbing about someone, as CEO, I feel that he needs to address the issue(s) with the person or people in question, in a professional manner. I can't fix a problem that I'm unaware of, and I can't be aware of any problem if nobody talks to me about a problem. I can understand someone being hesitant about addressing an issue they have with a stranger, about a problem they have with that same stranger. But I can't understand people, especially adults, resorting to gossip, dirty looks and asinine body language to express how they feel about a person or people they have problems with. I would have had no problem just leaving TBEX or not going to any of them had I known I just wasn't welcome there for whatever reasons. But since nobody had the decency to let me know anything, I was clueless about it all, though I knew something was wrong. So without being proactive, things seemed to just get worse over time up until the Marbella conference FAM trip, when a bad experience forced some dialogue.


What does a person really need to be approved by the west coast California elites who run this show?!


I personally feel the best way to have the best TBEX experience is to simply be a hard-left secular progressive who votes for left-wing candidates, and promotes left-wing politics and left-wing values. Have animosity toward China (even if you've never been there). Don't be too country-fied with your appearance, jokes, voice or persona (because they really do hate this shit), talk about how Joe Biden has done a wonderful job as President, echo CNN sound bites, learn how to bust on Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis and if you have something that's really valuable to promote, then do it!! Because TBEX admins and sponsors won't give a shit about you unless you have something to offer them that they can benefit from. Oh, did I mention, try not to be "a very weird" person? I personally feel these basic tips will help a first timer fit in better. Just be conscious of any kind of differences you may have that may make you stand out. TBEX is an exclusive club. People don't like what's different and ignorance is bliss. We all know the nail that sticks out gets hammered. Everyone needs villains in their lives because if people can blame other people for their problems, and this world's problems, it makes them feel less responsible for these problems themselves. And learn how to gossip, give people dirty looks and be asinine toward others with your body language. With all this, you're ready for TBEX.


Technically I'm a disabled Army veteran, so my weirdness is justified.


Overall, I'm confident that the reason TBEX just seemed to get worse for me over time wasn't just because I'm "a very weird guy" but more so because of my shameless and loud support that I pledged to then President Donald Trump on social media between the TBEX Billings and TBEX Tri-Cities conferences. Rick and his friends and TBEX supporters were connected with me on Facebook and they saw my posts and they sure didn't like them. Some of them made some awful comments and were saying things like "you don't belong in the travel industry" and "I can't be friends with a world traveler who is like Donald Trump." WTF? I set them all straight and reminded them that believing that someone is like the person they vote for is sheer ignorance, and that there are multiple reasons that people may vote for a presidential candidate. And anyone who is prejudice toward people simply based on their political affiliations, are themselves narrow-minded and do not belong in the travel industry. You can see one of my prominent Facebook posts here, which earned almost 200 comments.


For the record, I voted for Trump because as an avid investor he was good for my money, he stood up to the Chinese, the Russians, the North Koreans, the Iranians and he put America first with his policies. He does say and do a lot of stupid shit, every politician does, but if you believe in someone's leadership then you learn to accept the bad with the good. I have never "unfriended" anyone simply for voting for Biden, nor even judged anyone for it. But when I pledged my support for Trump, these people on Facebook treated me like I was the Devil. I never excommunicate people for having opposing viewpoints, I only excommunicate people for being idiots and assholes.


Now we have this feeble, demented, weak old man who can't even remember what he had for breakfast, who can't even walk without falling. Inflation is at record highs, investors have lost billions, the Russians are imposing terror on the Ukrainians, Israel is bombarding Palestine, the Chinese are harassing their neighbors and are planning a Taiwan invasion sometime within the next 4 years. I won't even comment on that shit-sloppy Afghanistan withdrawal. Let's not forget the growing crisis at the Southern border. That's enough for now about the Biden Administration.


And I won't even express my personal views on the 574 violent riots that occurred in 2020 throughout numerous American cities for several weeks by hard-left Bidenites.


Don't blame ME, I voted for the other guy.


And just so you know, I will vote for Donald Trump again this year.


Again, I didn't "unfriend" or block one single Bidenite during the 2020 Election cycle, not even the TBEXers and others who were commenting awful shit on my posts. I just gave other people the opportunity to "unfriend" me, and "unfriend" me they did. Thank God!!


I signed up for all four 2022 conferences in 2021 while I was in Mexico, as a part of a bogus Black Friday sale that TBEX was promoting. I say "bogus" because after doing the math I calculated that there was no discount for the second one, and that I had actually paid full price for it. And to be honest and fair, I pointed out the difference to Rick via email and he DID respond and refund me the difference, which was $52 USD. I was feeling ambitious and I wanted 2022 to be a real productive year. I had no idea what I was getting myself into at the time, but this one move alone turned out to be my absolute worst decision, my worst investment and my worst experiences of my entire 7+ years as a world-traveling digital nomad, thus far. If my presence at TBEX was such a problem, Rick could have just told me via email after I signed up for all four events, he could have made an exception and refunded me the near $1,000 USD that I invested in 4 TBEX conferences for 2022. But no, I just showed up anyways with optimism, like a fool, hoping for the best without expecting the worst.


I started getting bad vibes at TBEX during the TBEX Tri-Cities conference, the first conference of 2022. This is when things got interesting. I won't elaborate too much on what happened during this conference and the TBEX Marbella conference, at least right now, but I will say this; Rick and his friends watched me like hawks. They'd get close to me and tune into my conversations, they'd give me dirty looks and they would display poor attitudes toward me. Rick would come up and sit at my table during lunch while I was talking to other people so that he could tune into what I was saying. But I don't think he really cared about what I was saying, I think he just did it for the optics. He wanted other people to see that he was keeping an eye on the redneck. It's fair to say that after the Marbella drama, the last two TBEX events of 2022 were better, but I was a different person at these events, too.


And during the Tri-Cities conference, one of the keynote speakers who lived in Florida, and hated Ron DeSantis, spent an hour complaining about Florida politics and the DeSantis Administration. I sat in the audience and listened to this crap without saying a word or walking out. I've been a Florida resident since 2012 and I did vote for Governor DeSantis during his bid for re-election in 2022. All I have to say to that keynote speaker is if you don't like the politics in Florida, then move to California. This is what Californians do when they're fed up with their state's politics, they move to Florida (or Texas). Same goes with America, if you don't love, leave it (I left it for other reasons, I still love it).


After TBEX Marbella I didn't sign up for anymore FAM trips and I quit doing the "speed networking." I rented a car for the Lafayette conference and a scooter for the Phuket conference and I did my own FAM trips by myself. I didn't make any jokes with people and I quit going up to people to introduce myself. I just mingled with the people I already knew. I imposed these rules on myself and I made it clear to Rick and two others who worked for him via email, that I was going to do this so they wouldn't have to worry about me offending people. I wish I could say that I was joking with what I'm about to say, but I even went as far as offering to submit an FBI background check to Rick so that he and his friends didn't have to worry about me. He told me that I didn't need to do that. I have a clean criminal record, but I think they thought I was going to blow something up. I can't say for certain, I just know for a fact that people in Rick Calvert's inner circle (admins, friends, sponsors, etc.) had a problem with me and I didn't exactly know what it was because none of them would talk to me. So I was just left to guess, but I'm confident that my conservative politics and "weirdness" had something to do with it. And being partial to China certainly didn't help, given the Sinophobia at TBEX. They just wanted to talk about me, behind my back, and make me feel uncomfortable in their own ways. I feel it is a real shame when grown adults act like overgrown adolescents. I'm glad I can't read lips, there's no telling what I would have discovered, right?


I told Rick, in person, at the TBEX Lafayette conference during a second follow-up discussion regarding the TBEX Marbella drama that I come from a culture where it's considered chickenshit and childish to talk about people behind their backs, rather than discussing issues with them to their faces, and that I wished that he'd discuss these issues with me personally so that I can try fix whatever was wrong, instead allowing loose lips to sink ships and enabling and encouraging a very toxic environment for everyone. After he called me "weird" a second time I then called him "weird" and he just giggled like Porky Pig and said that "we're all weird in our own ways." Yeah, OK, whatever.


Since Rick likes to call people names, I would repeat the adjectives that I wanted to use to describe him with a few names of my own during that face-to-face conversation we had there in Lafayette, but I feel now like I did then, that it's best to just keep those thoughts to myself.


I just wish that Rick would hire better people to work for him and find better people to sponsor TBEX, because some of them are very radical, hard-left kind of people who are assholes. When people are treated like shit, they tend to act like shit, Rick.


Other TBEX issues that were clear as day were Rick fumbling with introductions on stage, countless website glitches, on-stage keynote speakers who would get cut off before they could finish speaking (because there was no 10 or 5-minute warning for them), session speakers who didn't have access to their PowerPoint slides during their presentations because TBEX admins failed to have them ready for them, audio and video issues galore, and others. In 2019, during the TBEX Billings conference one of the keynote speakers was accused of misogyny due to comments they made on stage about women and TikTok. A woman in the audience shouted out some comments in disgust and protest, when she was then silenced and told that she couldn't come back to TBEX. But I truly admire her for that, whoever she was. That was courageous and necessary. I should have done this at Tri-Cities with that anti-DeSantis speaker.


It seems like every response to every problem that someone would bring to Rick between 2020 and 2023 would be blamed on COVID-19, as it was the infamous and convenient scapegoat to every TBEX issue. It's true, the Pandemic fucked all of us up and it created a great deal of Sinophobia (especially at TBEX), but no other conference CEO, travel or non-travel, was and still is, playing the COVID card like Rick Calvert. It was the number one excuse for why people weren't receiving refunds that they were told they were going to get from the 2020 Catania conference that never happened, after they had purchased conference tickets. COVID was blamed on the very low attendance that people were concerned about the first three conferences of 2022. I can remember sitting in "breakout sessions" with just one, two or three other people in them. I always felt bad for these session speakers so I would do my best to participate and ask questions during them, and introduce myself afterwards to let them know that I enjoyed what they had to say and that I was interested in their work.


TBEX Catania was supposed to happen in mid-March of 2020. I, myself, signed up for it. But leading up to the conference, COVID-19 was creating concerns for everyone, as death tolls were on the rise, countries were closing their borders and cities were imposing lockdowns. I personally feel that the conference should have been canceled in late February after the first COVID case was reported in Palermo on February 25th, especially considering that parts of Italy were already on lockdown. But TBEX admins and sponsors kept trying to get people to come to Catania, nonetheless. This worried a lot of us as we debated it on social media on the Conference Facebook Group. ITB Berlin, a much bigger conference, had been canceled on February 28th, so it made sense for TBEX to cancel the Catania conference around the same time, they just didn't do it quick enough. Bodies were dropping and borders were closing, but TBEX admins and sponsors were hell-bent on getting people to come to Catania. They were sharing these videos on the Conference Facebook Group making it look like everything was A-OK in Sicily. A handful of people actually did come to Catania, and they got stranded when the Italian government locked the entire country down and imposed travel bans on March 9th. Rick gave this group a name and called them "TBEX Survivors." How cute.


Rick and his friends made me so mad, in so many ways. They made me want to fight. I've never been a violent person, outside of combat sports. And I thank God that I'm not that much like the people I grew up around, because if I were, I'd probably still be setting in jail in Spain today, as I would have been arrested after that Marbella FAM trip fiasco which made me want to do some awful shit to people. Fortunately, I'm college-educated, I'm cultured, I'm open-minded, I'm tolerant and most importantly, I have discipline and self-control (those last two are thanks to the U.S. Army).


I write this about TBEX not to be a jerk, but to let people know what they're getting themselves into. And I truly hope that TBEX can improve over time and that they can learn from their mistakes. And this is all based on my own personal feelings due to my own first-hand experiences, as well as some parallel concerns that I have with other travelers who have attended TBEX. I've explained what kind of people I think are welcome at TBEX and what kind of people I think are not. Some people like it and some don't, some people fit in there and some don't. I'm not saying don't attend a TBEX, I'm just saying be aware of what to expect, and you can decide if it's suitable for you or not. Don't just take my word for it, ask other people and read other TBEX-related articles.


I will never ever compromise my values just to fit in with other people. What you see is what you get, you can take it or leave it. I accept other people with the same attitude.


TBEX is clearly being fueled by a hard-left political agenda.


And with 2024 being an election year, don't expect it to be an different.


Lastly, and probably the most disturbing thing that I witnessed at TBEX, was the Sinophobia that seems to be omnipresent there, and this is no thanks to COVID-19, South China Sea issues, spy balloons, and so many other issues that involve China and poor Sino-American relations. But as a person who is partial to both China and the United States, I take this seriously and personally. I know what life is really like over here in China, not what the Western propagated media tells people it's like. People who work in the travel industry MUST STOP busting on China. There is nothing worse than people who are involved with travel promoting China in a negative context, especially those who have never even been to China. One of my goals while living and working in China is to help promote China in a positive light, and to help people understand what life is really like here. Nobody wants to see Sino-American relations improve more than myself. I'm in the process of organizing social events called, "China Social+Travel Network," which will be two-hour meet-and-greet events throughout numerous Chinese cities at different venues, in an effort to help bring foreigners and Chinese people together. Chinese people don't hate American people, in my 7+ years as an expat in China I've never experienced any real animosity. It is extremely safe here, as there is almost no domestic crime; no shootings, no rioters, no burning buildings down to the ground after they've been robbed blind. I can't defend the Chinese Communist Party, but I will always defend Chinese people and Chinese culture. And I will always defend Wuhan, because this is the city that changed my life forever and for the better.


The U.S. and China needs to be not only real allies, but real friends as well. If we are going to create a better world order, and tackle our world's greatest pressing issues, it is imperative that the Americans get along with the Chinese and cooperate with one another. Since most people are ignorant of China, I don't blame them for not understanding Chinese culture to its entirety, I only blame those who opt to spread Sinophobia for the sake of more "likes," "subscribers," and "followers." This is all wrong, awful and unnecessary. It's also very dangerous and it creates more issues.


To all my friends who frequent TBEX, whom I've met at TBEX or elsewhere, if you want to distance yourself from me I totally understand. I won't hold it against you and I won't be mad at you. I won't gossip about you behind your back, give you dirty looks or display asinine body language toward you. You know that you're more than welcome to "unfriend" me or whatever. What I've said about TBEX has nothing to do with you all, it has everything to do with the people who run TBEX. I'm more than happy to discuss these very issues with anyone face-to-face, via social media or email or whatever. You can call me names, spit in my face or beat my ass, but it won't change the way I feel about TBEX. To be honest and fair, if TBEX is able to improve dramatically as a conference between now and next January, I'll be more than happy to update this article with more positive rhetoric. Sadly, I don't feel that TBEX will ever improve much, as I believe it's dying a slow death. But until it does get better to my standards, assuming it ever does, I'll stick to my guns (metaphorically speaking). Either way, I will never ever personally attend another TBEX.


TBEX is what I consider to be a "fully-loaded" conference with speakers, sessions, FAM trips, etc.


You can sign up for any of the 2024 TBEX events here.


The good news is that there are plenty of alternatives to TBEX, a great deal in fact and it seems as though there are more of them coming out every year. Next I'm going to discuss my personal favorite. I've only been to one of them but doing the math and comparing it to other conferences I've been to, I wouldn't look any further than Traverse. I say this for a multitude of reasons but I will admit that I have yet to attend more of them, so much of how I feel about Traverse stems from me personally attending one, just like my feelings toward TBEX are based on first-hand experiences. But I always like to consider other people's experiences as well, to give my assessments better balance.

Traverse


Traverse was founded in 2013, is based in London, and in my opinion is without a doubt the best alternative to TBEX. This is for multiple reasons, but one reason Traverse offers a great series of conferencing is that they're well aware of the issues that people have with TBEX, so they do their best to not be like TBEX and also, they aim to be unique in their own right in just about every way possible. It's not too difficult for me to say this but one reason that I personally enjoy Traverse is that it's run by Europeans, rather than Americans. This means that American culture, politics, social issues, and other elements are basically omitted from Traverse events. They just don't care if you're a Democrat, Republican, Independent or whatever. In other words, Traverse events welcome everyone. Traverse typically hosts three events every year; They have their main event, Traverse, and two side events, Keyframe and Reboot. I attended Traverse22 in Brno, Czechia and I was very impressed with it. Everything about this event was spectacular and well-organized.


How the annual Traverse main conference works is that there is an opening-night party on Friday, for Traverse22 it was at the beautiful, historic and iconic Špilberk Castle. I mean, anywhere in Europe is fascinating for me but to show up to a Friday night gala, at a 13th-century castle, in the heart of Europe is truly orgasmic. I didn't know what to think when I walked through those huge wooden doors onto the open-air balcony and was offered a glass of Champaign. Holy shit. It's definitely not something I'm used to but it was an experience that I'll never forget. It was like a real-life fairy tale. The opening night gala had all sorts of cool stuff going on with food, beer, wine, concerts, demonstrations and just great company. I was able to connect with old friends and make new ones. For me, people were so much easier to talk to at Traverse and I didn't feel like a criminal like I did at TBEX. I felt more free and more welcome, where I could just be myself without condemnation and without the awful dirty looks and the shitty exclusive attitudes.


The next two days of the main conference, Saturday and Sunday, is when they have the opening and closing keynotes along with the speaker sessions and sponsor showcase tables. In the evenings there are social events including a closing-night party. I wasn't able to make the closing-night party at Traverse22 but I did do the pub crawl social around Brno Old Town with a group on Saturday. The reason I couldn't make the closing-night party was because I had to catch a train to Bratislava and I needed to leave as soon as possible to get the one I wanted, so that I could make it to Bratislava earlier. I would have booked an extra night at the Hotel Passage but it was $150/night!! Don't get me wrong, Hotel Passage is nice and that's where the conference was held, but I needed to make my financial resources stretch. Altogether, including layovers, I covered 15 countries in September alone. But after seeing Facebook video clips of the closing-night party the next morning, I really wish that I had stayed for it because it was held at Sono Music Club and it looked like a freakin' great time!!


I've heard TBEXers say that Traverse is a copycat of TBEX, since TBEX has been around longer and indeed was the first of its kind when it did come out. I actually used to believe this myself until I attended a Traverse, which was in 2022. I will admit, there are some parallels but these are the same parallels that you will see at just about every travel conference, and every conference in general. Traverse is truly unique in its own ways. There are sessions with speakers, similar to TBEX, but these sessions tend to better for me because they're not peppered with American politics or hard-left social issues and the speakers, to me, are more professional and affable. There are social functions at the beginning of the conference (opening-night parties) and at end of each day of conferencing, similar to TBEX, but they do vary depending on where they are held. So I wouldn't give TBEX or Traverse, either one, an edge in this category. Traverse events don't have a "speed networking" timeframe because they know it's a waste of time. The sponsors are available throughout the day at their showcase tables, similar to TBEX, for people to speak to them anytime during the conference hours. From my experience, you only really need just a few minutes to talk to a brand rep and exchange business cards and other information with them to have a productive verbal exchange. You can speak to them more than once since you have the time with three days of conferencing and you can talk to them at the social functions at the beginning of the conference and at the end of each day. Then you can follow-up with them whenever you want after the conference is over via email. I believe this is a better way of connecting brands with influencers. Also, Traverse has no "meet the experts" timeframe because again, it's a waste of time. Again, you can meet whomever you want throughout the entire conference, including the social functions. Other differences between TBEX and Traverse are pretty clear, as I've mentioned many of them already, but another big difference is the locations of the conferences. And Traverse just attracts better people for me, personally.


You can sign up for the 2024 Traverse Event in Tbilisi, Georgia here. But HURRY!! The Conference is this month and begins on January 30th with the midweek experiences until February 2nd; the actual Conference is February 3rd and 4th; post event trips (FAM trips) are from February 5th to 11th.


Traverse events are always in great places and are just better conferences, in general, partly because there is only one main Traverse event every year whereas with TBEX they have at least three every year. Traverse offers midweek experiences (TBEX does not) from Tuesday to Friday before the conferences begin that weekend. TBEX does offer pre-BEX trips the Thursday and Friday the week of their conferences. Both Traverse and TBEX offer FAM (familiarization) trips post-conference that you will need to apply for. Traverse organizers put more effort and resources into one main event to make it really great, this makes a big difference. TBEX will host a conference wherever there is money being thrown at them, plain and simple. Never mind how lame, or even how dangerous a destination may be, if someone offers TBEX enough financial incentives, they're in!! Since Traverse is London-based, it does attract a lot of Europeans and most of their main annual events are held in Europe somewhere. Also, though Traverse has more of a mix of different kinds of people, even young, old and middle-aged folks, it tends to have more of an overall youthful vibe to it. I also firmly believe that Traverse is just more professional and better organized than TBEX, and there is always someone around to assist you if you need some help with something. The people working and volunteering for Traverse can be spotted wearing shirts that say "Traverse" so you know exactly who they are. One last factor that I'll point out is difference in attendance. I noticed a lot more people present at Traverse22 than I did at every TBEX event that I attended, not just the same year, with the exceptions of TBEX Ostrava and TBEX Phuket. I really enjoyed my time at my first Traverse event and I highly recommend it to others. Michael Ball is a great guy and his crew are truly amazing at what they do.


As I mentioned, aside from the Traverse annual main event, there are also the side events such as Keyframe and Reboot. Keyframe is a conference exclusively for video content creators and for those who aspire to become better videographers. I feel that this is brilliant given that videos do have higher response rates and this is why television advertising (especially during the Super Bowl & World Cup) costs so damn much, but they provide a very healthy return-on-investment. The last Keyframe event was held in Malta in 2023 from April 13th to 16th and you can see more on it here.


Reboot is a health & wellness-themed event, with the last event being held from April 22nd to 25th in 2022 in Hamburg, Germany. It was a multi-day event that included yoga, a Hamburg walking tour, roller skating, studio drift exhibition, Beatles tour, music works session, productivity & mindfulness session and other cool stuff that is aimed to help people improve their health and wellness. There is yet to be information about an event for 2024, if and when it's released then I will update it here. The best information I could find about last year's event was a vlog that was produced and published by travel influencer, Greg Snell (click his name to subscribe to his YouTube channel). I have his permission to share the video which can be seen below. Reboot seems like a nice side retreat for travel influencers, and you're likely to see people that you already know from other conferences.

Traverse Events ReBoot 2022 Hamburg Marketing by Greg Snell


One aspect about Traverse that I really appreciate is their Traverse Creator Awards that they have every year to highlight outstanding talent in the travel industry. I feel that every single travel conference that is setup for travel influencers should have something like this, not just to reward those who deserve it, but to also show respect to the very people who are supporting their events.


Traverse has also hosted other side events in the past such as BorderlessLive, Antigua Elite Conference, Traverse Virtual Events and others. Traverse has something for everyone.


So far, in my relatively short digital nomad career with my limited conference experiences, Traverse has impressed me the most. They are well-organized, open-minded, multi-ethnic and diverse in every way possible. They are creative and innovative with exceptional multi-themed events. I was truly surprised and delighted at just how different and better they are from the same old leftist TBEX slop that I'm used to. Due to all of this, I strongly endorse Traverse as a conference for every kind of traveler and even for those who aspire to become travelers. Traverse admins don't judge people and gossip about them based on who they are, where they're from, what they look like, how they vote, their sexual orientation, how they talk or even what they believe. They don't hold any of this against anyone. Everyone is welcome at Traverse events, so go check them out. They're a lot of fun.


The next conference that I'll discuss has a bit of a different setup from Traverse and TBEX, but is one that I would recommend, not based on my personal experience (I've never been), but on the experiences and reviews of those who have attended them. It actually has two separate experiences to it; Nomadbase, which is the event on land and Nomad Cruise, which is the event at sea.


Nomadbase is a multi-functional conference that was founded by Johannes Voelkner, a digital nomad from Germany. Nomadbase consists of live events that take place in different parts of the world, always in fascinating, exotic locations. Previous Nomadbase events have been held in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico (NBL Mexico), Primošten, Croatia (NBL Croatia), Cape Town, South Africa (NBL Africa) and other locations. Last year there was a Bali Reunion (Feb.).


Nomadbase events typically consist of about 7 days of conference networking, speaking sessions, skill-sharing workshops, paid (& free) adventure excursions, a welcome session that includes drinks and registration and a closing ceremony. Every Nomadbase event is unique and has a similar setup that is familiar with all of them, but also has new elements to all of them that make them different.


Since I've never attended a Nomadbase, I can only go by hearsay and available online resources but I'll be honest when I say that I've never heard anything negative about these events. Many people have attended them and it seems that there is nothing but positive reviews, at least that's all I'm seeing and hearing. I've considered attending one before, I thought about attending the Croatia event a couple of years ago but since I was already registered for 6 travel conferences for 2022, I figured I'd just wait and sign up for one another year.


Here is a promotional trailer taken directly from the website...

Nomadbase Promotional Trailer


I can't say for sure, but I believe it's possible that Nomad Cruise is more popular than Nomadbase.

A Story of the Nomad Cruise - Official Movie


Nomad Cruise is a part of Nomadbase, and it's the first of its kind being a travel conference at sea.


There have been 10 Nomad Cruises, with the first one being in 2015 and the most recent one being in 2023. The next one has yet to be announced, but once it is, I'll update it here and announce it across my social media platforms. There are several different ticket options to choose from.


What one could expect from a typical Nomad Cruise is hundreds of digital nomads onboard for several days, visiting exotic destinations while enjoying daily conferencing activities and evening festivities. It's basically what you would get at a typical "fully-loaded" land conference except it's all on a cruise ship, along with land excursions and activities. It is "an environment of learning, sharing, creating, and connecting," according to their website.


Attendees on board can enjoy everything that a typical cruise ship has to offer.


According to Nomad Cruise founder, Johannes Voelkner, there are 11 things people love about it:


1) It's a networking paradise; everyone is there to network, inspire, teach and learn from one another.


2) It's all inclusive; the cost of your ticket includes all food and drinks.


3) Speakers; speakers are selected from around the world to offer a great learning experience.


4) Workshops; workshops are small groups with experts who focus on certain ideas and skills.


5) Meetups; any cruise-goer can organize a meetup to share their expertise with others.


6) Special events; special events include a talent show, salsa workshops, jam session, etc.


7) Excursions; there are a wide variety of port excursions to choose from when docked.


8) Lasting friendships/business partnerships; there are lots of opportunities to connect with others.


9) Cultural exposure; with over 40 nationalities on board and several countries visited during the trip.


10) Visit more countries/territories; have the opportunity to see more of the world.


11) Reunions; there are no such things as "good byes" in the travel world, only "see you laters."


(read the full article here or click on the red text above)


Though I've never been on a Nomad Cruise, I feel that it's a brilliant concept. The fact that they came up with this unique idea and have kept it going for almost 10 years is truly amazing. I've also never been on a cruise so this makes it all more attractive to me. I do want to go on one someday, I just don't know when "someday" will be. I wasn't able to make Nomad Cruise 12 this past December because I started a new teaching job in China that prevented me from going. However, if YOU are able to attend any of these I highly recommend it. I've heard nothing but amazing reviews about them, so they seem worth the time and the money, and to my knowledge, it's the first and only conference of this kind.


Next, I'd like to discuss a highly notable "showcase" conference that occurs once a year...


ITB (Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin) Berlin was established in 1966 on the Berlin fairgrounds with exhibitors from Egypt, Brazil, Federal Republic of Germany, Guinea and Iraq presented their products, services and destinations as a showcase to attendees.


2023 was the last event and it attracted brands and attendees from 181 countries with about 160,000 people, altogether. Given these stats, ITB Berlin has coined itself as the "World's Leading Travel Trade Show" and they've even patented that statement. ITB eTravel World discusses social media trends.


Here is a video from the ITB Berlin YouTube channel from the new Exhibition Director:

New Exhibition Director at ITB Berlin: Introducing Deborah Rothe


There is also an ITB Asia (Singapore), ITB China and ITB India.


According to ITB Berlin conference organizers, here are 10 good reasons to attend;


1) Be at the forefront of the "World's Leading Travel Trade Show."


2) Strengthen or establish your brand.


3) Grow your network by meeting a variety of people with various skills.


4) Strengthen your bond with existing customers.


5) Close deals with a hand shake on the show floor.


6) Increase your knowledge and learn about trends in the travel industry.


7) Meet companies and individuals who can optimize your business.


8) Learn what your competitors are doing.


9) Expand your database of leads.


10) Be present and address your target market directly.


ITB Berlin is known to attract the travel industry's top speakers and notable experts who share their knowledge with those who attend. With it being a travel conference that's been around longer than all the others, being able to attend it carries a great deal of prestige. You can talk about it on your blog or mention it with people you do business with and it definitely sends positive messages to people. Not to mention, the knowledge and the networking that you can gain from attending it is invaluable.


You can download the ITB Berlin app before attending the conference so that you can keep up with exhibitor and product information, receive a detailed program interview and detailed hall plans and even link the app to your ITBxplore profile so that you can connect with other attendees.


The ITB Travel Hero Podcast includes one-on-one talks with some of the most notable minds in the tourism industry who share their expertise, stories and opinions. These people offer travel tips, predictions and recommendations with travel-related advice.


ITB Berlin is definitely a must-see travel conference that offers everything for everyone in the travel industry. Due to their longevity and reputation, there really isn't a true substitute to it.


Another "showcase" travel conference that I'd like to mention is the Travel & Adventure Show:


It may be safe to say that the Travel & Adventure Show is the western hemisphere alternative to ITB Berlin and also an alternative to WTM (World Travel Mart). These are all what I consider "showcase" travel conferences, as they tend to focus on buyers and sellers with booths and attendees (of all kinds, not just travel influencers). These are different from what I like to call "fully-loaded" travel conferences like TBEX, Traverse, Nomadbase/Nomad Cruise and also TravelCon (I attended the one in Memphis in 2022), which all offer some kind of pre-conference, in-conference and/or post-conference tours and other perks.


The Travel & Adventure Show takes the place of the now defunct New York Times Travel Show (I attended the very last one in 2020). The Travel & Adventure Show in New York is at the same place at basically the same time of the year, as the former bought out the latter.


The Travel & Adventure Show offers multiple conferences throughout the United States, and these include New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Atlanta and Dallas.


The Travel & Adventure Show offers all-American conferences for people who live in the U.S. and who may aspire to do more travel abroad. I haven't been to one yet, but I'm 100% certain that I will attend one or more of them in the future, probably while filming my ongoing Road Trippin' USA project.


According to their website, it has been around for 19 years and has completed over 118 events, while connecting over 2.5 million travel enthusiasts, over 15,000 unique travel advisors and thousands of travel media entities with over 4,500 different exhibiting companies from around the world, influencing over $6 billion in travel bookings.


Notable names like Rick Steves, Phil Rosenthal and Pauline Frommer (Frommer's guidbooks) have been known to appear at The Travel & Adventure Show events around America.


There are dozens of travel seminars that take place during these weekend events.


You can purchase tickets to upcoming 2024 events here.


Another "showcase" conference worth mentioning, that I already mentioned, is WTM London:



I would say that WTM London carries the same level of prestige with it as ITB Berlin does, though that is open for debate. However, they're both similar to each other in many ways and they both carry the charms of Europe with them. And they both have been around for a long time.


WTM London has been around for over 40 years, with the very first event opening at Olympia London and was introduced by the Duke of Kent and Miss World, Kimberly Santos of Guam.


WTM London offers new tech and lifestyle ideas with vast networking opportunities.


Other WTM events include Arabian Travel Market, WTM Latin America and WTM Africa.


In 2024, WTM London will be November 5th to 7th, Arabian Travel Market will be from May 6th to 9th, WTM Latin America will be April 15th to 17th and WTM Africa will be April 10th to 12th.


In 2023 WTM events had tens of thousands of attendees from 184 countries.


This is a very good conference to attend as there is a wide variety of people, from graduates to government ministers (according to their website). So there is something for everyone.


You can sign up for the 2024 events and learn more info here.


Notable Mentions


TravelCon was founded in 2018 by notable travel influencer and businessman, Matt Kepnes (AKA Nomadic Matt), and his team. The 2018 event was in Austin, the 2019 event was in Boston and the only one that I attended was the 2022 event in Memphis. I have to say, I was impressed with it.


The Memphis event had a lot of great speakers and sessions, including the iconic Pico Iyer, who was a keynote speaker and shared his brilliant wisdom with us all about life and travel. I saw some familiar faces here and also made some new friends. And given that Memphis is right down the River from where I grew up, I kind of felt at home during this whole time. I was able to experience aspects about Memphis in ways that I never have, thanks to TravelCon. I've been to Memphis quite a few times. I went on a self-guided, post-conference FAM trip to Graceland with a friend and fellow traveler from Tennessee. TravelCon presented Memphis in ways that I was not used to, and that was magical to me.


I first met Matt at a bar in New York City during a post-conference party that was a part of the 2020 New York Times Travel Show. He was an easy person to talk to and I was glad to finally meet him. The second time I spoke to him was during TravelCon in Memphis. For those who aren't familiar with Matt Kepnes, I would encourage you to check out his website by clicking here. He is one of the pioneers of modern-day travel blogging and travel influencing. He's penned several books, spoken at several events and has helped a lot of people "travel cheaper, longer and smarter," like with his New York Times Best Seller, "How to Travel the World on $50 a Day." I read this one and also another one of his books, "10 Years a Nomad: A Traveler's Journey Home." I believe that both of these books are worth purchasing and reading, I got a lot out of them.


At the end of the Memphis event, Matt had announced on stage that it would be the last TravelCon event. Most of us were sad about this, especially myself, because I had only been to one and I was really able to get a lot out of it. Memphis is a wonderful city, and the opening night march with the band on Beale Street toward the Jerry Lee Lewis' Cafe & Honky Tonk was a real night to remember.


However, recently it was announced that TravelCon would be coming back in 2024 with an event being held in Portland, Oregon from May 15th to 17th. You can purchase tickets for the event via the TravelCon website here. By the way, TravelCon is what I consider a "fully-loaded" conference with speakers, sessions, sponsor showcase tables, FAM trips, etc.



Bansko is a small village in Bulgaria that during one week in the summer, hundreds of nomads, remote workers and freelancers take over the village for a mix of presentations, workshops, sports, mindfulness and nature (according to their website). Check out the vlog below:


The Festival was founded by Matthias Zeitler, owner of Coworking Bankso (watch vlog below):


On their website they promote "don't just attend an event; transform your life and achieve true freedom!" One thing is certain, it's tough to beat the location. Bansko is a lovely mountain village.


I can't label Banko Nomad Fest as a "fully-loaded" or "showcase" conference, as it appears to be unique in its own right and doesn't fall into either category. I've personally never been to one.


I've never been to this one either, so without first-hand experience I'm limited to online resources about it and also what others have told me. I did meet and speak to ETF co-founder and organizer, Ric Gazarian, at TBEX Phuket in November of 2022. He seemed like a great guy who was very affable.


It appears that this one would fall more under a "fully-loaded" conference given their conference schedule with speakers, sessions, trips, etc.


Extraordinary Travel Festival is a new kid on the block, as the first event was held in 2022 in Yerevan, Armenia. The second event will be in Bangkok, Thailand in 2024, buy tickets here.


Here is the promotional trailer for the inaugural Yerevan event:

Extraordinary Travel Festival 2022 Yerevan Promotional Trailer


And here is a vlog from the actual Yerevan event:

Extraordinary Travel Festival 2022 Yerevan Vlog


In Conclusion

Conferencing is invaluable in just about any industry, as it offers multiple perks to the people who attend them. For me personally, it's the networking that I enjoy and benefit from the most, with face-to-face socializing, which you must be at the conferences in order to reap those particular awards. Everything else can be acquired via the Internet, or by traveling yourself (with respect to the trips).


Not all travel conferences are alike, though many of them do have parallels with one another. My best advice is to attend several of them and see which ones you feel most comfortable with. 4 years of conferencing taught me which ones I like and which ones I don't like, which ones I fit in at and which ones I don't. I suggest you do this yourself, try several out. You'll have some good experiences and some bad experiences but in the end, it will all be worth it because you will know where you belong and where you don't, where you can make the most progress with people, and where you will feel like you're irrelevant or feel like you're a problem.


This article is based on both my first-hand experiences and second-hand information of the most notable travel conferences today. Some of my best friends and like-minded people have been those whom I've met at different travel conferences, in some way or another.


I truly hope this article will serve as a guide, will help you understand what is available to you with respect to travel conferences, and will also give you a better idea of who and what I am. I feel that I've provided enough relevant information and backlinks to get you started on planning your 2024 travel and conference itinerary. Whether you're a full-time, world-traveling digital nomad or someone who aspires to become something like that, or perhaps you're a travel agent or something else in the travel industry; Travel conferences are good for all kinds of people who share a passion for exploring our big and beautiful world. Godspeed. May 2024 inspire you and take you places you've never been.


I'd like to add that in 2024 my primary focus will be to help people understand the therapeutic benefits of travel. I want to help people understand this and encourage them to travel more for these particular reasons. We all struggle with something, and it's a fact that travel can help not only to treat people, but even help to heal people from mental and physical disorders. I wrote an article for Brainz Magazine that focuses on "How Travel is Therapeutic." According to psychologist Dr. Rich Walker, people who engage in a diversity of experiences are more likely to feel positive emotions than negative ones. I can tell you from my experiences as a world traveler, that is absolutely true.

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