On the plane down to California, I had absolutely no idea what I was flying into. Just a few weeks ago I won my ticket to this year’s Women in Travel Summit hosted by Wanderful, a conference I’d been dying to go to ever since I heard of it. Within 3 hours of receiving that fateful message, my future was sealed as I had a flight and hotel booked for Irvine (how did I afford it? Check out my previous post). Little did I know when I stepped off that plane and into that conference that my life would be forever changed for the better.
For those of you that don’t know exactly what it is, the Women in Travel Summit is organized by Wanderful, an amazing group of women from across the globe that support and share their adventures and what they’ve learned from them. The Women in Travel Summit (or WITS as I’ll refer to it from here on out) is the first travel blog conference that’s run by women for women. To quote the website, their goal is to provide women travelers with the tools, connections, and resources they need to become better travel bloggers and entrepreneurs, and to equip great travel companies with partnerships that can help them enhance their digital presence and meet their business goals, all while growing our global sisterhood of dedicated women who travel.
WITS is unlike anything I’ve ever been involved with. I can’t remember the last time I experienced so much energy, passion, and spirit in one room as the nurturing love from this community radiated. Despite the fact I was overwhelmed at first, it didn’t take me long to settle in. What blew my mind was that when I had a chance to talk to Beth, the one who started it all, she was so gentle and kind. A woman who seemed like a legend, completely out of reach, was right there. Talking me down (unknowingly) from a small panic attack, she told me that I was always welcome and she was glad to have me here. Beth, the Wanderful celebrity, was glad I was there. Me. It was right then and there that my life was forever changed. I found my ladies, my community. I felt at home with all of these women, many of which I still don’t even know personally, but I know that we are all on the same wavelength. We all just get it.
What I learned most at WITS16? Be true to yourself. Yes, there are thousands of bloggers out there. No, you’re not going to be successful overnight. Yes, there’s
a lot shitload of work ahead. The big thing is that this uphill battle is one that we ALL share in. It’s what we put our heart and soul into, and because of that we all understand it. We all bring our own personality and skill sets to the table. We are all excited for each others’ achievements and celebrate them just as much as our own. We’re the innovators, the problem solvers, the motivators. By a twist of fate I ended up at WITS16, but that’s the way the universe works. It put me right where I needed to be and gave me the swift kick to the ass in the direction I needed.
I set to work, learning everything I could from the veterans. These ladies are the gals that have done it, they’ve made it to the big leagues, and took the time out of their lives to share their stories and tips so that maybe one day we can get there too. They gave us the tools to carve our own path. My checklist of things to do is forever growing as I read and re-read my notes, and the fire burns bigger and brighter with each eureka moment. In a nutshell, here’s what I learned at WITS16 alone:
- Find your niche and cater to it; doesn’t matter if it’s been done, do it and make it your own
- You’re not being paid as much for what you say as you are for the exposure you’re giving others
- BE HONEST; integrity and consistency are key – you’re only as good as your word
- Never limit yourself; be creative and get what you want, when you want it
- The ins and outs of social media and techniques on how to make the established algorithms work for you
- Networking is the key to success; not just with brands or companies, but with other bloggers! Your friends are key as word of mouth is the best testimonial you can get
- You’re a walking, talking billboard of your brand; make people remember you
- Don’t be afraid to use what’s available to your advantage; NEVER copy or steal, but don’t be afraid to use references and guides
The thing that really struck home was that everyone at that conference had been there. Everyone started with zero followers, zero likes, and zero subscribers, and everyone remembers that. This fundamental fact made this newbie feel at home, and made me feel like I could one day get there too. Need a reason to take that next step? Go to a conference like WITS and you’ll find not just one but hundreds, and they’ve all got a name and a blog – just like you.
I arrived in California knowing only Twitter handles and blog names. I came out with a support system. These ladies are some of the most fabulous people I have ever met, and I truly cannot wait for next year. Thank you WITS16 for helping me take that big step towards the best me I can be, and stay tuned for testimonies from some of the ladies I am honoured to now call my friends.