Last week was really a contrast of the best and worst of times. I started the week saying “goodbye” to my father and two days later still in a bit of funeral shock was boarding a plane for Toronto for my first TBEX (Travel Blogger Exchange) Conference.
Having dealt with losing friends too young, I learned long ago to cherish every day, every experience and do what i want now so there are no regrets, no lingering items on a “bucket list” (i am not a fan of these lists, if you can afford to go, go now, don’t wait). From the time my dad had a pain to his passing was six weeks, prior to that he was healthy with only a paper cut in his 72 years. Everything happened so fast, that I’m sure I’m still in a state of shock and disbelief but getting through each day as I can (it feels like a movie in slow motion) knowing that he had a good life of 50 years of marriage and did what he wanted to do. Everyone he met remembered his smile, his way of making them feel welcome and his love for his girls (mom, me, my sister and nieces). He left pieces of himself behind in all those he met, definitely leading an adventurous life without ever leaving the U.S.
Which brings me to TBEX, Toronto. I started this blog earlier this year (January 2013) and signed up to attend the conference to learn more about travel blogging. Until a week ago, I wasn’t going to the conference, I was going to cancel to be with my dad. After the funeral, my family said it was ok to go to Toronto, they realize that travel is the only way to hit “reset” in my life – I get to process and look at the big picture in my own way (luxury boutique hotel helps as does access to many desserts). I wasn’t running away per se but running toward something new (and not sad). With my schedule in place, I was going to be very busy touring the city, attending sessions and networking. I’ve always thrived in fast paced environments and TBEX would be no different with over 1,200 attendees.
Having visited Toronto multiple times for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), I had never explored the city given my “crazy” movie schedule (twenty films in five days) so I was excited to see what I’ve been missing all of these years. Arriving at the Le Germain Maple Leaf hotel, I was ready to just hide out in the room to decompress from the past week (who could blame me?) thinking I made a mistake coming here so soon but then I talked myself into meeting a group for dinner at the Banh Mi Boys sandwich shop. Good decision (thank you free hotel wi-fi and twitter!). The conversation was easy in this small (16 seats) busy sandwich shop for the group of five – we chatted all things travel and my sadness took a break and I felt normal. I met Jim of Uncovering PA , married couple Lauren & Kenin of The Constant Rambler and Aaron of Aaron’s Worldwide Adventures and they had no idea how this simple meeting was so uplifting for me – talking travel with new friends.
From there the group walked to the Toronto Travel Massive party (this was a hot ticket with only 150 attendees). I would talk to the woman in front of me (Sharon of Dream Travel Magazine) while waiting in line (also a newbie) which then led us to meet many others at the event (we found other first timers). The group that I met this night would be the happy faces I saw during the weekend so if nothing else, I met six wonderful people that night.
Friday was a busy day with two tours, a twitter meet-up and the opening party. The busy pace continued on Saturday/Sunday with conference sessions, networking and parties. Prior to my flight on Monday, I scheduled a morning walking tour. Keeping busy learning and exploring was exactly what i needed, further solidifying that travel is what I need in my life, it is a part of me -a part of me that I am sharing through my stories and travel experiences here on the blog.
My TBEX Toronto experience was the beginning of a new chapter in my life and I look forward to seeing how this part of my story would unfold.