The Bloghouse in Besalu, Spain — A Smashing Success!
In September, we launched our very first Bloghouse — and I am happy to report that it was a smashing success!
The Bloghouse was a pre-TBEX event where five senior travel bloggers (Stephanie Yoder of Twenty-Something Travel, Michael Tieso of Art of Backpacking, Michael Hodson of Go, See, Write, Cailin O’Neil of Travel Yourself and The Taste of Travel, and myself) invited ten up-and-coming travel bloggers for 2.5 days of work, teaching, and networking.
We rented a beautiful villa in the town of Besalù, Spain, called Casa Marcial, with the gracious assistance of Charming Villas. Casa Marcial was a gorgeous house filled with meeting rooms, work rooms, a gorgeous backyard, and enough bedrooms for the 15 of us, plus some special guests!
All day, every day, was about BLOGGING, BLOGGING, BLOGGING.
We shared as much of our knowledge as we could with each other — everything from working with PR and sponsors to SEO copywriting to social media to photo editing with Lightroom to video editing techniques to WordPress, plugins, and tech issues.
Additionally, each senior blogger did a one-on-one blog audit with two different bloggers, letting them know specifically what they should be working on.
We also had some surprises:
We had a private chef! Chef Lee Pennington came to cook for the house and serves us some absolutely delicious paella, shrimp in this fantastic sauce, calamari stuffed with sausage, and little cups filled with chocolate and raspberries.
Several of us also visited the excellent gallery of artist Kel Domenech.
Not to be outdone by our previous dinner, we also had a meal at the outstanding Restaurant Pont Vell, with the best view in town, right on the bridge. I’m still dreaming of their fresh Catalan dishes.
We also had a lovely breakfast with all the pastries, coffee, and orange juice we could consume, thanks to Ribera Bistro.
As for the evenings?
We found ways to keep ourselves entertained.
PR and Media Night
Another one of our surprises? We invited half a dozen representatives from PR agencies, travel companies, and tourism boards and DMOs to come for an evening and socialize with everyone, getting to know the new bloggers.
They could also cook!
It was like our own private, relaxed PR session — without having to compete with hundreds of other bloggers with hardly any time to spare, like at the conferences!
Besalù is an absolutely beautiful town. If you’re spending time in Costa Brava or even Barcelona, it’s definitely worth a trip to see it!
Michael H and I got there a day early and got to see a bit more of the town with our host, Richard. I even got to take a flight in a tiny two-seater plane!
This was a delightful surprise, thanks to Richard, and something quite unexpected.
I do have a fear of heights, as well as jumpy flights, so this was a bit scary, but my pilot, who is also a police officer in the region, put me at ease.
“Wave to your husband!” he said as we flew over Michael. I laughed and pointed out that he already has a blog wife, if not a real one.
Want to visit Besalù for yourself? It’s about one hour and forty-five minutes from Barcelona and one hour from Girona. Bus lines connect Besalù from both cities. Looking for a hotel? Els Jardins de la Martana is an excellent hotel with a great view of the bridge, and they offered me a comped stay the night before the bloghouse.
(Back row, left to right: Michael T, Stephanie, Cole, Erin, Naomi, Emma, Flora, Michael H, Cailin, Ed. Front row, left to right: Bret, Liz, me, Jennifer.)
We had quite a few applicants to the bloghouse, and though we were sad to turn down many excellent bloggers, we were very happy with those we ultimately invited. We chose to invite those who we believe have the potential to become the next big players in the travel blogging industry.
Meet one (or more!) of your new favorite blogs:
Anywhere But Home — Beautiful worldwide photography from full-time traveler and expat Naomi Alyssa.
Emma’s Travel Tales — Wild and worldwide tales from mischievous Scottish lass Emma Gray.
Flora the Explorer — Hilarity and travel stories from solo female globe-trotter Flora Baker.
Four Jandals — Adventure travel stories from New Zealand’s Adventure Couple, Cole Burmester (who attended the Bloghouse) and Adela May.
J. Domb’s Travel’s — Expat life in northeastern Italy and travels around Europe and beyond from Jennifer Dombrowski.
No Checked Bags — Worldwide travel tales, with emphasis on their many “homes” of Belize, Taiwan, the Netherlands, and beyond, from Erin de Santiago-Domue and Bret Domue.
Our Tasty Travels — Also from Erin and Bret, their food blog focuses on high-end culinary and wine experiences around the world.
The Polar Route — Brilliant worldwide photography and photo tutorials from jetsetter Ed Graham.
Young Adventuress — Adventures in Spain, Europe, and beyond from teacher and travel writer Liz Carlson.
The bloghouse was fantastic — I loved passing on my knowledge, especially on the PR and sponsorship end, and loved learning from my fellow bloggers.
But fr me, the single greatest takeaway took place at TBEX a few days later. I looked across the room and saw one of our bloghouse attendees chattering away with an industry person at the conference, a huge smile on her face, the very picture of confidence. A few days ago, she had told me that she had felt too intimidated to approach any industry people. The bloghouse changed all that.
That, to me, made the bloghouse worth it SO many times over.
As for our attendees, here is what some of them had to say:
“My time at the blog house, in the end, was crazy inspiring not only because we were around people who are so enamored with what they do, but who also equally believed in what we do. We were around people who knew they had something to offer, turned their passions into a lifestyle, and felt we could do the same.”
“Getting to work with these seasoned bloggers individually, ask all the questions that have been on our minds, getting advice and tips that would normally have taken years of trial and error made for a truly unforgettable experience. Not to mention working with a good group of newer bloggers just like me. Everyone brought something different to the table and through casual conversation, impromptu sessions and loads and loads of questions, we learned a ton from each other.”
“My time at the blog house taught me that this partnership with sponsors is an integral part of ‘the business of being a blogger‘. To get work from your blog, you have to be prepared to work.
I was educated in how to write a pitch, the absolute necessity of a good media kit, instructed to never undersell myself and to always ask, because ‘you never know until you do’. I learned a huge amount about how to create and maintain a successful blog.”
“It is these sorts of opportunities that experienced travel bloggers provide to us, that make me love the decision to throw away a very successful career and pursue our dreams and passions full time.”
There Will Be More Bloghouses!
After the success of Besalù, we will ABSOLUTELY be having more bloghouses! As always, stay tuned. As soon as we have something to announce, we will let you know!
A special thanks to Richard from Charming Villas, who helped us immeasurably every step of the way, as well as our sponsors, our PR guests, and all the bloggers who took a chance on us. You made this an amazing adventure!