For the most part, us bloggers have kind of a lonely life. What I mean by that is that you spend a huge chunk of your time sitting in front of your computer and stare at a screen. Sure, you engage on social media but there is little face to face contact with your tribe- those fellow bloggers that seem to be the only people who truly understand your work.
We all have family members and friends who are clueless about what we are doing. They ask “what is this blog thing and why do you do it?” If you are lucky, they are curious and actually take a look at your blog. My parents have no interest in this thing I call a blog. My Mom asks about it, but gets all glassy eyed when I suggest she actually read what I write. It’s okay (well kinda not really) I can deal with it as long as SOMEBODY reads it!
This is where the Women In Travel Summit, created by a great company, Wanderful, comes in. WITS, as it is mainly referred to, is an annual gathering of women who are all about travel. Influencers (bloggers), brands, CVB’s from destinations, travel entrepreneurs, and any other women interested in the travel industry come together and spend the weekend learning, connecting, and having fun with their “tribe”. It’s a beautiful thing, quite frankly, and I was a part of it for the first time this past weekend.
I never fully understood the impact actually being in a room full of fellow bloggers would have on me. I had never attended a blogger conference before and when I was busy making out my goals for 2017 way back in December one of the items at the top of my list was to go to one. Fast forward a a couple of weeks later, I found out that WITS was going to be in Milwaukee in April! MILWAUKEE! That was only 50 miles from my house! These things rarely come that close. Sometimes I feel Wisconsin is a different country. It’s a hidden gem that I think only people from Illinois know about. Newsflash to the rest of the world…we are alive and well and have tons of things to do and see!! My guess is after this weekend, I think this will be longer be a secret!
So determination, luck, and an awesome Facebook group called Midwest Travel Bloggers helped make it happen for me. Thanks to a giveaway, I was able to score a ticket to WITS from MTB.
One of the main things you do at WITS is network. It’s not an easy thing to do. If you are a first timer like me, you basically know no one. This is a bit intimidating to say the least. Walking into a room full of “strangers” is scary, but 400 of them? This is a bring-an-extra-shirt-along scary cause you are sweating like never before. The only comfort you have is knowing that most people in this room are feeling the same thing. Most people break the ice with a couple of key questions. “How long have you been blogging?” (if you are a blogger) and “Where are you from?” This usually got a conversation going. Being rather shy with people I don’t know, and the fear of being judged, are things that I have a hard time overcoming. Typically once someone asked those questions, all was okay. Some people I met, it was just easy. You feel a connection instantly and just know you have the potential to be lifelong friends.
You also have the chance to network with sponsors and brands. Travel blogging is all about getting paid to write about what you love. That can mean anywhere from free admission to an a traction at a destination, to getting actual money for writing about and promoting places you go to. This is the goal for any travel blogger. At WITS you are given the tools to make this happen. You may make connections at WITS, but most likely you will need to go on your own and make pitches wherever you want to travel too.
Along with networking and making connections, WITS has two days of seminars. Covering a variety of topics such as, video and photography, creating the perfect media kit, analyzing your social media engagement, and travel blogging in midlife. You will not leave WITS on Sunday night without your head spinning from all the things you learned. That is a very good thing. You even have the chance to talk one on one with speakers at the event in whatever subject you want to learn more about. Hearing from the experts in these subjects is so inspiring. Note taking is a must. Or do what I did when the pace was too fast to keep up, take a pic of the screen to get the main points of the power point presentation.
This caused me to have moments of intense pride since WITS17 was held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Wisconsin is my home state and has been my entire life. I found out by talking to women this past weekend that many have never been to Wisconsin and were amazed at how Milwaukee surpassed their expectations. As part of your ticket, you have the opportunity to go on tours highlighting the things the host city is known for. I choose to take a short ride to Kenosha and toured the Jelly Belly facility (complete with samples), the Civil War Museum, and a ride on one of the famous Kenosha Streetcars. Its a fun way to find out about your host city and give you a blog post subject or two!
I had heard that the swag from the sponsors and brands are second to none! Oh how true this is! I was thankful that I had my car to load up as I had two overflowing bags of stuff. Why I brought a notebook, I will never know! Visit Milwaukee supplied us with these incredible notebooks for taking notes. I came home with t-shirts, bottles of Sprechers craft soda, candles, beer kettle chips. cheese curds, a coffee mug, and various other things.
Yes, WITS was a game changer for me. (you were right Sara!) I am owning the Travel Blogger title. I am so happy that back in December I decided to put going to a bloggers conference on my list of goals. Doing that, made it legit. You have no choice but to make them happen when you write your goals down.
Next May WITS is in Quebec! I have never been to Quebec…..just sayin!
A big huge thank you goes to Wanderful, for putting on such a great event, Midwest Travel Bloggers (if you are based in the midwest you must be in this Facebook group!), and all the bloggers that I met and talked with. There is nothing like finding your tribe!!