So the Budget Travel bloggers blab session went off last night smashingly. I have to say I was rather amazed by three things. 1) the BT folks actually sent a black sedan to pick me up (if you missed the somewhat intriguing irony here — BUDGET Travel — then, well, there, I just gave it to you…but let it NEVER be said that I won’t be picked up in a black sedan, unless you work for Tony Soprano or something; 2) the venue: it was held in the lovely uber-hip Tribeca Cinema with lights on the wall that said Budget Travel and a marquee and free drinks and teeny little cracker hors d’ovres with chicken that were simply divine; and finally 3) the audience. There must have been about a hundred people there, all of whom either came to listen to us or for free drinks and chicken cracker things. But the thought that anyone, let alone over a hundred people, would be interested to hear what a bunch of bloggers have to say is rather mind-blowing, I think, and a sign of the times that either a) bloggers are far more important than I imagine (entirely possible) or b) most people don’t really know what a blogger is, but they’ve read a lot about them and so came to satisfy their curiosity or c) this was really some awful psychology experiment orchestrated by some PhD students at Columbia to see how people who spend too much time in front of their computers actually react to being in front of a live audience. I only suspect that c) is the answer because I swear some of the people in the crowd held clipboards and I thought I could see the collar of a white lab coat beneath what they were wearing.
So, anyway ,you really want to know more than that don’t you? OK, the story is this: it was actually quite fun. Toastmaster extraordinaire and Editor-in-Chief Erik Torkells moderated the event looking very prim and businesslike in his finely tailored suit. I was actually surprised by how tall the guy is since the photo on the BT editor’s page is usually (unless he’s dressed as a cowboy) just a headshot. Also, it’s pronounced tor-KELLS not TOR-kells, which gives the name a bit of an Irish feel even though I have no idea if he’s irish, Norwegian or what. Anyway, there we were, the four of us – Mark G. Johnson of HotelChatter, Randy Petersen of InsideFlyer, and Joshua David Stein of Gridskipper….and Torkells asked us all sorts of questions about blogging and how/whether it’s going to replace real travel journalism (no) and how we find our stories (uh, mostly magazines, newspapers and other blogs), and whether we mind if PR people send us stuff (not really, unless it’s totally irrelevant to the blog…which about 70 percent are) and so on.
Of course, we fielded these questions with alacrity and wit, knocking out answers with the ease and fluidity of A-Rod during batting practice. I have to give props to Joshua Stein of Gridskipper for being the funniest one in the group and answering questions with a kind of jaded, sardonic aplomb that nicely complimented his disheveled appearance. The oddest, but most refreshing moment of the evening came when I was approached after the session by the two bloggers who write one of my favorite blogs on the Chelsea Hotel – Debbie and Ed. This charming couple had some lovely anecdotes about living in the Chelsea, which prompted me to immediately ask if I could come and shoot a story there…something I hope very much to do.
Anyway, this is becoming a rather too lengthy post, so I’ll bring it to a close here. I am going to write another post in a bit here about the dinner I had after the event, which, when it comes down to it, was the also a big highlight of the evening for me. I was invited to dine with one of my big time heroes of the travel world: Richard Bangs, who happened to be breezing through New York doing something for Mountain Travel Sobek. But more on that later.
(photos: Budget Travel Online – that, by the way, is me, looking a bit like I just finished my third martini (untrue) and am keeling over)