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Making Friends at BlogWorld 2009

Yesterday on Twitter I declared that “the downside of making new friends in far-off places is the desire to be in all those far-off places at once (or at least more often).” Through the magic of a blog post instead of a 140-character Twitter post, I’m now able to expand on that statement.

What I was specifically referring to was my recent trip to Las Vegas to attend the BlogWorld Expo conference. This year, BlogWorld had a travel track for the very first time, with four travel-centric sessions on Saturday. I was lucky enough to be on one of the travel panels (with some exceptionally smart and talented people, I might add), and over the course of the weekend I got to hang out with some really interesting people. So, instead of doing a recap of the BlogWorld conference itself, I thought I’d take a look back at the weekend in terms of the people I met.

People I Met at BlogWorld

Most of the people I was meeting for the first time at BlogWorld were people I’d interacted with on Twitter or via email, but spending time together in real life was definitely a treat. These are the folks who I’d never met before this past weekend:

  • Jim Benning – Back in July I got to meet one half of the team behind World Hum (when I met the extremely tall Mike Yessis at the TBEX conference in Chicago), and this past weekend I got to meet the other half. Jim was one of the people on the travel blogging panel with me, and I also got to hang out with him at dinner Friday night. We also sat near one another at two nightclubs later on Friday, but I can’t really say we got much conversation in, since both places were deafeningly loud. Perhaps my favorite Jim moment was during our panel, when he pronounced that the future of travel blogging was space blogging – and then said, “No, I’m serious.” I’m still trying to figure out if he was, in fact, serious. (Jim on Twitter)
  • Robert Reid – There is really no way to sum up Robert Reid in a few sentences, but here I am trying anyway. He’s Lonely Planet‘s USA editor/spokesperson, but I think a title of LP Ambassador would be more appropriate. He’s hilariously funny in that deadpan kind of way that makes you wonder sometimes whether he’s actually meaning to be funny, he has an odd obsession with moustaches and pants, and I’m really hoping he doesn’t hold a grudge. See, he was also on the travel blogging panel with me, and he made the mistake of telling me beforehand that he was happy to be sitting in the middle so he wouldn’t get called on first. So, I called on him first. Sorry, Robert. Come to Portland and I’ll treat you to gelato and beg forgiveness. (Robert on Twitter, Robert’s website)
  • Andy Murdock – Another Lonely Planet representative in Las Vegas this weekend was Andy (the LP Online Community Manager), about whom I knew basically nothing before the conference. Andy handles the unfortunately-named @LPUSAstaff Twitter account, so it can be tough to inject much personality into it. But he’s got personality in spades. You know those moments where you find out something about someone that’s either incongruous with who you think they are or just so unexpected and surprising that you may never forget it? Andy gave me one of those moments this weekend when he told me he had a doctorate in biology and had actually taught ethno-botany for four years. He also forever endeared himself to me by extolling the virtues of the maple-bacon bar at Voodoo Donuts in Portland. If you’ve had one, you’ll understand. (LP’s Community Blog)
  • Paolo Tosolini – At one of the horribly over-loud events on Friday night, I was following Chris (see the list below) through the nightclub when he turned and said, “Have you met Paolo?” (At least I assume that’s what he said. It was loud.) Anyway, he introduced me to Paolo as a podcaster friend of his who happened to be from Italy originally. It turns out Paolo’s “Italy from the Inside” website is one I had seen before – so it was a treat to get to meet him in person, and even to speak a little Italian. Luckily, we also got to talk more at dinner on Saturday night when it wasn’t so loud, and I look forward to talking about Italy with him again in the future. (Paolo on Twitter)
  • Trisha Miller – Trisha was another person I didn’t know anything about before this past weekend, but after meeting her at dinner on Friday night and then hanging out with her at those two aforementioned super loud clubs I can safely say she’s someone I’d love to spend more time with. She’s got a great sense of humor and a great sense of adventure. And although she never did ask our buxom waitress whether there was a cup-size requirement to work at the club (we suspected the answer would have been yes), she did ask whether the waitress’ hair was real or extensions. (It was extensions.) If only I could have her along in all situations when I want to know the answer to a question I’d rather not ask… (Trisha on Twitter, Trisha’s website)
  • Stefanie Michaels – Stefanie is the force behind the @adventuregirl Twitter account, and we were fortunate enough to have her on our travel blogging panel as well. She’s got boundless energy and enthusiasm (especially for Twitter), and she co-hosted one of the most happening parties in Las Vegas over the weekend. It was so busy, in fact, that she spent basically the whole evening outside greeting her guests and didn’t really get to enjoy the party itself… But again, she did that with a smile on her face, too. Special thanks goes to Stefanie for helping me and a group of travel bloggers skip the queue to get into the club, making us feel very A-list, indeed. (Stefanie’s website)
  • Holly Chatelain – Before this past weekend, I didn’t know Holly at all, and now I’m really happy to have met her. She’s relatively new to blogging, but she’s got a great-looking site and a wonderfully positive attitude. She decided to come to BlogWorld to meet some people, and arrived knowing no one. I know plenty of people who’d be intimidated by that kind of thing, but Holly’s easygoing nature helped her fit in effortlessly with the group of travel bloggers I was with on Saturday. Holly’s WanderTot blog is about traveling with kids, and though I’m not a mom I think her writing is charming, funny, and smart. Keep an eye on this one. (Holly on Twitter)

People I Re-Met at BlogWorld

Some of the people I hung out with at BlogWorld were people I’d been lucky enough to meet at past conferences or events, and I’m glad I got to spend more time with each of them. Here are the people I enjoyed seeing again in Las Vegas:

  • Jen Leo – I’d heard Jen’s name ever since I started working at BootsnAll, since she’s a longtime friend of the company and the founders, but it wasn’t until TBEX this past July that I finally got to meet her. She’s exceptionally smart and well-connected, but entirely unpretentious and quite funny. She strikes me as someone who’s fearless, which is a trait I greatly admire. Plus, since she’s someone who genuinely loves Las Vegas, she was the ideal person to find the scrumptious out-of-the-way Thai restaurant where we ate on Friday night. (Jen on Twitter, Jen’s website)
  • Chris Christensen – Chris, as I mentioned above, was responsible for connecting me with one of the new people I met over the weekend (he wrote about it on his blog). But I’d met Chris only briefly at TBEX in July, so it was great to get an opportunity to spend a little more time with him this past weekend. He’s funny and smart, and a very talented podcaster. As someone who’s “just” a writer, I could definitely learn a few things from people doing podcasts and using videos like Chris is. I’m hoping that someday I’ll have a chance to call upon his expertise, but in the meantime I look forward to the next time we get to chat. (Chris on Twitter, Chris’ website)
  • Gary Arndt – Gary’s another traveler I first met at TBEX in Chicago, and also someone I’d interacted with before online. His extensive travels make him a font of interesting travel trivia, and his quick wit makes him an entertaining person to hang around with. Give him half a chance and he’ll tell you all about how he’s got a third dimple (and it’s on his face, too, so no undressing is required). Gary posted a photo of our Friday night dinner group (minus photographer Chris) on his blog. I think he enjoyed himself. You’d have to ask him why he’s not smiling in the picture. (Gary on Twitter, Gary’s website)
  • Pam Mandel – Pam is the one person on this “re-met” list who I’ve seen on numerous occasions, largely because we live only a few hours apart on I-5, and it still never seems like I see Pam enough. I enjoy her company so thoroughly, I was thrilled when she enthusiastically accepted my invitation to tour the Neon Museum in Las Vegas on Friday afternoon. Aside from how much I like Pam, she’s also an immensely talented writer and photographer, and I was happy to be on the travel blogging panel with her. (Pam on Twitter, Pam’s website)
  • Shannon Hurst Lane – Last but certainly not least, Shannon was the ringleader for the travel track at BlogWorld. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted that job, and she did well to organize not only informative and interesting sessions but get smart people to present them (if I do say so myself). I first met Shannon at BlogHer this past year, and even though I’m perfectly aware that she’s from Louisiana I’m always completely charmed by her accent. I swear, I could listen to her talk all day long. (Shannon on Twitter, Shannon’s website)

So, you see, all these fantastic people were such great fun to spend time with – and none of them live in the same city that I do. I’ve always loved making friends all over the world, because the more I do that the more apt I am to have a friendly host or guide when I travel. But there is definitely a downside to it, as I said at the beginning of this post – I already know it’ll likely be quite a long time before I see many of these people again, and that’s kind of a bummer.

I’ll close with a message to the people on this list: it was a real pleasure to see you this past weekend. If any of y’all happen to be passing through Portland, be sure to let me know. And if I find myself near any of you, you can bet I’ll be calling.

You may now consider that fair warning, and move house accordingly.