Originally published August 27, 2018
Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
The Colossal Gong and TBEX Ostrava 2018
Not to be Confused with T-Rex and the Bang-a-Gong song from the 1970s wondering how many of you will get that? Surely , that dates me! haha.
The official hashtag of the conference: #TBEXostrava2018
I was excited to be going to my first TBEX travel bloggers event all the way to Ostrava, Czechia (formerly called the Czech Republic). I only had been to one other travel blogger conference previously, the WITS summit in Quebec, so I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t want to compare the two as being the same. The WITS was focused on women bloggers while TBEX is open to both female and male of all ages. If I had to guess the demographics of this conference it would be that it is primarily people in the their late 20’s to early 30’s. Having said that, I can also say I met baby-boomers (in retired mode) and couples blogging together. It’s a good mix of all ages and backgrounds. Many know each other from attendance at previous TBEXs.
It was a lot to take in on two fronts; the TBEX conference itself, and the overall visit to the Czechia. Both were important to how I planned to develop my travel blog strategy so I decided to go into absorb-mode and sponge it all in then later find time to reflect on it and write it up to the best of my ability. I didn’t find time at all to reflect during the trip as it was a whirlwind of activity daily including the FAM tour at the end of the 3-day TBEX conference.
Why is it called The Gong?
Here is how I started out visiting the official conference center for TBEX called The Gong in Ostrava. Why is it called the Gong? It was originally a gasometer, or a gas storage tank that had a sunken gasholder bell in the center of it. The architect repurposed this building with its round shape to create a monument to sound. The bell doesn’t chime but the acoustics in this building are perfect for holding large venues.
Learning how to navigate a foreign city using public transportation
On Thursday morning July 26, I was scheduled for an external session to learn about branding a blog. Instead of taking Liftago or a taxi, I decided to take the bus to the Dolni Vitkovice area where The Gong is located. Using the IDOS app I figured it would take me about 10-15 minutes and left 20 minutes early for good measure. But I hadn’t figured out yet how to make a cross-over from one bus-tram stop to another at the Namesky Republik so when I got there I wasn’t sure to walk across the street or go under the pedestrian tunnel. It was confusing because there were no signs in English and trying to figure it out in Czech was challenging. I mention it here in another post. I basically got to my class 20 minutes late (ugh!) and was embarrassed to walk in that late but the teachers for that class were accommodating and helped me fit in my introduction right away and get focused on class instruction (which was to be a half-day session).
When the session was done for the day I had some time to walk around the entire Gong conference center inside and out to figure out where everything was as the next day was to be the start of the conference.
Meet-ups with other travel bloggers
I took photos while it was still quiet with only a few people milling about getting things ready for the conference start on Friday, July 27, 2018. I also met up with another travel blogger who had requested to meet me through the official bloggers bridge website. She was from Vienna (one of my favorite places)and we talked about our goals and how we could perhaps help one another business-wise.
After my meeting I took a walk around outside and looking up at the massively towering hunk of iron and steel overhead was mind-blowing. This HUGE, and I mean huge complex was hard to figure out just what it had once been – a coal mining factory erected by the Soviets during their occupation of the Czech Republic. It looked very communistic in terms of being foreboding, generic, and obtrusive to the landscape. Maybe that’s not an apt comparison but it just didn’t seem like something that should be in a bourgeoisie town of Ostrava especially after seeing how magical capital of Prague.
Checking out the Gong conference grounds
I learned how resourceful Czech people are and how they skillfully came up with this project to repurpose the coal mine into a world-class conference center. They did it cleverly too because it’s modern in the inside and they even repurposed a tall tower, the Bolt, to become a 360-degree viewing landmark for visitors renaming it after the Jamaican sprinter.
Other areas outside around The Gong include an open expanse for outdoor concerts and venues. A relax zone with steps up to Adirondack chairs to kick back in and chill out. I found 2 cafes on the premises, one inside and one in a separate building outside. All of this detail I explored during the 3-day weekend TBEX conference. I thought TBEX and Czech Tourism did a really fantastic job of putting it all together. It felt very professional to be there.
Sessions, scheduling, inspirational speakers
Friday was the first day of the conference. I arrived early for the newcomer’s welcome speech. There were a lot of us “newbies” there, new to either TBEX or to travel blogging in general. While I wasn’t a total newbie to travel blogging in general, I felt the buzz and energy of the conference to be welcoming. Everybody was friendly and I made new connections to people as we ate lunch together or attended sessions together or stayed at the same hotel. It was all good.
I found that they offered a lot of sessions that peaked my interest but there were conflicting times as I couldn’t do them all so I had to choose from the several that were offered. I was pleased with the ones I chose too. The last one was particularly inspiring for me as given by Yeison Kim. He had a lot of practical advice to give on how he succeeded with his travel blog. As I took notes profusely on my mac while he spoke, I realized I was getting all kinds of peripheral ideas to implement somewhere down the line for my own travel blog. I think my biggest take-away from the TBEX conference in Ostrava was that I had a plethora of ideas to develop.
Recommend TBEX travel blogger conference
Would I recommend a TBEX conference? You bet. Especially if your new in the world of travel blogging. It’s a great way to connect with others who are doing what you do or what you want to do and just hanging out with people is fun in and of itself. I also enjoyed meeting many of the Czech Tourism people—they are young and current with trends and were so helpful with anything you could ask about their country. No topics were off-limits. In that respect I think it’s a great form of diplomacy to meet up and learn about one another’s countries. Thumbs up for me TBEX!