I’d been in Lisbon for several days and was loving it. I was staying at a charming hostel, had eaten some delicious food, and was really getting to know the city.

But I had to fly to Italy in two days. Italy is one of my favorite countries, so normally, that wouldn’t sound like a burden — I mean, have you ever eaten GELATO? — but this time, it did. I wasn’t going (strictly) for pleasure, I was going for biznasss, to attend the Travel Blogger Destination: Italy conference.

And I didn’t want to go.

Just two weeks prior, I’d gone to Dublin to attend TBEX, a massive bi-annual travel bloggers conference. I’d had a great experience there, meeting lots of fellow bloggers and talking to a number of potential sponsors.

So I’d already done my schmoozing, my “networking,” blah blah blah. Plus, I was really digging my alone time exploring these streets. Wouldn’t you?

Spoiler alert! I went.
Spoiler alert! I went.

(BTW, I took a grand total of four photos in Italy. FOUR. And none of them have anything to do with the conference. Scroll down to see the other three gems.)

I hadn’t even planned on going to this conference.

I was planning on spending more time in Portugal and Spain when I was contacted by Emma, the lovely organizer of TBDI. Apparently I had an excitement blackout when she said the words “Italy” and “free accommodation,” because the next thing I knew I’d purchased a flight to the conference.

It was only later, in the midst of my torrid love affair with Lisbon, that I discovered I would be missing the entire first day of the conference, when most of the talks were occurring.

Remember that excitement blackout? Well…

While distracted by thoughts of pizza and raviolis, I had booked my flights on the wrong day.

Don’t let any travel blogger tell you they don’t make rookie mistakes: they do. Changing them was super expensive, so that wasn’t an option.

Mmm, pizza. Wait, what were we talking about?
Mmm, pizza. Wait, what were we talking about?

All things considered, I had a fair case not to go. I, after all, am not one to be afraid of travel failure.

I don’t know whether it was my duty-filled Japanese half (you said you would! don’t let “them” down!), or my cheapskate Jewish half (free lodging! non-refundable flights!), but go I did.

And, as I’m sure you can all guess, I’m glad.

How much I enjoyed this conference was the biggest surprise of my entire time in Europe.

How does all coffee in Italy taste like liquid silk? (Or what I imagine liquid silk would taste like.)
How does all coffee in Italy taste like liquid silk? (Or what I imagine liquid silk would taste like.)

It was a million times smaller and less-organized than TBEX, but that’s what I liked about it. It felt personal and real — less about the conference, and more about the people involved. Not that I have anything against TBEX (it was a blast!), but despite missing 98% of the speakers, I actually enjoyed TBDI more.

Maybe it was the abundance of pasta and cheese, or let’s be honest: wine, but I had a wonderful time.

I think it was because I had more opportunities to make genuine connections with people. There were less people there, and thus, more time to chat with them. And because of that,

I met a whole slew of inspirational peeps making the most out of their lives.

I learned something from each of them, and I truly hope I’ll have the opportunity to meet up with them again somewhere in the world.

Spaghetti bolognese, I eat it every day. (It’s a song. Ask my 5th grade music class if you don’t believe me.)
Spaghetti bolognese, I eat it every day. (It’s a song. Ask my 5th grade music class if you don’t believe me.)

I can’t believe I ever thought about skipping TBDI. My experience was a good reminder to take advantage of the opportunities that come your way, whether you feel like it or not. As travelers, we’re already more apt to do this — but after a while, maybe we get burnt out, or stop actively trying. So it doesn’t hurt to hear it again:

Don’t forget to say yes.

To getting out of bed early to see something amazing. To doing something that scares the shit out of you.

To going to a conference even though you’ll miss half of it.

Some of your experience are going to be major failures (um, yeah), but some are going to surprise you in the best of ways.

What’s one thing you’ve said yes to recently? Are you glad you did? 

Thanks and hugs to…

The organizers of TBDI for all their hard work!

The people who made my time at TBDI so fun. They’re all incredibly talented storytellers, filmmakers, and photographers — and I highly recommend whittling away your afternoon getting lost in their sites. (Far more productive than Buzzfeed, I promise.) They’re sure to inspire you:

Adam from Travels of Adam

Ayngelina from Bacon is Magic

Brendon from Nerd Travels

Bridget O’Neill

Daniel from Canvas of Light

Don Pasta

DJ from Dream Euro Trip

Ellen from Miss Ellen Miller

Emma from Brindisi Is My Destination

EricJosh, and Josh from Matador Network

Jo from Indiana Jo

Kate from Adventurous Kate

Kelley from TripFilms

Krista from Alla Fiorentina

Liz from Young Adventuress

Laurence from Finding the Universe

Melvin from Traveldudes

Michael from Go See Write

Nienke from The Travel Tester

Peter from My Next Amazing Trip

Rick Mereki

Wisaal from Wiscellaneous