Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking on a roundtable on travel and social media here in NYC along with travel/Twitter savants luxe travel planner Stacy Small, Kim Mance of Go Galavanting web travel videos, and Brian Simpson of Roger Smith Hotel, all moderated by AnneMarie Dooling from FrillSeekerDiary. Though I’ve gone to theater school and done comedy improv, I was nervous as hell before the panel, as it was hard to think and answer in a remotely insightful way about something I use mostly to share animal videos and snarky comments, but I think it went well. Excellent recaps have been written up on Sosauce and GoBackpacking, I mostly talked about using social media (primarily Twitter) as a “watercooler” to talk with media/friends (the two groups overlap) about travel news, trends, and the odd viral video, sort of like note passing for adults who sit at desks all day.
The night after the roundtable, I organized a casual bowling night for some travel friends at Leisure Time Bowl in Port Authority (chosen for its central location and transportation offerings, but also rather spiffy). Why bowling? It started last fall when I happened to spend an afternoon bowling downtown and noticed a remarkably diverse crowd of bowlers: children’s birthday parties, NYU frat kids, hipsters, etc. I spoke to the waitress who told me it’s also popular with foreign travelers, particularly with kids, as bowling is the same in every language. This is just the sort of quirky travel fact that would appeal to my friend Robert Reid of Lonely Planet, so we began talking about a travel meetup/Tweetup with bowling. Good times ensued over a yard (or two) of beer, Bulgaria talk, and bowling lore. Shouts out to Paul Brady, who tried to teach me how to to do that leg lift thing that guys do when bowling; Erik Trinidad of the ever-brilliant Fancy Fast Food, who made sure nachos were ordered; Jauntsetter Dorothy with her sparkly new ring; Sean O’Neill of Budget Travel, who bowled an impressive turkey or two; Robert for being my Brooklyn subway home buddy, and Sam for spending part of his first trip to the US in a bus station.* Post script: While looking up the leg lift thing, I found this fascinating article on bowling for amputees, but the always-delightful Mary Roach.
That weekend, I found myself braving the snow to the Javits Center for the New York Times Travel Show to visit a few clients with booths on the showroom floor, attend a few seminars, and avoid the swag-grabbing masses. Last year, I took H. along to the show who made me sign up for every free trip at the show, causing me hours of time “unsubscribing” to newsletters and emails the following week. Also last year, I saw a sloth at the Busch Gardens booth and it started an obsession (who knew they were so cuddly and sweet looking?!), but this year I only spotted some penguins (arguably cuter, but much more common). Travel swag and animal displays aside, I attended a few seminars of interest: What do Women Want in Travel? and Travel Through the Eyes of Travel Writers. The audiences and messages could not have been more different: women apparently want security, bonding with other women, and some sort of indulgence (i.e. spas, Italian food) and travel writers like to get to know a place by getting lost, drunk, and friendly with locals. Of course, that’s a massive generalization but I almost wished that the two groups could have listened to each other: maybe the 60-year-old widow traveling independently for the first time *should* try riding a public bus or visiting France just for the cheese, and maybe the travel writer should spend a weekend doing a cooking class with a multi-generational family to see how and why the vast majority of non-industry people travel.
After a visit to meet and pet Mike Barish’s new dog Heath (hey buddy, hope you are less scared next time!), I rounded out the night with David Farley’s Restless Legs Reading Series, which I’ve attended with religious fervor for the past year and a half. Blogger Chris Gray Faust wrote up a great post about it here (I’m happy to have been the person who invited her), and notes how Farley called it an “after party” for the NYT Travel Show. It’s a good analogy in general for the series, while I’ve gone to drink and chat with dozens of writers over the series, I don’t see it as a networking event as much as a chance to be introduced to travel writing I may not have known about and talk with like-minded people. As much as social media has given me a way to meet journalists and other travelers it’s never going to take the place of happy hour or making an ass of yourself in rented shoes.
*Lack of bowling shout outs for Rachel, Greta, Anna, Ashley and Chris due to lack of blogs to link to, doesn’t mean I don’t love you or you did not impress me with your fine bowling skills! The two strikes bowled in the 10th frames bowled by Rachel are not likely to be forgotten in this lifetime.