Highlights from Traverse Travel Blogging Conference


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I spent the weekend in beautiful Brighton at Traverse conference for travel bloggers. It was the first conference by Michael Ball who organizes Travel Massive in London and Paul Dow from TravMonkey. They started Traverse for travel bloggers who don’t have the time or money to travel to other conferences such as TBEX or TBU which are often a long way from the UK and require a few days off work. And we all know how precious our holidays are so it’s a brilliant conference for travel bloggers like me who also have a full-time job.

This isn’t a full review of the conference, it’s just my highlights and some of the best tips I came away with. If you’re looking for a more in-depth review, check out Si Willmore’s roundup on 101 Holidays Traverse 13: Review and Highlights

Top Tips from Traverse 2013

There were loads of great talks at Traverse but the ones I managed to go to were:

  1. Creative Travel Photography with Tom Robinson
  2. Writing with Steve Keenan
  3. Travel Video Editing with Greg Brand

So here are some of the useful nuggets of advice that I picked up:


When creating a photo essay, make sure you have landscape shots, portraits and detail shots. Details can be close ups on things like food, a person’s hands or a doorway. If you have all three types of photos you can give your readers a better feel for the place you’re photographing.

Be creative and unique with your photos. Tom had a great series of photos capturing the facial expressions of his family and friends the moment he told them he and his girlfriend were expecting a baby. It’s a brilliant series and such a fantastic idea.

When taking portrait shots, make sure you have your camera set up before even asking to take a person’s picture. You don’t want to mess around with camera settings and leave them hanging. Ask them in a friendly and non-threatening manner and then take as many pictures as quickly as you can. After the second or third frame, a person’s facial expression will become unnatural so make sure the first couple of pictures are perfect.

Take portrait shots near windows and you’re bound to get a good pic.

Tom uses natural light whenever possible but doesn’t recommend taking pictures in the middle of the day when the light is so harsh.

Get to know your camera by taking photos of your family and friends

To learn how to use your camera and the different settings you have, just watch a YouTube video.

Tom doesn’t change the white balance of his photos on his camera, he does it afterwards in Adobe Lightroom. I like this tip because I hate having to change all the settings on my camera and end up missing the moment by the time I’ve got them all right.

If you’re being paid to take photos, always have a backup camera and backup your photos twice. If you loose your pictures, you’ll never be paid to take pictures again.

When buying a DSLR camera you really need to spend your money on the lenses.

The Question Time Pannel: Will Peach, Carol Driver, Kevin May, Ruth Haffenden and Jodi Ettenberg
The Question Time Pannel: Will Peach, Carol Driver, Kevin May, Ruth Haffenden and Jodi Ettenberg


Steve’s talk was really inspiring and he asked editors from The Guardian, The Times, Wanderlust, France Magazine, The Independent and The Telegraph to share their tips for anyone pitching an article idea.

Travel bloggers are in an amazing position at the moment. We’re in a multimedia age and multimedia is what we do best.

Steve said something really interesting that has got me thinking about my future as a blogger. He said that it’s unlikely you’ll always be a travel blogger because your situation will undoubtedly change. He used the examples of Gary Arndt, who has recently taken a job with Newsweek magazine (read about it here) (Update: I’m officially the most gullible person in the world – read the comments below!), and Nomadic Matt who has stopped travelling full time and has now written a book. But no matter what you do, good writing will always be important.

Steve recommends writing in the third person and not just the first person. Most bloggers write in the first person and while many readers are interested in your personal journey, most are interested in the story rather than the fact that you’re in it. Sophie Collard added that while she was interning as a teenager, she was given the harsh but true advice that ‘no one actually gives a shit about you’.

Only write in the first person if you’ve got a specific niche, you’re a celebrity, it’s a personal journey or it’s a rant.

Don’t blabber. With online media we don’t have tight word counts which often leads us to blabber. Don’t waste a word with unnecessary rambling.

When pitching articles to magazines or newspapers keep your pitch to under 50 words. Keep it relevant, have an angle and help the editor out by filling a particular need and slot.

More and more editors are looking for multimedia to go alongside their articles so offer photos and videos with your written article.

Like Tom suggested in his photography talk, Andy Pietrasik from The Guardian said to vary the focus in your writing. Rather like storyboarding, you need a wide angle (descriptions of landscapes, social/cultural history) for context and close ups (characterisations and conversations) for colour and detail.

Travel Video Editing

I’ll keep this short because a lot of what Greg taught us was a little over my head (ok, WAY over my head) but he did highlight the importance of interviewing people in videos.

When Greg makes a video he includes an interview with a couple of people and will ask them all the same questions. This way he can cut up their answers and put them together almost like a conversation that flows together.

He’ll use the interviews to tell the audience something and follow it by video clips to show them.

Other Tips

I didn’t make it to Frankie’s talk about being a freelancer but she has all of her slides and some notes online. This is super useful for anyone considering a career as a freelancer and she also has some great productivity tips.

If you went to Traverse and have any other great tips that you learnt at the conference, please share them in the comments below!

  1. Steve Keenan 9 years ago

    Hi Matt – thanks for kind comments and other useful stuff. But I have an admission. I found out later that I’d fallen for the oldest trick in the book – Gary Arndt’s post was an April Fool… Still, point no less relevant about longevity of a blogger. And also proves another point: there’s no fool like an old April fool

    • TheTravelHack 9 years ago

      Ha, that’s brilliant. Did you know that if you say ‘gullible’ really slowly it sounds like ‘banana’? I fell for it too and I must admit that I thought it was a really strangely written and rude post. All makes sense now. Thanks for clarifying 🙂

  2. noel 9 years ago


    Thanks for giving us some highlights to this conference, I’ve just started my blog which is more photo oriented, but I also am a freelance writer and all the points you mentioned are spot on especially the part about combining multi-media with writing and 3rd person vs 1st based on the audience and post.

    Thanks for sharing the conference with us.


    • TheTravelHack 9 years ago

      No problem Noel. I’m glad you found it useful and good luck with your blog, I look forward to seeing more of your photos which are stunning btw!

  3. Steve Keenan 9 years ago

    Another correction! Apologies MONICA – had been reading something from Matt Preston and names confused. Late. Goodnight!

  4. Thanks for the write up! It’s always hard to pick which conferences to attend, but this looks like one worth considering moving forward. I agree good writing matters the most. I think about the blogs I skim and the ones I sit and read, and there are more of the former than latter!

    • TheTravelHack 9 years ago

      It’s so true. I don’t think you realise how important good writing is until you read something that is awful (or don’t read it as the case may be and just skim over it).
      This conference was definitely well worth it. I felt like I got the same amount out of it as I do out of the bigger conferences like TBU and TBEX and I didn’t have to take any time off work or spend a fortune to get there. I’m looking forward to the next one already!

  5. Mark Hodson 9 years ago

    Hi Monica

    Nice round-up, and thanks for the mention of our post. One thing, though: I thought Gary Arndt’s post about getting a job with Newsweek was an April Fool’s Joke. Have you read it?


    • TheTravelHack 9 years ago

      Did someone say gullible? Thanks for clearing that up Mark!

  6. […] * Read the 101 Holidays report from the conference, written by Simon Willmore. Also, a report from Monica, The Travel Hack. […]

  7. Arianwen 9 years ago

    Thanks for sharing these tips. I went to completely different workshops from you so it’s nice to have a roundup of what I missed. Frankie’s talk was really great. I recommend people check out her slides using that link. I’ll be using a lot of the resources she suggested.

  8. Zoë Dawes 9 years ago

    Thanks so much for summarising this talk Monica. Great to be able to get a precis of Steve’s talk and some useful tips for those of us who have been blogging for a while and also beginners. For those of us who couldn’t make it to Brighton these resources are really helpful.

  9. Iain Mallory 9 years ago

    Thanks for for summarising what appears to have been a useful, interesting and fun conference Monica. Also giving me a good laugh at Steve falling for Gary’s April Fool post, I’ll be smiling all week about that. Regardless ultimately he’s correct, many bloggers are already moving into alternative multimedia spheres and will continue to do so as more opportunities present themselves.

  10. Daphne 9 years ago

    Thanks for sharing some of these tips Monica! Especially the 3 focus points of photography and writing are very useful and I’ll be sure to keep them in mind for future items.

  11. […] However, I was unable to attend the very well received workshop on Writing led by Steve Keenan. Monica of The Travel Hack, enthusiastically reviews this. […]

  12. Kathryn 9 years ago

    Hi Monica,
    Lovely meeting you at the conference. I had a wonderful day there and picked up some very useful tips. I didn’t go to any of the talks you mention so great to be able to read about them here. Not sure I agree with Steve about not writing in the first person on your blog. Blogging is as much about personality as it is good writing (and photography), however, I entirely agree with him though if you are writing for anything else.

  13. Bintu @ Recipes From A Pantry 8 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your tips. Its good to know about the white balance tip as that is one of the ones that affects me a lot.

  14. […] Highlights from Traverse travel blogging conference/ […]

  15. Sofie 8 years ago

    Hey Monica,

    Thanks for the round-up.
    Can I conclude that you would recommend Traverse?
    I’m thinking of going in February…
    It would be my first conference!

    • TheTravelHack 8 years ago

      Hi Sofie, yes I would 100% recommend Traverse, especially if it’s your first conference.
      TBEX is another brilliant conference but if it’s your first one I think Traverse is a better one, especially if you’re in or near the UK. Everyone is really friendly and welcoming and it’s small enough to not be intimidating but big enough to give you loads of people to mingle with. I learnt a lot from the last conference and the evening events were a lot of fun.

      • Sofie 8 years ago

        Thanks for getting back to me Monica!
        It’s weird, I’d subscribed for notifications but didn’t get a mail.
        Probably forgot to confirm or something, so thanks for letting me know on Twitter!
        I’ll have a look at flights and trains (I’m in Belgium) tomorrow and see if it’s do-able:-)

        (wow, the captcha is 7 x ? = fifty six, now that’s hard after midnight!)

        • TheTravelHack 8 years ago

          Haha, I know, those captchas get me too!
          Hopefully you’ll be able to get a cheap flight!

  16. […] may remember that I went to Cybher and Traverse last summer and wrote reviews about them […]

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