Sometimes, you end up someplace and don’t exactly know why. Obviously, a series of events happens that leads you somewhere, but it’s the existential why, rather than the literal how, which leaves you questioning the reason behind a move. Since repatriating at the beginning of the year, I’ve been wondering what the cosmos had in store for me back in the USA and, particularly, in Miami. Pleasant weather and an oft-fulfilling university teaching position had been the only identifiable high points in a place with soul-sucking traffic and a large proportion of plastic, soulless people. Throw American political asshattery and Trayvon/stop-and-frisk/Oscar Grant on top and all I could think was “why hast Thou banished me to this forsaken land, especially when there’s always Paris?”
A couple of weeks ago, the why revealed itself to me unexpectedly whilst visiting the fair capital city of the Republic of Ireland: Dublin.
At the beginning of October, I participated as a speaker at the world’s largest travel blogging conference, Travel Blog Exchange, or TBEX. Held twice a year – once in North America and once in Europe – TBEX brings together travel bloggers, journalists, entrepreneurs, tourism bureaus, travel tech companies, and the like. As with most professional conferences, TBEX attracts an odd combination of earnest, open-minded participants seeking useful knowledge and meaningful interaction, as well as navel-gazing, self-important douchebags who only crack their mouths or make eye-contact if they think there’s something to be gained materially by demonstrating even the scantest bit of home training, and everything in between. While the Dublin edition did have its share of the latter, I found the overwhelming majority of the participants to be pleasant and engaging, and at the close of every day, nay, every session, I felt all the more inspired and motivated to further develop Fly Brother as my brand and myself as a writer.
During the four-day conference, I spoke twice: once about cultural awareness in travel writing as part of a pre-conference writers workshop (with a powerhouse trifecta comprised of Christine Cantera, David Farley, and one of my longtime travel writing heroes, Leif Pettersen), and then all by my lonesome about the importance of fact-checking and sourcing. While my sessions involved imparting some level of expertise to the attendees, I feel that I gained much more in terms of positive feedback, constructive criticism, meaningful networking (including starting new and deepening old friendships), and, most importantly, the sense that I’m indeed on the right road to greater things.
On my way back to the USofA, I realized what I should have realized from the beginning, but was too paralyzed by reverse culture shock to recognize: that the cosmos brought me here to Miami, at this moment, for personal and professional growth.
The university job, aside from being a phenomenal résumé-builder, lets me use my talents as a communicator to show people desirous of growth how to break through self- and community-imposed barriers. The stability that the job provides allows me to undertake – and complete – my doctoral research studies. The geographical location of Miami puts me closer to my family and friends in the States, places me within a half-day’s journey to three continents, and lets me utilize my hard-won Spanish and Portuguese skills, all with the Atlantic Ocean a mere two blocks away from my apartment. But most importantly, Miami provides me a visible yet accessible base from which to launch Fly Brother as a business in a way that living in São Paulo and Berlin didn’t necessarily provide me, with those cities being exotic enough to render me out of sight, out of mind. From here, I can get to conferences, I can get to coffee meetings with editors, I can get to book signings, and I can get to after-church barbecues with my folks quickly and easily. In other words, I can get to it.
But despite a gang of friends and family members dutifully and repeatedly telling me these things over the last few months, it took going to Dublin and experiencing the tremendous friendliness of our Irish hosts, fellowshipping with a couple hundred amazing, like-minded travelers who think of little else, and soaking up collective inspiration to light the necessary fire.
So, thank you TBEX, Failte Ireland, and my TBEX cronies, old and new, for reminding me of why I’m here. See you next time!
Here’s a look at the opening night reception, thrown by Failte Ireland at the iconic Guinness Storehouse. Unauthorized candid at 0:29.