The Travel & Words Conference 2017 (or Don’t Ever Take a Selfie With a Go-Pro)

Mark’s Ridge Winery

I am back and rested up from my big trip! It was wonderful and brutal, averaging 14 hour days of taking notes and photos, absorbing details, asking questions, listening to tours, eating way more food than I am used to and connecting ideas and storing them away for later. Then there was trying to remember to post to social media, figuring out links while walking to the next place, and every night up-loading photos to my computer to make room for the next day, trying to edit at least one to show online some of the great places we visited and trying to type up some impressions of the day. Many nights I dozed off at my keyboard before I gave up and went to bed.

I met so many great people on this trip to the Salem-Albany, Oregon area. Fellow travel writers with more experience than I that were generous with their advice and information. I may have learned the most from them, watching how they thought, how they connected with people, how they processed where we were into possible story ideas and what they did besides write articles to help pay the bills.

The conference and media trips exposed me to DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations), basically a town’s visitors bureau. They are a bunch of friendly people who love their town and want to show it off to people. They can arrange tours and give lots of ideas on places to visit depending on where your interests lie. There were many DMOs at the convention and each of our media trips were arranged and given by that town’s DMO, so we got to know each other very well.

At the convention, we of course met some editors who were approachable and gave informative presentations on various aspects of travel writing, like writing a good pitch or taking photos to go with your story. The best part was we got to exchange contact information with them, so if you are a relative newbie like me, you have somewhere to start pitching stories.

Of course the stars of the media trips were the businesses we visited. At the majority of the stops, the owner, president, or head chef took time out of their day to tell us about their business and showed us around. I felt very privileged to get this level of attention from these busy people.

The way my trip was arranged, I went on a pre-conference media trip for two nights to the area around Detroit lake, east of Salem. Then we came back to the Salem Convention Center where I rented a room in the Grand Hotel connected to it. The conference was two days long, then I headed down to Albany where the post-conference media trip I was on was held for five nights. In the weeks ahead, I will be producing articles about the various places we visited, but I will give you a quick overview here.

The Detroit Lake trip was called The Great Outdoors Tour. On our way out of Salem, we took a look at Salem’s Riverfront Park and the new footbridge they are constructing over the Willamette River. Up towards the Detroit Lake area, we had a beautiful dinner at a place called the Trexler Farm Cafe. The Lodge at Detroit Lake was our home for the next two nights, and their jet tub was a godsend after our rafting trip on the Santiam River and our long hike up South Breitenbush Gorge. It was my first time rafting. We had class two rapids, which I guess aren’t that big, but I found quite fun! We ate at several diners and bistros on the trip as well and on our way back to Salem, we got a guided tour of part of Silver Falls State Park.

The Travel & Words Conference 2017 in Salem treated us to a welcome reception in the conference hall foyer, complete with wine and gourmet finger food. Back in my hotel room the first night, I got a little hungry, so for the first time in my life, I ordered room service. It was just soup, bread and chocolate milk, but it was delicious and to my surprise, very reasonably priced. The next day after the introduction presentation, I attended workshops on the “Beginning Track” (vs. the “Experienced Track”). The workshops were titled: “Travel Writing 101”, “How to Make Editors Love You”, “Using Social Media to Build Your Writer Brand”, “Crafting Pitches that Work”, and “Double Your Income: A Travel Writer’s Introduction to Editorial Photography.”

There were panels with editors and DMOs where we could ask specific questions about working with them, delicious lunches, networking mixers and guest speakers. The speakers presented on: “Oregon Wines and Wine Country for the Travel Writer”, “Writing for Consumer Magazines in 2017 and Beyond”, “What I Learned at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop About Being a Travel Writer”, and “Cannabis Tourism.”

As a bonus, I won a door prize- a basket full of wine, wine glasses, fancy candy, an overnight stay in The Lodge at Columbia Point in the Tri-Cities and a couple of winery tours! The Lodge at Columbia Point is so new, it won’t even be open until this summer! My husband and I can go on a romantic get away later in the year!

The post-conference tour in Albany was called “The Way They Were- A Tour of Discovery and Decadent Delights.” We stayed in the Phoenix Inn Suites which were comfortable and had a hearty breakfast every morning for us. The tour covered a lot of historic places and I quickly discovered Albany has tons of history for the history buff! Downtown has hundreds of historic homes of different styles. I was told the architecture students at the University of Oregon actually go to Albany to study building styles because there are so many good examples there.

The Albany Visitors Association had a full lineup of museums, churches, theaters, gardens, homes, covered bridges, cemeteries, chocolatiers, railroads, mills, cafes, bistros, burger joints, wildlife refuges, breweries, roadside oddities, wineries and even a place to dig up petrified wood. As you can imagine, I have tons of contacts and story ideas from this well organized, inspiring trip.

It rained a lot, but ended with a gorgeous, sunny couple of days. Here are a bunch of selfies I took during the trip, to take you along with me a bit. Thank you so much to everyone who made it possible for me to take this transformative trip! You will read more details in articles coming soon.


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