I’m back in Europe you guys!
It’s a little sad ‘cos Asia is one of my favourite continents, but still, it’s good to be back home.
I’ve just returned from that most exotic of continents – Asia – and to a region unfamiliar to travellers and visitors – the Philippines!
As you know, I had originally planned to go to the European conference in Sweden, but a window opened up. That window was the fact that I’m taking up a new job!
Now you all know that I work for a British / American company as a corporate trainer, but from November 2016, I’ll be working for a German company as the Vice-School Principal. And get this.
I’ll be responsible for their English-speaking business and their Social Media Management too!
It’s a small business and will be focused on international languages. The company is called LOGO Sprachenschule, and is based in my gentrified hipster neighbourhood of Prenzlauerberg. In the best place in the world – Berlin!
As usual, I’m an advocate for smart travelling, so I’m not quitting either my travels or my job anytime soon, thanks very much!
Well, TBEX is the holy grail of the travel blogging world and stands for Travel Blog Exchange.
It’s the world’s largest conference and networking event for travel bloggers, writers, online travel journalists, new media content creators, travel brands and social-media-savvy travel industry professionals. There are three (3) conferences held annually in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific, attracting 600-1000 delegates from all over the world!
It’s also a medium for the creative minds of the travel industry to come together, to network, to learn, to negotiate with the travel industry, and for those who are so inclined, to take the business of blogging to the next level.
Last year, I went to the TBEX conference for the very first time.
But this year. It was marvellous!
Every year, TBEX partners with fantastic destinations so that bloggers and media people get the opportunity to meet potential business partners or sponsors, meet influential bloggers, get new strategies and tips, network with each other, discover new destinations, share a new experience and well, be entertained and paaaaaaaarty like it’s 1999!
And party we did!
Most importantly, TBEX affords participants the opportunity to experience the destination hosted by the country itself!
You see, going to TBEX doesn’t only mean the conference weekend but actually a few days of serious jollification and pre-tours before the conference, and a week of a bit of a jolly, after the conference! In fact, even though the conference officially took place from October 13th – October 16th, many people arrived early, and some people are still in the Philippines NOW – Living the life of Riley!
Last year, I wished it had been me.
And this year it was!
Yes, your favourite blogger – The British Berliner – was invited to participate in the TBEX 2016 Asia-Pacific – The Visayan Charms – Cebu/Bohol – Familiarization (FAM) Tour in the Philippines.
I was ecstatic!
Out of hundreds of other bloggers!
A PRESS TRIP is normally described as a visit to a destination, country, city, hotel, venue etc, organised for media groups. It usually introduces and presents the best bits of a particular itinerary and is usually for a small group of journalists or bloggers, or an organised private trip. Although a press trip could be for a few hours, it usually refers to a trip of a few days.
A familiarization trip, or FAM TRIP as it is better known, is similar to a press trip however, it usually includes a visit to a number of sights, venues, activities, accommodations, or restaurant spots, in one area or region. It is typically organised for travel industry professionals, to give them a better understanding of the regions and products they are trying to sell to their clients. Lots of different activities are included so that as much as possible can be experienced. Sometimes journalists might attend a FAM TRIP too.
In both instances your costs will usually be covered, though this will vary depending on the organiser.
In this case, I made my own way to the Philippines and paid for the conference fee and my own hotel costs while at the TBEX conference (4 days) in Manila, which was where our FAM trip week was to start.
Once the FAM trip started, we didn’t have to pay for a single thing!
Of course, if you suddenly fancied a spot of your finest whisky monsieur. That was a hefty bill, and all on you!
Well, my big break came just five (5) months after I started writing as a blogger. And to be quite frank, I have been extremely lucky to be at the right place, at the right time. In 2014, I happened to be at the Sony Centre in Berlin where I got chatting to a PR person who promised to put me on the guest list of the Berlin Music Video Awards. She did, and even though, I never saw her again, my pro-active activity coupled with an outgoing personality, and a genuine interest to get involved, opened the door to being invited into the VIP section, a glimpse into the media world, and a whole host of people who had a friendly eye, and were willing to help me in my quest for knowledge and information.
People really like my personality, so I’ve often been an invited guest of city-destinations in which trips have been organised and customised to my own personal requirements. This is the best type of press trip to have, so I consider myself extremely lucky and very honoured.
However, I’ve only ever been on a group FAM trip once before, and that FAM trip was to France!
You can imagine my anxiety ‘cos I was the only British person there, and the only blogger!
This was only slightly different ‘cos not only was I the only British person in my group, I was the lone European too!
The point of this FAM trip was to introduce the region as not only an interesting place to visit, but a historical cultural one too. A destination that would hit all the right spots for someone like me. And ultimately, someone like you!
This FAM trip was a five (5) day exploration starting from Sunday night and finishing mid-Friday evening.
I didn’t have any information as to who was going to be there and what type of bloggers would be attending.
You tend to get a little anxious that you’re going to be too shy, people aren’t going to like you, you’re not going to like them, you end up being that blogger, or that you’re going to be completely out of your depth and thus, comfort zone.
Yes, I know.
Silly isn’t it, but there you have it!
As I said earlier, I didn’t know who would be there except for one person – a crazy young American foodie blogger called Nathan Aguilera – Foodie Flashpacker.
I was so relieved to see him, and hung out with him quite a bit. I hope I didn’t stalk him too much but I don’t think so, as I ended up giving him my hotel room for free!
The Host was the Tourism Promotions Board Philippines. They were highly organised and thoroughly fantastic.
I’ve been on a FAM trip with the Germans. I should know!
On this FAM trip we were expected to be doing the following:
NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS: 10
DEPARTURE: October 17th
RETURN: October 21st
Cruise the river of Loboc, view the mountain trails of kisses of the Philippines known as the Chocolate Hills and do a selfie with a tarsier. Explore Bohol’s eastern side with the island’s long stretches of white sand beaches and pristine waters. Discover Lamanoc Island known for its mysticism.
Have a taste of “lechon – the best (roast) pig ever” according to Anthony Bourdain. Walk along the streets of Colon, the oldest street in the Philippines. Explore the city’s rich past with a visit to its historical landmarks such as the Magellan’s Cross, Basilica de Santo Nino, one of the country’s oldest relics. As a major trading port and site for some of the nation’s fastest-growing industries, it reinforces its multiculturalism with progression. This heady mix of urban vibes and casual provincial airs makes it a favorite destination of those seeking a showcase of the harmonious co-existence of history, culture and modernity.
ATTIRE: Light casual clothes with comfortable sandals for walking and beachwear
THEME: Nature and Culture
DESTINATION: Central Visayas Region – Cebu and Bohol
It was a pretty packed programme, but awesome!
As I write this, it’s October 30th, and so much has happened since then.
Due to the very hot weather, the over-indulgence of wonderful food, a few sneaky gulps of whisky, and the intensity of foreign travel in a developing country, I ended up with the trots!
For the non-British people among you, I mean Delhi-belly.
Still don’t get it?
It had to happen.
Thankfully, our FAM trip had already ended when I was struck down.
And luckily, I was in the nice Belmont Hotel when it happened too!
Otherwise, it could have been rather.
The staff of the Tourism Promotions Board Philippines (Maria Gracia, Grace, Mary Ann, Trixie and Zyrah), were warm, welcoming, funny, and professional. They made sure that we were well-looked after, nobody got lost or forgot anything (except for me. I lost my MAC lipstick)! Nobody got bitten / attacked by strange creatures of the sea, and nobody got left behind or ostracised.
In fact, we all got on extremely well!
There were huge moments of laughter, hugging, leaping, jumping, screaming, but most importantly, lots of smiling, laughing, and learning from each other.
On quite a few nights, there were some on-the-spot-learning workshops, the sharing of tips, links, talents, and skills, and the promise of future collaboration / partnership.
In fact, I might even have got myself a new employee for my brand – The British Berliner – and once it’s all confirmed, I’ll let you know who it is, and why!
We were a small group of just nine (9) bloggers (including myself) from five (5) international countries:
Nathan Aguilera – America
Ruchika Shankar – India
Charlotte Anne de Peralta – Philippines
Ajay Sood – India
Jonathan Espiña – Philippines
Scott Herder – USA
Megan Indoe – USA
Karl-Philip Vallée – Canada
Victoria Ade-Genschow – England / Germany (me)
Our job for that week was to visit and see the region for ourselves and hopefully, discover the many interests and joys of Manila, Bohol and Cebu, so that other travellers and visitors are encouraged to come and visit themselves.
And we did!
This article is not sponsored and even though I was invited on this trip as a guest of the Tourism Promotions Board Philippines and as a member of TBEX, all opinions and the tasty famous suckling pig, and beautiful landscape that I saw, are my very own!
In November, I’ll be travelling to Austria and starting a new job!
Save the Date!
October is going to be out of this world!
Watch this space!
Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.
I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond, WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!
Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!
A win-win for all!
Thanks a million!
See you in Berlin.
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