Inside My Head

My Virtual Life

19 Comments 22 June 2010

Virtual and Physical Worlds Collide at TBEX!

This week, my virtual life is going to collide with my physical life…and I’m a bit nervous.

Will it be a supernova or a black hole?

What if the physical me isn’t as interesting and likeable as the virtual me?

This weekend in New York City not only will the city be welcoming gay men and women from all over the world for Gay Pride, but Chelsea will also be welcoming Travel Bloggers from all over the world for the 2nd annual Travel Bloggers Exchange Conference (TBEX). I’ve been looking forward to this conference ever since I returned to America in December. In fact, it’s the only thing in 2010 that I have actually planned in my life more than 2 weeks in advance.

I’m excited to go learn more about travel blogging. However since I’ve been doing it for 4 years now…yes it’s been 4 years…I kinda feel like a veteran. I choose the word veteran carefully; I didn’t say that I know everything, because I certainly don’t! But what I’m really excited about is to meet people that I’ve known virtually now for 3 years!

As a blogger, world traveler, and expat; I spend a lot of time online. In fact, I actually studied this one day and came to the conclusion that on an average day, 85% of my interactions in a day (including ones with the bus driver and grocery store clerk) are with people I’ve never physically met. Yet these are all people that I refer to as ‘friends’.

How did I get caught up in this virtual world? Did I take the blue pill and end up in the ‘Online Travel Matrix’ on accident?

My form of communication

No, I did it for sanity. When I quit my job and started traveling all of my friends and family followed along and kept in touch. As my traveling lifestyle has now gone on for 4 years – they’ve lost interest and have a lot of trouble relating to the blogging world which I live in. It’s not corporate, there are no cubes or business deals happening, there are no 401k’s. None of my old existing friends in the corporate retail world can relate to my world now. They may be interested in it – but can’t relate. So when I talk about extended travel, blogging or twitter, they lose interest. That’s completely fine – I don’t blame them.  After all, I’ve kind of lost interest in their world of  9 to 5.

I found when you change careers or direction, you need to surround yourself by people who can relate to your new direction so that you have a peer group. That’s why my interactions are virtual…my peer group is also online scattered throughout all corners of the globe. They understand what my days are like because they are living the same life.

So why am I excited and nervous about meeting my virtual peers?

It’s kind of like online dating, which I did my share of in NYC when I lived there. I wonder if I’m representing myself truthfully. What if they expect me to be funny and they don’t know that many times it takes me a long time to be funny…I often have to sit and think about being funny.  What if they expect me to be smart(er than I am).  After all, I often have to look things up and research them writing them. (truth be told I had to research which pill Neo took to enter the Matrix – I don’t pull this stuff from the top of my head!)  What if they expect me to be younger…then again – I’ve never lied about my age online; yet I’d like to!  What if they expect me to be taller?  I guess I could put on heels if that’s the case.

You get the picture…there are lots of virtual expectations that I’m worried about living up to.

This goes the other way too…what if the people I’ve known for years online and talk to everyday aren’t what I expected? Sometimes it’s nice to simply live behind the cloak of a keyboard and craft your life one keystroke at a time. But the cloak comes off on June 25th – for better or for worse. I’m still super excited about meeting everyone…I just hope I’m what they expected!

Then again, it’s no different than traveling.  You have expectations about a certain country and then you get there and they are blown away – sometimes negatively and sometimes positively.

I guess if the physical me is feeling inferior to the virtual me, I will just have to go down the street and join the gays…they’ll accept me no matter what!

I’m excited about meeting everyone, but some people I’m really, really excited about meeting:
Craig and Linda from the Indie Travel Podcast – I’ve been working with them for 2 ½ yrs now in various capacities – all virtually.
Lisa Lubin of LL World Tour – Our virtual relationship has been short, but I feel like she’s me…our paths are quite similar
Barbara from Hole in the Donut – How I love Barbara and her wonderful writing. I’ve spent hours on skype with her but have never been able to give her a hug!
Anil from Foxnomad – I have a little celebrity complex with Anil. I have so much respect for what he does and the information he puts out on his multiple websites!  He puts out some of my favorite and most useful content in the travel space.
Gary from Everything Everywhere – he’s bigger than life on the internet…so I’m intrigued to what I’ll find in person.
I’m also really excited to meet all of the Meet Plan Go hosts attending TBEX.  I’ve been conversing with them daily in my virtual world: Jeff Jung, Janice Waugh , Sonia Zamborsky, Michael Tieso, and Teresa Gotay.

If you are going to TBEX this week – who are you excited to meet?

Your Comments

19 Comments so far

  1. And believe me – I’m just as anxious to give you a great big hug, too! On countdown now…..

  2. Gray says:

    Great post! I think all of us are feeling this way, Sherry. It’s translated itself on Twitter into fashion angst, but I think it runs deeper than that.

  3. Anis Salvesen says:

    What a wonderful blog post! Your peer group (I think Barbara refers to it as a “tribe”)probably does have certain expectations; but as your friends online, they are inclined to see you and any differences from your online persona in the best light. Still, I can relate to your nervousness about meeting people in real life.

    I met a Norwegian student in grad school in California and only dated him a few months before he had to move back to Norway to finish school. We had a long-distance relationship for a year, and during that time, I was inspired to write him these great emails. He visited me about every six weeks, and every time I waited for him at the airport, I worried that I would not be as he remembered me, not be as interesting or witty as my emails.

    He must have liked the “real” me, because he married me about three-and-a-half years ago. I felt that in written form, I was being my true self; but writing brings out a dimension of my personality and nuances in it that can’t necessarily be perceived in person.

    If you have friends like Barbara Weibel,then you have nothing but pleasant surprises awaiting you. I hope you and your online tribe have a really, really great time at TBEX ’10, as I am certain you will.

    • admin says:

      Anis – what a wonderful story! I could write a whole different post about dating and meeting virtual Mr. Right!
      Thanks for your support!

  4. Stephanie says:

    It IS kind of like internet dating. The nervousness and the perception versus reality thing. Luckily unlike internet dating all the experiences I’ve had meeting travel people in person have been pretty positive so far!

    I know we already met, but looking forward to seeing you again!

  5. Erica says:

    I’ll be sending a virtual hello to everyone at TBEX. I’m so sad that I couldn’t make it this time around – but there is always next year right? 😀

    Have fun! Be safe! And have a million fantastic conversations. 😀

  6. The excitement/nervousness has really hit me yesterday and today. I almost feel like the emotions are kind of like prom or your first dance when you’re younger. Although I’ve met a couple of the people in person who will be there, so many I never have. I’m really stoked about many of the writers and editors there who I consider pioneers in our field and have paved the way for young writers like myself to flourish. If “giddy” was in my vocabulary, it would probably be appropriate for me to use right now :).

  7. Slight correction – your cloak is unveiled today (the 22nd) – as I’ll be meeting you in a couple of hours :)

    It is funny because this is actually a fairly small event for me; I was far more nervous when I walked into one of the big ‘A list’ parties at SXSW back in March. Then I realised, everyone is just like me: rather be hidden behind a coffee and a keyboard, but a normal person otherwise just trying to make their spot in the virtual world.

    So…stop worrying everyone. If someone doesn’t like you? Oh well. I am confident there will be plenty more who will.

  8. James Clark says:

    I’m looking forward to putting faces and voices to avatar names. See you there!

  9. Andrew says:

    What a wonderful blog post Sherry. I have been fortunate to have met you already(at a karaoke bar no less). But I agree with what Andy said in an earlier comment, “If someone doesn’t like you? Oh well. I am confident there will be plenty more who will.” Wise words.

    I kind of got over the whole being nervous about meeting people since many travelers find their way wandering through my city (NYC) on a weekly basis and realized that no matter how nice their site is, no matter what their Alexa rank is and no matter how many friends and followers they have online, at the end of the day they are just human.

    Oh and alcohol…lots and lots of alcohol can also calm your nerves.



  10. So wish I could be there with you all – meeting old (2 year) internet friends and new ones too – sadly it just didn’t work out for me to come all the way from the UK this year, but I really hope it will next year or I heard that Kim was thinking of a European TBEX – that would be perfect although prbably loads of US based bloggers I wouldn’t get to meet in person.

    • admin says:

      I’d love another reason to come to Europe!
      BTW – I will be in Brussels this August…any chance you want to meet up?!

  11. Anil says:

    Sherry, I’m glad you wrote this – I feel the same way! I’m always nervous at first before meeting people in person but at the same time very excited to see so many virtual people in the flesh :) …and thank you so much for the kind words. Hope I’m not too disappointing!!

  12. JoAnna says:

    It’ll be fun! Probably such a blur we’ll all disappear behind our keyboards in a week’s time and have to look at our pictures and notes to remember anything we did or anyone we met.

    See you in a few!

  13. Donna Hull says:

    I’ll be there, too. Looking forward to meeting you.

    • admin says:

      Donna – I keep forgetting you’ll be there…I can’t wait to see you FINALLY in person! My boomer travel writer hero!

  14. bessiejulia says:

    I know 100% what you mean about not connecting with people you used to have a lot in common with. Some family members and friends were jealous and surprised I’d be going to DC & NYC in one week, and have a much harder time relating to the fact we’ve been out of the country 2.5 yrs to places they couldn’t find on a map.

    Looking forward to meeting you @ TBEX – I can’t wait to connect with more people that are travel crazed brains like I am.

    Great post!

  15. Kirsty says:

    I would have loved to have been at TBEX. It sounds like a great group of people were brought together and that a lot of interesting and helpful ideas were shared.

    I sort of feel I sit at the periphery of this travel blogging world, knowing a lot of you just a little bit and wanting to know more! I chalk it up to spending too much time in places with crap net connections or moving around too much or working too much online and off or any other excuse. But I really need to sort myself out and wriggle my way into the wonderful community you guys have all created.

    I agree with you completely about surround yourself with peers who understand your life. So many people I know just don’t get it and are waiting for me to come home. That gets old and it’s nice to have the support of a group of people who are living the same lifestyle.

    Nice post!

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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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Where am I and Where am I going?

Minnesota/Wisconsin -> Nebraska

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