My Virtual Life

June 22, 2010 19 Comments »

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?

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