It had been almost two years since I had last been home to Chicago.
While throughout my time in Hong Kong I had contemplated coming home for the one-off holiday or wedding, I just never found a compelling enough reason to pay the expensive prices to come back for only a few short days. I knew it would have to be something really good to get me to go back, something really worthwhile.
This past April I saw that this year’s #BlogHouse was being held in Chicago, and I knew this was a sign to get my butt home. You couldn’t believe how happy I was to see it was being held in June, right when I was hoping to finally get the courage to quit my teaching job to take on travel blogging full-time. It couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. It was fate!
I sent in my application as soon as I could, and just a few weeks later I was excitedly hitting ‘click’ to purchase my flights back home– I had been accepted!
So just what is #BlogHouse? It’s where up and coming bloggers (like me!) spend a few days living with some of the best bloggers in the business trying to cram in all that we can learn about WordPress, improving our content and the dreaded SEO.
Pulling up to the unassuming gates, I nervously walked through the entry. Checking in at the front desk, I peered back into the kitchen and saw all of the pro bloggers sitting at the table. Not knowing where to go or if we were allowed back there yet, I plopped down on the couch next to the desk. I was in awe. Seeing all of the well-known bloggers sitting around the table in the back felt like I had just seen celebrities from across a bustling restaurant.
Just as the nerves started to set in, a familiar face joined me on the couch. It was Amber of Husband in Tow, one of the only newbies I actually knew. Others quickly began gathering around as it was time to start.
Cathy, the keeper of the villa, introduced us to her staff and gave us a great introduction to Villa D’Citta, which would be our awesome home for the next few days thanks to FlipKey. She told us our room assignments and handed us the keys before showing everyone personally to their rooms.
It was gorgeous.
Somehow I lucked out and was the only person who didn’t have to share their room… and I was staying in the owner’s private quarter.
Called “Caesar’s Lair”, the room was filled with classic Roman elements. It had a luxurious queen bed, a wet bar, and even a fireplace. Look at how lush this room was!
Later I fortunately got to take a peek at a few other rooms, which looked just as nice. Even the common areas like the kitchen and terrace were well thought out. Each morning and each time we went out we were continually returning home to freshly prepared desserts from Cathy. And did I mention that we had a winetap? Because we did. Built right into the wall.
I never would have guessed that such a place existed right in my own city.
Unfortunately we only had a few minutes to settle in. Back upstairs we jumped right in to the seminars with Travel Blogging 101. From there we learned about Facebook (for haters) and monetization and press trips.
Lisa help professionalize everyone by discussing media kits, Sherry took everyone on a photo walk through nearby Oz Park, Stephanie taught us the dos and donts of Twitter, and Cailin got everything thinking about branching out to video. We took notes, we asked questions, and we all chased after Michael when we needed tech help.
Ayngelina took me under her wing and gave me great one-on-one mentoring. With her I was able to implement changes in my blog design that instantly made a difference and figure out my business plan. It was exactly what I needed.
But there was more to the weekend than pouring over powerpoint slides, sending out tweets and photographing everything before we ate it– we actually got to get out an explore Chicago.
I was so excited for everyone to see my city, especially since for many, this was their first time visiting. We had delicious Mexican food, a cuisine I’ve long been craving after living in Asia for two years, at Mercadito thanks to Gogo.
We had almost too much fun with driving electric boats down the Chicago River blasting music and getting nearly attacked by goose-ducks. And we even got to put some of our newly acquired skills to the test at an industry night hosted at Vertigo Sky Lounge. Not to mention the fun we had back at the villa with the free-flowing winetap and never-ending supply of Goose Island.
Since I’ve been away these past few weeks in Europe, I haven’t had the chance to implement everything I’ve learned at #BlogHouse. But as soon as I return later this month, I am so ready to sit down and get to work. I couldn’t be more excited for what the future holds and turning this little blog of mine into my career.
I think the best part about #BlogHouse was just all the connections I made. Creating that support group.
It was like the same inspiration I found when I met a bunch of travelers in Kuala Lumpur that made me want to keep traveling, only this time, it was like tenfold. Never have I spent so much time with so many like-minded people. It was great to just talk, laugh, and be ourselves with no one judging our lifestyle or career choices.
So to all the pros and newbies from #BlogHouse Chicago, THANK YOU for making this experience awesome and inspiring. I can’t wait to see where everyone ends up, and to see everyone again.
#BlogHouse All-Stars? Let’s make it happen!
Check out all the other up and coming bloggers from #BlogHouse Chicago:
Jenny Marshall >> A Thing for Wor(l)ds
Amber Hoffman >> With Husband in Tow
Chanel Brown >> CulturalXplorer
Ryan Zieman >> RyanZieman.com
Kristin Francis >> Souvenir Finder
Susan Schwartz >> Best Bits Worldwide
Anne Lowrey >> Part Time Traveler
Nick Huggins >> Nick’s Travel Bug
Lindsay Buckley >> Frugal Frolicker
Brad Bernard >> My Wanderlist
Mindi & Daryl Hirsch >> 2 Food Trippers
Francesca Mazurkiewicz >> The Working Mom Travels
If you’re interested in attending future Bloghouses, get on the mailing list here!