Doing Cardiff like a blogger

This past weekend, I attended Traverse Events travel bloggers conference, held at Cardiff City Stadium. As a very amateur blogger, mostly just read by friends and family, but as someone who loves to share my travel experiences, it seemed like a great opportunity. An opportunity to get better what I do and an opportunity to grow my readership. The conference really did deliver; it was inspiring, informative and very well put together.

Now I’ll admit, I didn’t take full advantage of what was on offer, as I felt a little shy being at an event where I knew no one, and bypassed the parties on the Friday and Saturday nights. But throughout the event there were networking opportunities. I met some brilliant bloggers, many of whom make a living from it and others who had won awards. There was a wide range of content as well, from luxury travel blogs to a blog about travelling with an illness to blogs about fashion and beauty with travel. I had a lot of conversations about travel (as it was a love we all shared) and accumulated an excellent collection of business cards which I have sat down with and trawled through websites, Twitter accounts and Instagram feeds, to expose myself to as many blog styles as I can find, and see what I can learn from. I was slightly reticent to share my blog with other attendees, as it’s not up to the standard I want yet, but when I did, the feedback was really positive. It’s hard to get used to self-promotion though; I’m in the business of promoting charities which seems like a much easier sell. But I know I’ll be better at selling my blog when I have more content. Well, good thing I have two mini breaks planned!

So the main reason I attended the conference was for the talks, to learn about how the pros do it. The first one I attended was about improving writing skills, which is useful for my job and my life as well as my blog. The session gave me some really useful tips, like not overusing adjectives and adverbs and instead finding verbs that served the same purpose. And to spend as much time editing as you do writing. This is a big one for me, especially when I’m blogging mid-travels as I cram my days full of activities, and when it comes time to write about it, I’m often exhausted and rush the editing.

The second session I chose was on YouTube and running a channel. I would actually love to make travel videos for YouTube and have lots of ideas for content, but zero skills (or interest) when it comes to editing. But the speakers were very motivational and I may give this more thought. Watch this space!

I attended a session on working with PR companies, which is a long way off for me, but fascinating to hear about how it all works. Through PRs, bloggers often get sent to particular hotels or locations for free, so they can review those destinations. There was a representative from a PR company explaining what they look for in a blogger’s application as well as a luxury blogger who had been sent on many press trips.

The final talk I attended was about using Instagram, which again, was pitched at a much higher level as it was focussed around brand deals and how to make money on Instagram. But again, a great insight into that world, and something I’m interested in as I love Instagram as a means of sharing experiences.

The conference also hosted lots of industry names, such as Skyscanner, Expedia and Icelolly. They were running competitions, and though I was gutted not to win the free flights to Yangon, the Cathay Pacific stand furthered my resolve to go to Myanmar while it is still relatively unspoiled. There was a new company promoting called Surprise Trips, where you pay a certain amount and they book you a mini break somewhere in Europe, but you don’t find out the destination until 2 hours before the flight. A genius idea I think!

Aside from the conference itself, Cardiff provided a delightful weekend. I stayed in a quaint hostel called Riverhouse Backpackers, which was just across the water from the Principality Stadium and a few minutes from the train station. It’s on a residential street and is a converted house, with small, clean dorms. There were plenty of individual bathrooms so no queuing for the shower, and plenty of communal spaces. There is a decent kitchen so guests can prepare their own meals to save money. The free breakfast wasn’t bad at all – while it was the expected toast and cereal, there was a quality selection of breads and spreads and even almond milk (perfect for this vegan!) to go on the cereals. Fresh fruit, a range of juices and tea and coffee topped it off. The staff were so friendly and helpful and the rates not bad at all for the UK. I paid £20 a night for a bed in a 4 bed dorm, and got to share with some lively Americans. I would highly recommend Riverhouse Backpackers as a budget place to stay in Cardiff.

I was watching the pennies (as I need to be saving for more travels!) but thought I’d treat myself to one nice meal in Cardiff. I found a vegetarian restaurant called Milgi online that looked perfectly attuned to my tastes. It was a trek across town to get there as it wasn’t in the main areas, but oh so worth it. It immediately impressed me with its laid back, hippie style decor – colourful tiles at the bar, communal sofas and toilets with decoupaged walls and cinema seats in the cubicles. The restaurant area was full so I sat in the bar, enjoying my solitude while Cardiff was gearing itself up for a Saturday night. The menu was varied culturally and had plenty of vegan options. I did well with my food choices – starter was a Peruvian plate with quinoa cakes, avocado, sweet potato, beetroot and a garlicky pesto. It was a collection of good, fresh, simple ingredients but so well put together, and possibly one of the most satisfying vegan dishes I have had in a restaurant. The main course wasn’t quite in the same league, but still very good. It was an Indian spiced burger, made with potato and spinach and loaded with pickles (in my world pickles really are the pinnacle of a burger) and served with a tangy coleslaw. All washed down with a margarita which made for a special evening with my book. Walking back to my hostel across town, I did feel a little unsafe. Now I don’t know the crime rates in Cardiff, but I think the unease was more down to a lack of people than any actual threat. In London, I’m used to the streets being busy at all hours.

On the Sunday, Traverse Events had sorted out a range of activities for conference goers, in partnership with Visit Wales. I was supposed to be white water rafting, but as I had forgotten my swimsuit, I had to skip it. I wandered round the city, saw the castle and some parks, then set up camp in a local cafe, Coffee #1, sitting with my Italy guidebook and planning what to do in Rome next month with my dad, while I waited for my train home.

The weekend left me eager to travel more (of course), hungry to blog more frequently with better quality, keen to visit more UK locations and inspired to get involved in more bloggers events. I’d highly recommend Traverse to any blogger, new or old and I look forward to the next one!