I was so excited to be accepted into the Chicago BlogHouse back in the early spring and the experience that I had turned out to be everything I was looking forward to and more! Not only was I able to meet other bloggers who were passionate about travel and sharing their experiences, but I was also able to network and learn from successful travel bloggers, enjoy some of the amazing experiences that Chicago had to offer, and learn how to improve my blog.
The BlogHouse: Villa d’Citta
Rated as the #1 Bed & Breakfast in Chicago on TripAdvisor and one of the Top Ten Bed and Breakfasts on BedandBreakfast.com, Villa d’Citta certainly does not disappoint. From the moment I stepped in the door of mansion, I was instantly blown away by its beauty. The long winding stairs ascending to the upper floors immediately caught my eye. While exploring the villa, I fell in love with each of the rooms, which have their own personality and charm. I also adored the cute outdoor area in the rear of the house which also had a winding staircase that led up to a patio and a hot tub.
My favorite part of the Villa (besides the wonderful food prepared by manager Cathy and staff and the wine tap in the wall) was my room, the Milan Suite. Not only did the room have a lot of character, but it also had comfortable beds, ample closet space (which is exactly what a girl needs), and a fireplace.
The Expert Bloggers
Navigate Media Group, the hosts of the BlogHouse program, consists of seven expert travel bloggers that have a specialty in one or more areas of expertise. During the Chicago BlogHouse, we had the pleasure of meeting, learning, and socializing with six members of the Navigate Media Group. I really loved that each one of them was really down to earth and willing to share their expertise and advice at any time during the long weekend.
Stephanie Yoder (top left) – Stephanie is the semi-nomadic travel blogger at the website Twenty-Something Travel. She is heavily involved in the travel blogger community and is a founding member of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association.
Ayngelina Brogan (top middle) – Ayngelina is the traveling food blogger at the website Bacon is Magic and currently resides in Toronto, Canada. She has been featured in major publications such as Glamour Paris and Eater.com.
Michael Tieso (top right) -Michael runs the travel blog Art of Adventuring (formerly Art of Backpacking). He is also the co-founder of Travel Blog Success and works as a support technician for Woo Themes.
Lisa Lubin (bottom left) – Lisa is the blogger at the website LLWorldTour. She resides semi-permanently in Chicago and along with being featured in numerous publications, she is a three-time Emmy® Award-winning television writer/producer/editor/video consultant.
Cailin O’Neil (bottom middle) – Cailin is the blogger and vlogger at Travel Yourself. She is a founding member of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association and has been seen on BBC, Matador TV, and HuffPost Travel just to name a few.
Sherry Ott (bottom right) – Sherry is the nomadic travel blogger at Otts World. She has been featured in publications such as the New York Times, CNN.com, and USA Today.
The Lessons & Advice
In four days, we packed in A LOT of learning about how to become better bloggers, how to network, how to use social media, and how to improve our craft. I vigorously took notes during every session to make sure that I did not miss out on any pertinent information.
I learned a lot about how to put more direction and focus into my blog and how to create specific goals. I also learned how to make my workflow more efficient and that I need to become more consistent in my blogging. In addition, I learned how to become more comfortable with self-promotion and what types of information should be on my blog. And the biggest news of all: I decided during to do a whole site re-design and re-branding (more about that in a future post).
Each day there were targeted sessions on different aspects of travel blogging. The first day consisted of general travel blogging tips and we had a ‘how-to’ for WordPress. The second day consisted of learning about the do’s and do not’s of making money as a travel blogger and having a 1-0n-1 site audit with one of the expert bloggers (which was extremely helpful – thanks Stephanie!). We also had some time to work on our sites and to meet with Michael to go over technical aspects of our blog and to delve further into the workings of WordPress.
The following day consisted of how to pitch and work with DMO’s, a miniature photography lesson and photo-walk, and Facebook how-tos. The fourth day consisted of how to use Twitter, a lesson on SEO by guest speaker Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media, how to make better travel videos, how to create media kits, and then a Q&A session with local Chicago bloggers Ted of Traveling Ted, Jen of A Lady Away, and Katie of Katie Aune. The final day we had a wrap-up session and learned about some of the different neighborhoods and places of interest from Lisa, a Chicago local. We said our goodbyes and departed one-by-one to our various destinations.
The Experiences & Excursions
BlogHouse was not solely about learning about how to become a better travel blogger, but it was also about making connections and getting to know each of our fellow bloggers a little bit better.
On the second night at BlogHouse, we had an industry night at Vertigo Sky Lounge where we conversed with owners of various companies and enjoyed the Chicago skyline from the rooftop bar.
The following night were our own captains as we cruised down the Chicago River on an electric boat provided by the Chicago Electric Boat Company. The final night, one of our generous benefactors, Gogo provided us with a dinner at Mercadito.
I have to say that I am truly glad that I participated in BlogHouse and met this wonderful group of people. We all have a wide range of abilities and skills and each of us has a range of blogging experience ranging from a couple of months to a couple of years. Make sure you check out each other blogs and get to know a little bit about them, you won’t regret it!
Make sure you check out each other blogs and get to know a little bit about them, you won’t regret it!
- Francesca Mazurkiewicz – TheWorkingMomsTravels.com
- Anne Lowrey – PartTimeTraveler.com
- Ryan Zieman – RyanZieman.com
- Brad Bernard – MyWanderlist.com
- Susan Schwartz – BestBitsWorldwide.com
- Mindi & Daryl Hirsch – 2foodtrippers.com
- Jenny Marshall – AThingForWords.com
- Nick Huggins – NicksTravelBug.com
- Lindsay Buckley – FrugalFrolicker.com
- Beth Williams – BesudesuAbroad.com
- Amber Hoffman – WithHusbandInTow.com
- Chanel Brown – CulturalXplorer.com (me!)
- Kristin Francis – SouvenirFinder.com
BlogHouse was a great experience where I had the opportunity to meet other travel bloggers and learn how to improve my craft. If you are a travel blogger and you are interested in being considered for a future BlogHouse, you can sign up for the BlogHouse mailing list to be notified of future events.
A huge thank you to Navigate Media Group in conjunction with FlipKey, Gogo,Megabus, and Goose Island for making BlogHouse Chicago possible. Also, a huge thank you to companies who made in-kind donations and provided tips for our stay in Chicago!