New York Travel Festival Breaks Consumer Show Mold

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Bohemian National Hall was the venue for Saturday’s portion of the New York Travel Festival.

I got involved in helping with the promotions for the New York Travel Festival, and I’m glad I did. The inaugural event, held last weekend (April 20 and 21), ushered in travel experts and explorers from New York City and beyond.

Produced by RW Social, this new festival was to redesign the concept of the consumer travel show with an innovative program. Focusing on tech-savvy travelers already seeing the world, the event catered to them by inviting travel media’s elite to share insights and perspectives on why we travel, and how we should.

Attendees came out for the festival’s first day at the Bohemian National Hall on the Upper East Side. Andrew Evans, National Geographic’s Digital Nomad, began the morning with his keynote, “Why Your Bucket List Sucks & I’m Gonna Tell You Why.”

Evans isn’t fond of the idea of bucket lists because they sound as though “we’re setting specific travel goals” and not leaving ourselves open to other potential opportunities.

“If we only travel on our bucket lists, we will never get out of our comfort zone,” he said.

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Andrew Evans, National Geographic’s “Digital Nomad,” talks to a show attendee.

Evans had a similar scenario happen after having to stay in Tennessee when the plane he was on had an emergency landing. The next day, Evans decided to go see Graceland, a place he admitted he never wanted to see at first. After spending a few hours there, and seeing Elvis’ personal items like clothes and learning more about him, Evans said he “gained this deep appreciation for who Elvis was, and I started liking Elvis.”

Evans also changed up his talk to reflect on the recent tragedy in Boston, which fit in understandably, and how travel has been impacted by terror in many ways such as with TSA policies that bewilder us all.

Breakout sessions on niche travel along with local/regional topics highlight specific scenarios for women, families, LGBT, and those seeking other alternatives. Here are some highlights:

–  A great talk on women’s travel, led by Go! Girl Guides Founder Kelly Lewis and Christine Maxfield, a former editor at Budget Travel magazine. The ladies offered common-sense safety measures all girls can take. Here’s one: buy a doorstop to securely lock your hotel door in place.

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From left, Rainer Jenss, Charu Suri and Carol Cain share their advice and experiences on traveling with children.

– Yes, it’s possible to successfully navigate family travel. A session on this topic offered solid proof from speakers that were parents of children ranging in age from months old to teens. They were: Carol Cain, travel writer and blogger of GirlGoneTravel.com; Charu Suri of Butterfly Diary; and Rainer Jenss, founder of Smart Family Travel, Inc. and a 13-year veteran of National Geographic.

– Lee Abbamonte, the youngest American to have visited every country, was a contestant in a travel trivia “show,” and got stumped a bit by the audience. He was a good sport.

– Jason Cochrane, now the soon-to-be the editor of Frommers.com, warned his audience about current travel scams such someone “spilling” mustard on you and shared important tips on how to dodge them.

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AnneLise Sorensen throws travel questions at Lee Abbamonte, and takes some from the audience.

It was also nice to see and listen to bloggers and experts whom I’ve met virtually, through social media, in person. Plus, as travel circles go, I got to catch up with friends and meet fellow writers that I already followed via Twitter or through Facebook Groups.

With a visit to the Mexico tourism area, I enjoyed samplings of authentic dishes provided by the restaurants, El Mitote and Café Frida. Translated as “drowned sandwiches,” tortas ahogadas are a Guadalajara favorite, in which a sandwich is submerged in a sauce made of a dried chili pepper or tomato sauce. Mini tortas and ceviche tostadas were also on the tasting menu.

Beverages were included, with agua fresca (watermelon water) and tastings of several kinds of Mezcal, a liquor made from the heart of the maguey plant, the piña. La comida Mexicana es deliciosa!

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Guests savored flavors from Mexico and New York’s Hudson Valley Saturday afternoon.

With New York State, a “Taste of the Hudson Valley” showcased the culinary and cultural offerings in this attractive region.  Taking up one of the show floors, the area hosted a restaurant grouping of The Artist’s Plate, Madava Farms, Gigi Hudson Valley, and Zitoune. Dishes of pasta, cheese and duck highlighted regional fare. Wine and spirits samplings from Millbrook Vineyards & Winery and soon-to-open Dutch’s Spirits were also offered. And on the first floor, a range of New York beers from Shmaltz Brewing were available to sip.

Sunday’s schedule focused on food with guided tours around NYC’s five boroughs. In all, the inaugural New York Travel Festival was off to a good start. See you next year!

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