I’ve spent a lot of time away from home over the past decade. Seeing a lot of far-away, different places. I would get home and see family and friends then plan where to go next. I was always looking to go somewhere exciting. Truthfully, I would get sick of the same old places at home and long for something new.
It took a travel conference to change the way I see Newcastle and Gateshead. Traverse came to my hometown at the end of February and a large group of travel bloggers, equipped with cameras and a sense of adventure, helped me find that lost love.
Looking up at the Angel of the North, nestled on a hillside near my hometown, I realised how little I actually take in when living back at home. I take for granted the beautiful (occasionally stormy!) countryside and the wonderful listed buildings and world renowned bridges. In Sydney, I loved being around The Rocks and Sydney Harbour Bridge and I would take loads of photos not realising the resonance with my hometown. Back in Newcastle, I don’t generally bat an eyelid at the beautiful bridges and historic buildings but with the crowd of travel bloggers exploring and tweeting, I actually opened my eyes.
The setting for the conference was pretty perfect. We had a networking event on the Friday night at the beautiful Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art overlooking the quayside. The full day of workshops with sponsors and travel bloggers was held at the iconic Sage Gateshead. That first night, hearing the comments from people who had never been to Newcastle and Gateshead, really made me feel proud of where I come from. Everyone spoke about how friendly people are up here in the North East and how stunning the riverside location is, looking out to the Millennium Bridge. I was asked a lot of questions when other bloggers found out I was a local. Pointing out landmarks and describing great local places, I began to feel quite excited about this place I thought I knew so well.
The next day I arrived in Newcastle early by bus, which crossed the Tyne Bridge, and saw the morning light glistening across the river and reflecting on the glass of the prominent buildings. It really is a beautiful place! Walking through Grainger Town, I looked up at the Georgian architecture. So well preserved, full of history and part of my family’s heritage. The Theatre Royal stands magnificent and elegant, with striking pillars and neoclassic adornments. I would usually walk past and not even glance, but that morning I stopped for a few seconds and really took it all in. Getting to the Sage Gateshead and looking out at the view, I decided to take a photo. Its not often that you can see the same thing with different eyes and it felt special again.
Our day flew by with competitions, meeting people in the industry and other bloggers as well as taking down pages of notes of advice from the experts. I would recommend this conference to anyone. It was a relaxed and supportive atmosphere. I came knowing nobody and feeling unsure of blogging and where to go with it, and left with a head full of ideas and a pocket full of business cards and contacts. The after party that night was brilliantly hosted by Expedia and took place at As You Like It in Jesmond, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. The good old Geordie nightlife did not let us down and most people danced the night away until the early hours.
I learnt a lot about social media and SEO (a term I’d rarely come into contact with before) and also just meeting people who love the same things I do, helped me learn a lot about myself. I learnt that you can fall in love with your hometown all over again after being away and appreciate the sights you see and people you meet as if it was a new and different place. I’ll definitely be doing more posts in the future on this incredible region of the UK.