Life at the #BlogHouse: serious intimidation in Besalu, Spain


I’ve had a curious experience recently.


About a month ago, I saw a notice on one of my favorite blogs that a group of five prominent travel bloggers were renting out a villa in Besalu, Spain, in preparation for TBEX 2012. Their aim was to invite ten less experienced bloggers to stay for a few days at the villa and use the time as a learning experience, both from them and from each other.

To say I was stoked is an understatement. The group of bloggers organizing the house were all those I’d either read before or been reading for a while, and this was a chance to both meet and learn from them. As such, I found myself cutting my time in Russia short in order to attend both the blog house and TBEX itself.

But, I have to be honest. When I started booking my tickets and changing my plans – even despite how exciting the idea of the blog house was – I started to feel incredibly apprehensive. I was worried that going to Spain would be a waste of money, that I wasn’t prepared for TBEX, and that I was missing out on time with my friends on the Trans-Siberian.

None of those was my biggest concern, however.

The biggest concern was that I felt intimated.

Massively intimidated.

And once at the bloghouse, that didn’t go away.

First off, the villa itself was way out of my league.

We stayed at Casa Marcial from Charming Villas, an absolutely gorgeous residence of soft light and clean lines, with space for 26 people, conference rooms, a lawn and pool, views over the Pyrenees and remains of a 12th century church on the grounds. We had a private chef cooking for us the first night, four-course meals the next, and PR reps and DMOs routinely visiting for cocktail parties.

It was pimp. And a seriously far cry from the grungy hostel atmosphere I usually find myself in.


Secondly, it felt like everyone else had their shit together infinitely more than I did. It seemed that all the other bloggers in the group had neatly designed websites, large Facebook followings, an ability to use Twitter, and even business cards.

Business cards!

All this added up to make me feel like the littlest fish in the biggest pond.


That first day, I was worried. Was I really up to all this? Did I really belong with this group of people who were taking their work so seriously, so professionally, and so passionately? Wasn’t my blog just for fun – just for me?

But then, something shifted.


That first night, once the bags were away and the cava was out, the group of us got together in the dining room to start the house. One by one, the hosts took the floor and addressed the group for the first time. They didn’t tell us to prepare for TBEX, or to what to expect from the conference, but rather focused on the purpose of the blog house.

Our group had been invited there because of what each blogger had to offer – whether writing or editing or photography or videos – and because the organizers – who were now full-time writers or editors or photographers or videographers – believed we could make something of it. They believed in talent and focus and hard work, and believed that with them we could move blogging to another level. That we could use our blogs to start careers. That we could actually Take It Seriously.

Take it seriously? But isn’t blogging just a hobby?

The more each host talked and addressed the group, however, the more I began to realize that our ‘hobbies’ could be more than what I assumed. While some of us may start blogs just for friends and family, they are still creative outlets, whether in storytelling or picture taking or video editing. They don’t have to just be frivolous. They can actually be a way to share stories and adventures with a wider audience, to better a craft and – with enough hard work – to make a lifestyle of doing so.

In fact, here was a group who had built careers out of their blogs, because all of the time and energy spent on them make them not a pastime, but a passion.

So we were here to stop thinking of our blogs just as pastimes, or pure fun. To start recognizing them as creative outlets, talents, and skills. To learn how to take better pictures, write better stories, reach further networks. To start using them to build businesses and personal brands. To start Taking It Seriously.

Here was a group of professionals who had already done it, and now it was our turn.

That was when my intimidation started lessening, and I started to feel inspired.

And so, we raised our glasses in a toast.

What followed next was two and a half whirlwind days of learning, in which so much information was being thrown at us that I never wanted to leave the room (even to pee!) for fear of missing something important. We talked SEO, Facebook, WordPress, Instagram, audience building, story editing, Twitter talks, and press trips. We worked harder than some of us (err, that means me) have in a long time. We spent the days cooped up inside hovering over laptops, gathered around tables, and absorbed in mobile devices. Even at night, mired in seemingly endless bottles of wine and dance parties to bad pop, we schmoozed and talked and somehow still managed to work.

We barely had time to get outside and see the adorable Spanish medieval town, Besalu, because we were being so productive. Headachingly productive.

And when it finally came to an end, and we headed to Girona to prepare for TBEX, I realized that the intimidation I felt – and still, deeply, feel – was vital. When faced with an opportunity, intimidation may be terrifying, but it reminds you that whatever you’re aiming for has real importance.

When you feel like a fish out of water, you’re being told to jump into a bigger pond.

So, while I can only hope to actually put the immensity of what I learned into action, and to one day have even a modicum of the success in writing or photography that our bloghouse hosts have, I can’t promise that I will.

I can’t promise that I really will make something of writing or photography, that I will create a business from these creative pursuits, that I will build a personal brand. That depends on me, and how hard I work.

But, I can say that I’ve finally begun to Take It Seriously.

Photography and writing have always been my passions, and this site represents a culmination of the two. After seeing others who feel the same about their blogs at TBEX – and who have turned their passion into a lifestyle – I’ve made the choice to attend WTM in London in November to go even further down this rabbit hole of travel writing, freelancing, photographing and hustling.

My time at the blog house, in the end, was crazy inspiring not only because we were around people who are so enamored with what they do, but who also equally believed in what we do. We were around people who knew they had something to offer, turned their passions into a lifestyle, and felt we could do the same.

It was, to say the least, revealing and inspiring and completely game-changing.

I only hope that I can rise to the challenge of working equally as hard myself.

In the meantime, I can at least raise another glass in a toast.

(An unending torrent of gratitude and thanks to the hosts of the blog house – Cailin, Stephanie, Mike, Kate (who took the above photo) and Michael – for organizing such an unbelievable experience, and special thanks to the other participants – Erin, Brett, Flora, Victoria, Liz, Emma, Jennifer, Ed, and Cole – for making it one. When’s the reunion?! ;)

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48 Responses to Life at the #BlogHouse: serious intimidation in Besalu, Spain

  1. Ellie 11 October, 2012 at 17:28 #

    your amazing Naomi, what an awesome experience and opportunity this is! Congrats, I am so happy your doing such amazing things (and a bit jealous too!) Keep it up, I will always be one of your biggest fans :)

    • na-o-mi 12 October, 2012 at 17:48 #

      Awww, likewise pretty lady! Cannot WAIT to hang out in Thailand!! xx

  2. ryan 11 October, 2012 at 17:55 #

    Good post Naomi. Remember even the most sucessful people started where ypubare. Theynwere intimidated and pushed their comfort zones. The important thing as you said tis to take it seroously. Keep fueling your passion, make connections, push your comfort zone and ypu will succeed.

    • na-o-mi 12 October, 2012 at 17:48 #

      Thanks buddy :) When are you coming to these conferences, hunh?! ;)

  3. ryan 11 October, 2012 at 17:56 #

    Sorry for the typos. I am typing on my phone and i can’t see the comment box field lol.

  4. Michael 12 October, 2012 at 08:14 #

    Those are some incredible pictures!

    So glad you got so much out of the blog house. It was great meeting you and we’re really happy to have invited you.

    We’ll need to do a reunion. :)

    • na-o-mi 12 October, 2012 at 17:47 #

      FO SERIOUS! Next TBEX Europe? ;)

  5. Cailin 12 October, 2012 at 09:28 #

    Love the photos! You are a sneaky photographer, didnt even realize you got me at the table at that restaurant! haha I’m glad you enjoyed the house and felt like you really learned from it and were truly inspired! :)

    • na-o-mi 12 October, 2012 at 17:47 #

      I’m stealth ;) I’m glad you guys even thought this concept up!! Cheers to you guys!!

  6. Ayngelina 12 October, 2012 at 09:46 #

    It sounds like you really learned so much and that is great to hear. Honestly everyone has their moment blogging where they feel intimidated but the more you meet people you realize there’s no need to feel that way. The first blogger I met was The Jungle Princess, in Nicaragua and I was so nervous to meet Abby -2 years later it feels so silly as we are good friends.

    • na-o-mi 12 October, 2012 at 17:45 #

      True that – meeting so many people at TBEX definitely made things a little less intimidating!

  7. Victoria 12 October, 2012 at 12:51 #

    With words and photos like that, you definitely don’t need to feel intimidated! Awesome meeting you Naomi. Looking forward to next time :) x

    • na-o-mi 12 October, 2012 at 17:44 #

      Me too – maybe in Central America?! xx

  8. Jennifer 12 October, 2012 at 19:33 #

    It was great to meet you at the blog house, Naomi! You were a very good roomie! And I think we were all feeling intimidated. I know I sure was! Thanks for being brave to come out and say it!

    • na-o-mi 15 October, 2012 at 01:17 #

      Back atcha!! Glad I wasn’t the only one feeling intimidated, ha ;)

  9. Andrea 12 October, 2012 at 23:55 #

    Glad to hear you found it so useful as I was curious as to how it was going to turn out. Love your photos of Besalu! I was there earlier this year and stayed in the same villa as you. It’s a really beautiful town. :)

    • na-o-mi 15 October, 2012 at 01:18 #

      Isn’t it so cute?! I wish we’d had more time to explore but…there was wayyyyy too much happening at the house!!

  10. Alli Campbell 13 October, 2012 at 01:02 #

    This looks so exciting, and SO intimidating haha!! Such a great opportunity and an acknowledgement of your amazing words and photographs, keep up the good work girl :)

    • na-o-mi 15 October, 2012 at 01:18 #

      Definitely a great opportunity – despite my original misgivings, I wouldn’t trade participating in this for the world!

  11. Dalene 13 October, 2012 at 02:24 #

    You have a gift with words Naomi, add that to all your *sneaky* photography skills (HA!) plus what you learned, and you could make a real go of it. So glad you had such a great experience there!

    • na-o-mi 15 October, 2012 at 01:19 #

      Aw, thank you greatly Dalene :)

  12. Rika | Cubicle Throwdown 14 October, 2012 at 10:21 #

    What an amazing experience – I’m so jealous! It looked like a beautiful place to be working and learning. Your photographs capture a lot of essence as well. You have no need to feel intimidated!

    • na-o-mi 15 October, 2012 at 01:20 #

      The atmosphere definitely helped – and all the booze keeping us inside ;) Thank you Rika!! :)

  13. Sherry Ott 15 October, 2012 at 12:44 #

    sometimes all we need is to find our ‘people’…people who will understand us, push us, and be our cheerleaders. So happy you found yours!

    • na-o-mi 15 October, 2012 at 16:38 #

      Too true! Thanks Sherry!

  14. Eunsuk Kim 15 October, 2012 at 17:05 #

    Hey lady!!! You are doing well!! good job!!^^ You had such a great oppportunity to learn that you like!! :) KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! Miss ya!!

    • na-o-mi 17 October, 2012 at 16:59 #

      That it was. Thank you my love!! ^^~

  15. Katherine 18 October, 2012 at 04:15 #

    Hi Naomi! I’m a first-time reader of your blog (saw your comment on Ivory Pomogranate) and just stumbled across this post from your main page. WOW! What a beautiful and inspiring post!! I had no idea that events like this existed but you made me feel like I was there experiencing it with all of you. Good for you for having the courage to do it and the skills to document it!

    • na-o-mi 18 October, 2012 at 16:19 #

      Wow, thank you Katherine! To be honest, I felt my stomach drop when I got the acceptance e-mail; it was so intimidating…but now I seriously can’t imagine not having gone!

  16. Sue Reddel 18 October, 2012 at 08:21 #

    Naomi you rock! I love this post. It’s so bold and unexpected. I am now a fan and wish you continued success. BTW your photos are outstanding. Don’t stop learning and being yourself – you are awesome.

    • na-o-mi 18 October, 2012 at 16:25 #

      Sue…thank you so much for your kind words!! Hearing that is definitely encouraging :)

  17. Liz 18 October, 2012 at 09:36 #

    Glad I wasn’t the only one in the intimidation boat!

    Seriously had a great time with you and I enjoyed our walk around town!

    I can’t wait to see where we all end up and I look forward to your posts!!!

    • na-o-mi 18 October, 2012 at 16:26 #

      YOU TOO?! Oh man, am I glad I wasn’t the only one. Everyone else seemed so chill, while I was secretly freaking out all day long, ha! ;)

      I can’t wait either! Someday we’ll all be in the same country again!! xx

  18. Ed 18 October, 2012 at 12:08 #

    If you were intimated you certainly fooled me! Amazing photos and excellent post Naomi!

    • na-o-mi 18 October, 2012 at 16:28 #

      Thanks Ed – coming from you, that means a lot! Your photography totally blows mine out of the water ;)

  19. Doreen Pendgracs 21 October, 2012 at 05:32 #

    Hi Naomi! I’m in the BHB group on LI and saw your post there.

    How exciting for you to be merging your blogging and travel hobbies into a career goal!

    I’ve been freelance writing for nearly 20 years and am writing a book about the best chocolate adventures of the world. I hope you’ll drop into my chocolate travel blog and take a look.

    Maybe we’ll meet next June at TBEX in Toronto. I’m already booked to be there. Transitioning from journalism to blogging has been an interesting experience for me, but I love it! Blogging is way more fun.

    • na-o-mi 21 October, 2012 at 15:04 #

      CHOCOLATE?! Oh god…my Achilles heel ;) Nice to meet you!

  20. Robyn 2 December, 2012 at 05:21 #

    Found this very inspiring. Have been blogging since 2008 but only just got into it seriously. Didn’t realise that there are conferences about them tho.

    I was in Girona, Spain last year in october, Beautiful place. Sometimes I get annoyed I live so far away in New Zealand.

    • na-o-mi 2 December, 2012 at 17:16 #

      Isn’t it crazy? There are so MANY conferences, too! Come by the next one, if you’re in the area ;)

      • Robyn 2 December, 2012 at 17:20 #

        When and where is the next one? I’ll be in Europe again 16 April to 1 june 213 :)

        • na-o-mi 3 December, 2012 at 15:53 #

          Hmm…not sure about the blog house, but if you Google TBEX and TBU, they should have the dates for their next conferences up soon! I think they host one in North America and one in Europe each year :)

  21. Greg Goodman 9 December, 2012 at 12:11 #

    What a great recap and a fascinating look into the blog house, which so many of us have heard about and just wondered about :)

    • na-o-mi 9 December, 2012 at 14:56 #

      Glad to hear the word is spreading – I know they’re planning more and it’s a great opportunity!

  22. Esther 25 January, 2013 at 23:20 #

    OMG, sooo jealous. I’m starting a new blog and tour company and I feel so small… I will love to meet more people with similar trajectories and more experienced than me… hopefully one day :)

    Ciao!

    • na-o-mi 27 January, 2013 at 12:39 #

      If you’re based in Europe, it’s going to be quite easy! Check out the European conferences like TBEX and TBU…great networking opportunities!! Good luck :)

  23. Jenny Marshall 2 May, 2014 at 22:02 #

    I’ve just been stalking BlogHouse “graduates” and their posts on how it went because I’ll be attending this next one in June, and just wanted to say THANK YOU for expressing my ever fear about it!! I love blogging but I have approximately 30 Twitter followers, can’t for the life of me figure out how to fully set up my new domain and site, hardly know what SEO means, etc…..in short, no idea what I’m doing, haha. Just love to write. But I feel better reading that other people experienced the same intimidation—thanks for the confidence boost!!

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