Photo: Scott Sporleder

On Jan. 17th, Matador Network and Hostelling International invited 175 of their closest friends for a travel storytelling workshop and epic party. Here’s how it went down.
The venue

Way, way back, this big brick corner building was a home for Civil War widows. Nowadays, 891 Amsterdam Ave. is a nexus for travelers in Manhattan and pretty much the biggest, best hostel you are likely to find anywhere in the States. I amble through the labyrinthine halls of the 600+ bed HI Upper East Side mega-hostel and finally reach the Ballroom — the converted widows’ chapel with cathedral ceilings and Corinthian columns — and wave to Scott.

This is the stage for Travel Talk & Rock NYC, a joint venture by Matador Network and Hostelling International, co-sponsored by Tripfilms and Prohibition Distillery. Described as a “TED for Travel,” Talk & Rock is equal parts travel lecture series and party. In a few hours, the Ballroom will be filled with writers, photographers, hostel dwellers, Matador fans, and travel enthusiasts quietly taking notes, munching taquitos, and tweeting quips from each of the 9 presenters.

The speakers

Photo: Scott Sporleder

  • Ross Borden (co-founder of Matador) introduces each speaker to the room.
  • David Miller and Candice Walsh read a selection of travel writing published on Matador that deals with the nature of relationships and travel. They read paragraphs on love and connection and the bonds that the journey can create between travelers.
  • Scott Sporleder dissects a short travel film he created in Tasmania, sharing insights and practical tips and taking questions from the crowd.
  • Kelley Ferro and Tony Cheng introduce the “Best of Tripfilms” app and discuss the options for travel video producers on Tripfilms.com — the largest travel video site online.
  • Author, educator, and Matador staff writer Aaron Hamburger describes how good travel writing transcends what can merely be seen to truly bring a place to life. Aaron suggests paying closer attention to the other senses and letting the visual aspects of a destination take a back seat.
  • Josh Johnson (that would be me) explores the origins of story and describes each traveler in the mythic language of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” story motif, stressing that the most important functions of the Hero’s Journey are present during each act of travel.
  • Photographer and MatadorU faculty Colby Brown shares insights from his own experience standing above the fray in the expanding sea of travel photographers.
  • Seth Kugel, New York Times’Frugal Traveler,” finishes off the talks by sharing some of his favorite and least favorite things about being a travel writer, winning big laughs from the crowd and a flurry of RTs with his quotes.
The party

After the presentations come to an end and the last of the snack spread is demolished, the crowd braves the frigid NYC air for several blocks to arrive at Underground Lounge, where DJ dacops is serving up beats and the boys from Prohibition Distillery are slinging Bootlegger 21 New York Vodka.

Great conversations are had over vodka tonics — friendships are forged and rekindled. It could be the booze or the relief of having pulled off a great event, but as the crowd dwindles a bit and conversations can come down several decibels, I wish we could do it all over again tomorrow.

I love telling travel stories on Matador, and I love working with the students at MatadorU, but what I love most is crowding into warm, dim spaces with travelers and grinning at each other, exchanging stories and words of support. It’s the people behind the profiles, articles, and websites that make our global travel network so special, and it’s the people that keep this traveler going merrily along.

Twitter highlights
  • “Always wake up early. Good things happen at sunrise.” — Scott Sporleder #talktravelnyc
  • Aaron Hamburger likens writing cliches to Cheetos: full of air, no nutrition. #talktravelnyc
  • “We’re all characters in each other’s stories.” — Joshua Johnson #talktravelnyc
  • @MonicaSuma: Last night with NY Times’ @frugaltraveler and @nomadicmatt What a fun night hosted by @MatadorNetwork! #Talk
  • @colbybrownphoto: Awesome turnout for the @MatadorNetwork’s #talktravelNYC @dahveed_miller & @candicewalsh killing it!
What’s next

Stay tuned for a Matador event in your city!
Next up: Los Angeles, Feb 20th, 2013.

Thank you!

Hostelling International team: Danny Marx, Ari Joseph, David Finn, Paul Lindberg, Damon Dominique, Joanna Franco

Alcohol sponsor: Prohibition Distillery

Special thanks to: Kelley Ferro & the Tripfilms team, Seth Kugel, DJ dacops, Underground Lounge

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