All photos: Lindi Horton

In the latest iteration of Matador Meetup, 16 travelers, writers, photographers, trip planners, and Matador staffers got together on a moist Thursday evening in Austin, TX.

CONTIGO, THE EAST SIDE’S newest ranch-inspired beer garden, served up some excellent meals (the sausage sandwich, made daily onsite, and quail leg “wings” are recommended), a very popular and very pink cactus lemonade, and several rounds of delicious local microbrew.

This was the best turnout yet in Matador’s quest to bring the online offline, and the diversity of travel experiences, interests, and professional callings was inspiring.

Bigups to Elisha Sarate, who was the first to arrive despite having driven the 217 miles from Corpus Christi. He made my day.

A contingent from Academic Programs International attended, including Julie Smith, Vija Mendelson, Chelsea Kindred, and Kim Karalekas; Kim actually beat me to the punch with a post-event post on her blog. And these four got the chance to meet and chat with Andrea Michnik and Zac Macinnes, who work for competitor International Study Abroad. Matador, bringing people together.

MatadorU student Roni Sivan came out and shared stories from her extensive travel experience, as well as info about her project Austin2Angkor:

I founded Austin2Angkor after returning home from Cambodia in December. I spent time volunteering at an organization in Siem Reap where I learned about some of the projects they were working on and decided to get the Austin community involved in helping develop some of those projects.

In 2009 I was part of a volunteer project called Austin2Africa, which raised $20,000 to build an annex for the Emasithandane Orphanage in Cape Town, and we traveled there to see the outcome of our fundraising efforts. Many of the original volunteers are involved again this time around and we hope to see similar results in Cambodia with a much larger goal of $50,000 to fund 3 much-needed community centers in the Siem Reap province — a Community Training Center, Safe Mother & Child Care Center, and Learning Center & Library.

We’ve got fiscal sponsorship with a non-profit through which we are safely collecting and transferring donations.

Also in attendance were Gowalla community director Michelle Greer, beer-meister Austin Russell, newly matriculated MatadorU student Dave Kendall, aspiring model and actress Lindsey Lambert, and trip plotters Brietta Perez and Ben Davis, who are already stoking out on their plan to drive from Austin to Fairbanks and back next summer.

Lindi and I couldn’t have been happier with how things turned out, and we already have our sights set on Matador Meetup: Austin 2.0. Hope to see you there.

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