On April 20, a new breed of travel show will make its inaugural appearance. It’s called the New York Travel Festival, and as my friend Valarie D’Elia describes it, the TravFest “promises to reinvent the consumer travel show.”
Travel shows, if you have never been to one, are often big meeting halls full of lots of kiosks where semi-informed representatives jockey to hand out brochures about whatever they’re selling. In a separate area, you’ll usually find conference rooms, and at the head of those rooms, long tables where travel experts sit dutifully behind their name tags, pouring Dixie cups of water from a sweating pitcher and trying not to say anything too earth-shaking. Traditional travel shows are, ironically, a somewhat passive experience for audiences who presumably go because they’d rather be in motion somewhere.
Not this one. The New York Travel Festival is about vigor and action. Walking tours of New York City are built into the schedule. There will be food tastings. Experts will tell you how to explore corners of New York that most guidebooks and magazines shrug off. Even the panelists have been tasked to challenge each other — intellectually, not like the WWE — by taking opposing views of the same topic.
The speaker lineup is hip as all get-out. It’s a who’s who of the current state of travel coverage. There are more than a few topics I’d like to muscle in on and have my say. Top among them is the debate between “Nomadic Matt” Kepnes (the popular backpacking expert and author of How to Travel the World on $50 a Day) and Matt Gross (foodie and author of The Turk Who Loved Apples). Their topic is how to prepare for your trip like an expert. If I were up there, I would come down squarely in favor of printed guidebooks. As you know from this blog, I love real books.
The wickedly savvy Valarie D’Elia (whom every New Yorker adores from NY1) will square off against the wickedly wry Robert Reid (Lonely Planet’s U.S. Travel Editor —remember when we bantered about cheap destinations on WalletPop?) Andrew Evans, National Geographic’s Digital Nomad, manages to pause his incessant and fascinating adventures long enough to deliver “Your Bucket List Sucks & I’m Gonna Tell You Why.” His NatGeo colleague Alison Wright will blow people away with her emotional photography, and Lee Abbamonte, known as the youngest American to have visited every country on earth (he hit the goal at age 32), will share his wisdom. You’ll also hear Gadling.com editor Grant Martin, plus the cofounders of AFAR magazine and Skift.com. These people are young, they’re in the trenches, and they know the state of travel and travel media. They may also be constitutionally incapable of lying, I’m warning you now.
I promise you that after hearing this crackerjack team present on April 20, you will feel really stupid in comparison and you’ll want to burn your humdrum daily life to the ground and wander. Yay!
I am pleased to tell you that I have been asked to present my own talk, “Spike the Baby! (And the Other Rules for Dodging Travel Scams)“. Yes, I named it.
Naturally, an event that celebrates off-the-path discovery chose a space that itself is worth a visit: Saturday’s events take place in the Bohemian National Hall, an extremely cool Renaissance Revival social hall built in 1896 for the flood of Czech and Slovak immigrants of that era who needed a social safety net.
Bonus trivia points: Manhattan Theatre Club began in the Hall when it was called Stage 73, and it held residence here during its rise to power. Countless modern acting luminaries played there, including Sam Waterston, Madeline Kahn, Holland Taylor, David Straithairn, Patricia Clarkson, Cherry Jones, and Holly Hunter in The Miss Firecracker Contest. Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart had its New York premiere on the same stage, and it’s also where Glenn Close first played Albert Nobbs, nearly thirty years before being being nominated for an Oscar in the same role.
Tickets for the NY TravFest are $60 until April 1, and then $85 until April 20, the first day of the big show, and they’re good for everything that happens on Saturday. The second day of the festival will be jammed with walks, tastings, and other illuminating field trips (look here), and tickets get you one event on Sunday, too.