Photo of The Day #70, #TilleyEndurables #RuggedClothing for the Adventure Minded

In June of 2013 I attended my first #TBEX (Travel Blogger Exchange) conference in Toronto Canada. It was my first conference and my first time in Canada. Ahead of time we were able to make appointments with travel companies, countries and points of interest around the world. Additionally, clothing manufacturers like Tilley Endurables were available and I was fortunate enough to secure an appointment with Tilley.

 

Hat Only is Tilley

Hat Only is Tilley

 

At the meeting I secured my Tilley Endurables as my first sponsor and as I am fairly well known for my Panama Hat, they decided to send me two different hats of my choice to test. I have worn these all over the world in the last year and I will tell you they are very, very durable. I love smashing them flat and packing them in my suitcase and when I arrive I just pop them out to wear. They will last forever I assume.

 

Hat Only is Tilley

Hat Only is Tilley

 

I am happy to announce that our partnership will continue and I am preparing to order additional items of clothing to test. Tilley Endurables is a great company and they stand behind their products 100%! My type of vendor.

 

Can’t wait to reach out and order, after I finish my diet and lose my extra weight. If you need a tough long lasting line of clothing take a look at their line. My earlier post today reminded me of my original post on Tilley and the hats and brought back memories of Ecuador and my Ingapirca tour.

 

Hat Only is Tilley

Hat Only is Tilley

My Amazing Life-Chapter 1, Thai Airways

I recently participated in a FAM/Press trip to Thailand and Malaysia. I have been to Thailand many years ago, but never to Malaysia and I always get excited when my destination is SE Asia or that part of the world. I love the people, the food and the culture in this part of the world and was profoundly enthusiastic over the impending trip. I received my itinerary and saw that we would be visiting many 5-star hotels, one of the world’s top 50 restaurants. The basic theme was culinary and spa events. My cup of tea for sure! Our Airline of choice would be Thai Airways. Its slogan is “Smooth as Silk”. Little did I know that this airline would soon capture my heart!

 

Thai Airways Logo

Thai Airways Logo

 

I flew my old stand-by American Airlines from Austin to Los Angeles and the service was typical and fairly unremarkable. One does not fly this airline to be impressed. If you live in Texas as I do, then you more than likely fly American, as many cities are hubs for American and American Eagle in smaller towns. Such is the case in Austin. The majority of the flights out of Austin are on American Airlines.

 

I landed at LAX, gathered my bags and started to walk out the door towards Tom Bradley Terminal, which houses the International flights and bumped into Mary Jo Manzanares, one of the other Travel Bloggers going on the trip. She is an elite blogger, director of #TBEX and a stewardess in her spare time. We walked together and made contact inside the terminal with our group.

 

The Group Outside of The Star Alliance Lounge

The Group Outside of The Star Alliance Lounge

 

I learned the group would be three travel bloggers, three print media writers and a representative from Thai Airways, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Tourism Malaysia USA and Saeshe the advertising company that put the trip together and organized the itinerary. We were quickly whisked upstairs to the Star Alliance Lounge. Having visited many Admirals Club locations I was knocked over by the offerings and easy access to WiFi at the Star Alliance Lounge. This was my wonderful Thai lunch with my choice of noodles, veggies and chicken.

 

Lunch at the Star Alliance Lounge in LAX

Lunch at the Star Alliance Lounge in LAX

 

I boarded in Economy for the first leg of our flight to Seoul from LAX. I was surprised, as the width of the seat was comfortable and had to be at least three to four inches wider that my usual seat in economy in American. All seats had video screens for viewing movies, playing games, etc. The seats leaned back with hardly any intrusion into the seat behind. I love that aspect of the plane.

 

I absolutely hate it when the passenger in front leans so far back that you cannot get out of your seat to move around. Given the 12.5 hour flight to Seoul South Korea; we had the opportunity to eat three different meals, but I could only handle two. Prior to the meal the stewardesses and stewards hand you a very warm washcloth to clean your hands and face with. It is very stimulating I must say. This was my first meal in economy, a curry pork dish with a shrimp appetizer.

 

My Economy meal on Thai Airways

My Economy meal on Thai Airways

 

Remember this is in Economy. It was fantastic and I ate every bite, as if I hadn’t eaten just before boarding at the Star Alliance Lounge. One of the first things I noticed on Thai Airways is the smiles of their people. I am not used to this on my domestic flights with airlines in the US. The majority of the stewardesses and stewards are just going through the motion and appear to be waiting for retirement in most cases. Not only do you visualize the smiles on Thai Airways, but you get the idea they are genuine and the employees really want to help you.

 

An Ever Present Smiling Face on Thai Airways

An Ever Present Smiling Face on Thai Airways

 

They continually walk the aisles and ask for your needs, unless you are sleeping and they respectfully leave you alone if that is the case. Another factor to consider is that all alcohol is no charge if you are 18 or older, regardless of seating class. I couldn’t believe this given what my old stand by airlines charges for one beer. Many passengers took advantage of this, but I did not see any that became inebriated, so I am guessing they “control” the flow to a certain degree.

 

One’s drink service (mine was water and Coca-Cola) is continuous and non stop as long as you desire. Its not like my normal American service where you get your one drink and the airlines personnel sit for the remainder of the trip, consuming first class meals and all the beverages they can ingest. The Thai Airways people work their rear ends off the entire flight. We landed in Seoul. South Korea has a strange policy and all passengers have to deplane and go through customs and security. I don’t get it but it is what it is!

 

Our Thai Airways Plane in Seoul Korea

Our Thai Airways Plane in Seoul Korea

 

On the first leg of our flight from LAX to Seoul I got the short straw. I rode as stated previously, in the Economy section. On the second leg from Seoul to Bangkok we all traded out, as there were several spots in Business class, that we used on both legs. This leg I flew in Business Class. Thank you Thai Airways for this experience. Business class is a drastic difference and the seats are wonderful. You can get a massage with one of the seat settings or adjust the seat to your liking and lean back as far as you like, without intruding on the people behind you. This is a photo of the controls. Notice the very front icon states bed. They really mean it, as your seat folds down completely and turns into a flat bed. Oh so good on long flights with major time zone variances.

 

The Seat Controls with a Massage and Bed Icon

The Seat Controls with a Massage and Bed Icon

 

So what were the meals like in business class you ask? Each passenger had an appetizer, an entree, a cheese and fruit tray and a desert. Not just once but twice on the longer legs. I was fortunate and received the Business class allocation for the return trip from Seoul to LAX. It was heaven. This is just an example of my dishes and courses served.

 

My appetizer in Business Class

My appetizer in Business Class

 

My Entree (Shrimp Curry) in Business Class

My Entree (Shrimp Curry) in Business Class

 

A Cheese and Fruit Plate

A Cheese and Fruit Plate

 

Desert in Business Class

Desert in Business Class

 

As the flights transpired I noticed that the Thai Airways personnel remained very active and were always there to pick up your empty glass or food tray. You didn’t have to wait for 45 minutes like on domestic airlines, to have someone retrieve your finished product. They never stopped working and passengers were all treated like royalty, regardless of the seating class I was in. This wasn’t my expectation, given normal transgressions on domestic flights in the US.

 

I have saved my finest point until last intentionally and one that may or may not effect you personally. Traveling frequently and consuming as much as I do with drinks and food, its only natural that I have to use the facilities. The good news is there are ample amounts of facilities, regardless of seating class on Thai Airways. As you know on domestic flights one has to literally wade through the swamp, referred to as a bathroom on flights. You know what I am talking about and how bad they get on flights over let’s say 3 hours long. What did the Thai Airways personnel do you ask?

 

I will gladly tell you as I saw this with my own eyes. They literally clean the restrooms from top to bottom on a regular basis. I am not talking every four hours or so. I am talking like almost between every passenger or as quickly as possible. They take a sanitizer and clean the walls, the toilet seat, the sink and yes even the floor. I was blown away when I turned the corner and saw a stewardess with plastic disposable gloves wiping down the floor of a restroom. They even fold the toilet paper just like in hotels.

 

Thai Airways may charge a little more than other airlines, but if you consider their service, their warm friendly personnel, the amazing food in all seating classes and the free alcohol, I think that their premium is not that much to ask. It is offset with your comfort and well being. I know this, I have found a new airline that I will go out of my way to fly from now on. They are far superior to any other airline I have ever flown in my forty plus years of flying. Thank you Abha Wangpaichitr for allowing me to experience your wonderful airline and for showing me that good old fashioned customer service, is still alive in the airline Industry! I will fly you again and again, when the opportunity arises.

 

Abha Wangpaichitr Thai Airways Representative

Abha Wangpaichitr Thai Airways Representative

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tilley to the Rescue

As Kim and I clamored along the back trail at Ingapirca, heading towards the face carved in the mountain, it became very obvious to me that I had made a dreadful error in judgment. The back trail is optional, and is treacherous and unstable at best. The rambling path and elevated steps at 10,000 feet, were placing me in a very precarious position, especially when the wind picked up. I wore my straw Panama hat and did not want to lose it to a sudden gust. This presented a significant opportunity to injure myself or fall down the steps of the muddy trail. I was traversing this trail in a delicate manner.

 

Face on upper trail at Ingapirca

Face on upper trail at Ingapirca

 

I literally only had one free hand, if I chose not to let the wind abscond with my hat. At that moment I made a decision to investigate additional chapeaus and look into a more suitable headgear for rough terrains. I needed a rugged headpiece with resistance to high winds. In other words, it needed a wind-cord to prevent it from blowing off of my head and it was essential that the hat would provide sufficient protection for the sun, a UPF of 50+. I have experienced skin cancer in my family and do not want heavy sun exposure.

 

T4MO Organic Cotton Airflo

T4MO Organic Cotton Airflo

 

In my opinion, after exhaustive research, I determined there was only one option that fit the bill so to speak. I had to secure a Tilley hat. Tilley Endurables was founded in 1980 by Alex Tilley and began manufacturing adventure clothing in 1984 on a whim. Mr. Tilley was a sailor on lake Ontario and decided he needed a more durable hat to withstand the torrential downpours and high winds that were typical of the lake. He also wanted a very rugged material and desired that if by chance the wind somehow blew it off his head it would float. The result was the Tilley Hat and one that is considered the Rolls Royce of the industry.

 

LTM8 Nylamtium with Mesh

LTM6 Airflo Nylamtium

 

As I was attending the TBEX event in Toronto, I thought this would provide an excellent opportunity to visit one of their block and mortar locations and purchase a hat to wear in extreme and rugged conditions. In addition, TBEX offers a session of Speed Dating, where bloggers sit with potential partners and get to know each other in a brief interlude.  As Tilley was on the list of participants, I extended an invite to meet with them.

 

T4MO Organic Cotton Airflo

T4MO Organic Cotton Airflo

 

Fortunately Tilley accepted and we discussed my niche, brand and Tilley requirements. As I am walking the Camino Frances next spring, I asked advice on which hat was appropriate. Tilley’s Marketing manager suggested the LTM6 Airflo Nylamtium, stating it was a cooler headgear to wear. We agreed on the basics and I have begun a relationship with Tilley that I sincerely value. In addition to the LTM6 I received a T4MO Organic Cotton Airflo hat from Tilley and will be testing both on my upcoming trip to Ecuador in August, to determine which I favor for the Camino walk. Who knows it may be both!

 

LTM8 Nylamtium with Mesh

LTM6 Airflo Nylamtium

 

I received my hats this past week and you know me. I couldn’t wait to get out and test them. I was all over Austin this weekend, hiking and in various environments beginning my testing. I have sincere and positive testimonials from friends and co-horts in the industry in regards to the Tilley durability and the ease that maintenance presents. I can’t wait to get to Ecuador and give the hats a real test with several excursions I have planned. Stay tuned!

 

 

The Hat

Before I came to Toronto for the TBEX conference, I wrote on my social media platforms that everyone should look for me with my hat, my white beard and my Hawaiian shirts. I figured that there would not be too many old geezers that had this “look”. Little did I know that my Panama hat would become an institution in my life. This was my first experience mingling with the elite of the Travel Blogger world and I wanted to try and meet as many of my new “online friends” as possible. I encouraged all to introduce themselves, as I wanted photo ops and truly like meeting new people face to face.

 

Nomadic Texan & Miret Padovani (http://flaneriefeminine.com/) from Zurich. A Lady Blogger with Fabulous Talents

Nomadic Texan & Miret Padovani (FlanerieFeminine.com) from Zurich. A Lady Blogger with Fabulous Talents

 

 

I really had no idea what to expect at TBEX or what the experience would teach me. I did know that I wanted to gain as much knowledge about traffic, SEO and building my brand as possible. Looking through the options on the first day I selected all the business topics from the various categories (HHMM maybe my background had something to do with this-Ha!). Of course I waited too long to get to the opening session and was frantically trying to locate the room, when I discovered and icon in the business, Johnny Jet was also a little lost. We teamed our brilliant minds together and eventually found our destination (after I mislead him–not a good start to my first meet up with Mr. Jet)!

 

Trey Ratcliff Was Phenomenal

Trey Ratcliff Was Phenomenal

 

The opening keynote by Trey Ratcliff blew me away. This young man of StuckInCustoms is a phenomenal photographer and has vision issues in one eye. When you look at his photography you will be amazed. He was wearing his new Google glasses and told us all the finer qualities and attribute of the glasses. I was in awe! As I was  leaving the opening session a young man approached me and said “Hi Mike”. I was a little lost, thinking about my first breakout and did not recognize him at first. Turned out to be Will Castillo a friend and blogger I am trying to help out. You can follow him at IWillTravel and he is a very interesting young man, who loves South America almost as much as I do! Between the opening session and my first breakout no less than five bloggers came up and said hello. One even had me wait to meet her Mother! All because they saw “The Hat” from across the room.

 

A Slide from Ted Murphy's Presentation

A Slide Stating the Blogger’s Value to Direct Marketing Organizations

 

I headed out of the session to my first breakout “Brands, Blogger & Dollars” given by Ted Murphy. I wrote two pages of notes (I am still trying to decipher a few words–my writing is atrocious) and discovered I should have brought a tablet or I-Phone and recorded the breakouts. I couldn’t write as fast as they talked! In essence Ted’s most important factors in dealing with brands or sponsors are the following; 1) Quality of Content, 2) Relevance to Industry, 3) Personality, 4) Engagement and 5) Traffic. Ted also focused extremely deeply on the FTC guidelines and what is acceptable and what isn’t. He stated we all need to read the guidelines for sponsorship. Who knew? I was extremely excited at the information learned and stepped out to head toward my second breakout. This time it was six or seven bloggers that came up and introduced themselves and I got a few photo ops. They saw “The Hat” from across the room again. See the pattern starting to develop?

 

William Bakker from Think! Social Media-Brilliant Man

William Bakker from Think! Social Media-Brilliant Man

 

My second breakout was with William Bakker of “Think! Social Media” and his topic was Lesson Learned: “Working with Bloggers & Destinations”. This young man energized everyone in the room, even though his dutch accent was pervasive, we could interpret his talk. He gave a myriad of facts and again I couldn’t keep up and write fast enough. Did you know the #1 social media platform for determining travel is Facebook. People trust their friends feedback more than any other source.

 

William Tells Us What They Look For in Blogger Trips

DMO Take-Aways For Blogger Trips

 

William stated that bloggers are “Content Creators” or Story Tellers and we must be authentic, and honest, if we desire credibility in the profession. He gave us Think’s blogger requirements on their selection process for press trips: 1) The blogger has to value the destination of Think’s trip, 2) What is your reach-Size of Audience, 3) What are your audience demographics, 4) What is your influence in a niche (Twitter & Facebook Activity), 5) Do you have a connection to other Influencers 6) What is your Quality & Style, 7) What is your speed of communication, 8) What is your level of technology & tools use, 9) Do you have a Personality.  I could have listened to him all day, but had to grab a bite to eat.

 

Will Castillo of IWill_Travel (Your Eyes are Supposed to be Open Will)!

Will Castillo, of “I Will Travel” (Your Eyes are Supposed to be Open Will)!

 

Will had offered to buy my lunch and I am not one to turn food down! I told him at lunch that he needed to find an item like “The Hat” and establish his brand. We talked about various travel topics and it was time to get back.  After lunch I had pre-selected my friend Stephen Oddo of Walks of Italy breakout and thought I would give him a hard time. His title was “Where’s my ROI? Campaign & Strategies in Digital Marketing”. Stephen stated “Marketing is the practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from another product”. Prior to the start of the third breakout, one of my closet online friends Jill of Road Warrior, came running up to where I sat and gave me a hug. She saw “The Hat” from the back of the room. So my design or symbol became “The Hat” without any conscience effort on my part. It just transpired!

 

Stephen Oddo from Walks of Italy

Stephen Oddo from Walks of Italy

 

 

Stephen stated you do this with 1) Personality, 2) Set standards and follow them, 3) Be Consistent, 4) Develop a Positive Reputation. He also said that blogs are the third most influential digital resource for purchasing travel. He stated 50% of travelers changed their minds based on what they read on trusted blogs. Wow! Had no idea “The Hat” had this much responsibility!

 

Janice Waugh, publisher of Solo Traveler (http://solotravelerblog.com), the blog for those who travel alone and author of The Solo Traveler's Handbook (http://thetravelershandbooks.com) navigating Speed Dating

Janice Waugh, publisher of Solo Traveler (http://solotravelerblog.com), the blog for those who travel alone and author of The Solo Traveler’s Handbook (http://thetravelershandbooks.com), navigating Speed Dating

 

Time was flying by and my first experience in Speed Dating was staring me in the face. Was I ready. Had I gathered the correct statistics. How hard could it really be? I soon discovered. We had 10 minutes for each date and it became a whirlwind of activity and discussion and just as you got to know the vendor it was time to change and move on. This was one of the two hardest hours I have ever worked in my life. Not physically, but trying to give my presentation and communicate my niche and brand was extremely difficult in under 10 minutes. I was worn out and the night hadn’t even begun, for “The Hat”!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Virgin’s Very First Time

Okay I know the title might be a little misleading, but in essence I was a virgin at TBEX and had no idea what to expect or what I would gain from the experience. In reality it was an eye-opening learning experience and enhanced my ego (my wife Kim’s feedback)! I knew going in that the fact my Speed Dating calendar had almost been filled, that I was in for an extraordinary event. I just didn’t think about the fact that I had just returned from my expedition to Tijuana, building the house for Homes of Hope and would wind up worn down and really tired. I will never put back to back weekends of this much exercise together again, unless I am asked of course!

 

A church photo from the bus ride in and in the rain

A church photo from the bus ride in and in the rain

 

My flight arrived in Toronto at 5:30 PM and I arranged for a round trip bus trip, thinking this would provide plenty of time to get my bags to the hotel and go to the opening night party. Bummer…it didn’t transpire exactly like I hoped. There was a transfer to a shuttle van with about 11 other people and of course I was the LAST one dropped off. I got to my hotel at around 7:45 and the party started at 7:00 PM. So…no shower, no change of clothes, however I was able to brush my teeth! Started walking to Roy Thomson Hall for the party arriving about 8:30 half way through.

 

Street art/graffiti on the walk to Roy Thomson Hall

Street art/graffiti on the walk to Roy Thomson Hall

 

I met a charming lady who was just as lost as me trying to get into the party. All of a sudden I hear “Mike” being yelled and I recognize the face right away. It was Kenin Bassart of The Constant Rambler and I knew I wouldn’t be alone at the party. He and his wife Lauren have been very cool connections on my social media links and we have grown to know each other fairly well. Kenin directed me to the other side for my entry. I received my badge and walked into the zoo! It was like something out of a movie. A band was playing, food stations were everywhere (with fantastic eats) and of course the bars were flowing with alcohol.

 

Kenin and Lauren Bassart...Two Wonderful Bloggers & Friends

Kenin and Lauren Bassart…Two Wonderful Bloggers & Friends

 

I met with Kenin and Lauren downstairs and ran into Derek4Real  from Austin. It was going to be a good night, but I had no idea how good! Toronto was hot and humid, just like Austin so I went back upstairs and enjoyed the A/C inside. Great step! I started walking around and ran into several bloggers that I have met online. I ran into Maria Laborde from LatinAbroad.com and had the ugliest picture of me taken all night! Then I bumped into Monika Fuchs from TravelWorldOnline.de and didn’t even recognize her. She had to tell me who she was (embarrassing)!

 

Derek4Real on the right along with Jum and Warren

Jim and Warren with Derek4Real on the right

 

Poor Maria...She has to be embarrassed by my ugly mouth

Poor Maria…She has to be embarrassed by my ugly mouth

 

I had people coming up and saying hi and it finally dawned on me that my hat was a “brand”. Everyone kept saying they saw my hat and came over to introduce themselves, as I had asked ahead of time. I lot of the bloggers did not look like their profile photos and this old man struggled all night long trying to see who was who. A few that I talk with regularly like Charu Suri of the ButterflyDiary.com, Michael and Nicole of SuitcaseStories.com, Pola Henderson of JettingAround.com, and Alexandra Kovacova of CrazySexyFunTraveler.com I recognized immediately. Others I had to read their badges and at times even that was rough as my eyes are not what they used to be.

 

Charu from Butterfly Diaries

Charu from Butterfly Diaries

 

Alex from Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler

Alex from Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler (This may be worse than my photo with Maria–my darn mouth)

 

Pola from Jetting Around

Pola from Jetting Around

 

As the hours flew by it all became a whirlwind and I realized it was time for the “Senior” travel blogger to retire! I knew I had a jaunt back to the hotel and decided to use the men’s room on the way out. As I left and was climbing back up the stairs a voice asked “Are you Mike”? I turned and had absolutely no idea who had approached me “leaving the men’s room”. I was a little nervous to say the least. He showed me his badge and I almost fell over. It was Ted Nelson of TravelingTed.com , but he didn’t have his hat or sunglasses on and I didn’t put two and two together until I looked at his badge! We both got a big laugh. I asked someone passing by to take our photo and we were on record (of course if you know Ted, you know he had a beer in his hand)!

 

Traveleing Ted, the beer man!

Traveleing Ted, the beer man!

 

I walked home wondering what the next day would bring and how the “Virgin” would handle his first ever #TBEX conference. Time would tell! I have to learn to keep my darn big mouth shut for photos, if I learn nothing else from the conference!!!

 

Nicole and Michael of Suitcase Stories, with Emma of Got to Keep Moving in the Center

Nicole and Michael of Suitcase Stories, with Emma of “Got to Keep Moving”, in the Center

 

 

 

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