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Southern Travelers Explore Conference

The Southern Travelers Explore Conference (#STE) is a spin off of Melody and Taylor’s second blog/website, Travel the South.

The #STE travel conference brings bloggers, journalists, influencers, CVBs/DMOs, and brands from across the country together for a weekend of educational sessions, small group discussions, and a marketplace, while enjoying some of what the host city has to offer.

Melody and Taylor firmly believe there is room for everyone in the travel space to excel, and aim to educate themselves and their #STE Family on how we can better work together. The #STE Conference is laid back, relaxed, and aims to make everyone feel welcome and appreciated. 

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Photos taken by Veronicajune Photography

The Southern Travelers Explore Conference has been held in Thomasville, Georgia (#STEThomasville 2020), Tupelo, Mississippi (#STETupelo 2021), Huntsville, Alabama (#STEHuntsville 2022), Irving, Texas (#STEIrving 2023), and Gulf Shores, Alabama (#STEAlabamaBeaches 2024).

It has expanded to include small scale retreats, taking place in Johnson City, Tennessee (#STEJohnsonCity 2021).

#STEAlabamaBeaches Recap

Posts from #STEAlabamaBeaches

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#STEIrving Recap

The entire city of Irving welcomed the Southern Travelers Explore Conference with open arms for the most incredible weekend. The adorable Texican Court was the perfect setting for #STEIrving, as we discussed adding YouTube to our portfolios, TikTok and Reels, repurposing content, cashing in beyond writing, and affiliate marketing.

A few highlights from #STEIrving include customizing our very own Stetson hats, adding personalized locks to Irving’s Love Lock Bridge, and surprise gondola cruises on Lake Carolyn (all of which were gifts from Visit Irving!), an unofficial afternoon of bonus Educational Sessions, and having professional headshots taken by Veronicajune Photography (a gift from Melody and Taylor).

Visit Irving is a longtime tourism board friend, and had attended and sponsored two previous Southern Travelers Explore Conferences. We were thrilled for the opportunity to showcase their spectacular city, and work with a team that has supported our #STE endeavor since the start.

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Posts From #STEIrving

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#STEHuntsville Recap

The 3rd #STE Conference took attendees from 21 different states to Huntsville, Alabama–also known as “The Rocket City”. Our host hotel and meeting venue was the brand new 106 Jefferson hotel. 106 J and their staff worked overtime to wow our guests, even sending specially created food and beverage presentations to their rooms each evening. Over the weekend, we learned about CVB/blogger relations, how CVBs vet writers, and working with brands.

Highlights from #STEHuntsville include our opening event taking place at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (with tours led by Emeritus Docents under the Saturn V rocket), brunch at 106 Jefferson’s Baker & Able rooftop bar, and the Dine Around Event at Huntsville’s very cool Campus 805 and Stovehouse venues. 

Huntsville is another long time tourism board friend and previous Southern Travelers Explore Conference attendee. As a CVB that really “gets” tourism, Huntsville was a fantastic partner and really helped take our conference to the next level.

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Posts From #STEHuntsville

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#STEJohnsonCity Recap

With a similar format and focus on one-skill set programming, the first Southern Travelers Explore Retreat took place at the AAA Four Diamond Carnegie Hotel & Spa in Johnson City, Tennessee. Over the weekend, attendees took part in eight photography sessions working to better capture destinations through photos.

#STEJohnsonCity highlights include an incredibly fun opening event at the brand new Tennessee Hills Brewstillery, local tour to Jonesborough (Tennessee’s oldest town), and visiting the popular Windsor Speakeasy.

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Posts From #STEJohnsonCity

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#STETupelo Recap

The 2nd Southern Travelers Explore Conference took place in Tupelo, Mississippi the weekend after the historic 2021 winter storm that crippled the entire state. Since many businesses and restaurants closed their doors due to ice and not being able to receive deliveries, our attendees did not have the opportunity to explore Tupelo. However, they rolled with the punches.

We enjoyed meaningful discussions while learning about video, Pinterest, SEO optimization, and tax prep for bloggers, both in-person and over Zoom.

The biggest highlight of #STETupleo was showing our attendees that we are wholeheartedly in this business for them. Our group became a #STE Family that year, and we were so grateful to have the majority of them return to our #STE Conference the following year.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And that’s exactly what we did!

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Posts From #STETupelo

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#STEThomasville Recap

Southern Travelers Explore had the most perfect inaugural conference in Thomasville, Georgia (two weeks before the world shut down due to Covid). Melody picked Thomasville as our first host city because she thinks it is the quintessential Southern town–and luckily Bonnie with the Thomasville Visitors Center agreed!

South Eden Plantation played host to our group of 25 and we learned about podcasting, ways to make money as a blogger, email marketing, and how to stand out from the crowd. Patrica Schultz, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller 1,000 Places to See Before you Die and Melody’s biggest travel inspiration, was our keynote speaker. 

Highlights of the weekend include dining in Showboat Theater (where the first viewing of Gone with the Wind took place), a Taste of Thomasville Food Tour, and taking a picture under The Big Oak (one of the largest Southern Live Oak trees east of the Mississippi).

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Posts From #STEThomasville

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