September 13, 2017

A Weekend in Marrakech with SUITCASE magazine

I went through a phase of saying ‘no’ to stuff last year. It was an odd thing for me, as I was “yes!” person for so so long. I love adventures. I love travelling and I love my job. Maybe it was feeling overwhelmed, or anxious, or just a bit like I could see a big sign saying “burn-out” in the distant horizon stretched out in front of me, waiting. I take burn-out warning signs very seriously, and I stopped going abroad as much for work because of how much energy travelling can take out of you, when it’s not strictly a “holiday” even though on Instagram it looks like one. I wanted to stay at my desk more and spend more time working out what I wanted my future career to look like. Once I’d taken a step back, put my mental/physical wellbeing first for a few months, I felt almost as good as new and got me excited about travelling again. After all, I’m so so lucky that I get to go away to interesting places as part of my job. It’s always been one of the most exciting things, going away, meeting new people and coming home with loads of random stories.

So when I was invited by SUITCASE magazine to speak at a travel conference called PURE hosted in Marrakech I absolutely jumped at the chance. Not only do I love SUITCASE magazine (it’s an intelligent, brilliant, gorgeous magazine founded by a young female founder called Serena Guen) that I’ve read for years, so I was over the moon to be part of their gang for this trip. It was so much fun to spend time with my friend Melissa Hemsley, who was also doing a talk at the conference, who I first met when I interviewed her for my podcast. She was also an absolute angel after I had a breakdown over the fact that I forgot my phone charger and she lent me hers throughout the trip. WHO FORGETS THEIR CHARGER IN THIS DAY AND AGE? Maps, banking, alarm clock, photos, Whatsapp….OH, AND PHONE CALLS? It was reminder of how much I desperately depend on my phone. FOR EVERYTHING.

I pitched my idea for a talk, I wanted to discuss micro-influencers and the power of small communities in the lifestyle/travel industry. 2017 has been the year that newsletters have grown again in popularity growing small concentrated communities who work together to build and kickstart campaigns and spread word of mouth. It brings about many questions regarding numbers vs engagement, for example, is a community of 10k influential newsletter subscribers more or less important than 1M averagely-engaged followers on Twitter or Instagram? As part of this I wanted to talk about the importance of niches especially on social media, such as the popularity of ultra specific podcasts with small but intense listenership and what this means for the industry as a whole. I was interviewed on stage by the new editor of SUITCASE Olivia Squire who is incredibly smart and interesting and asked really good questions.

I wanted to talk about the power of owning your difference and having your own distinct voice — and not feeling tempted to always do the same as everyone else, because it’s a shame that the “influencer” bubble on the surface feels a bit like it’s all starting to look the same. I spoke about how my newsletter, with a rather modest following, managed to sell out bookings in a small hotel over night, and how just getting someone with millions of Instagram followers isn’t a very targeted approach. It was a conversation about doing some work into finding the right person for the campaign regardless of numbers. There are some “micro-influencers” doing some incredible work right now, with a small but extremely engaged following. 

The conference was in the sun, at a private music resort called The Source in Marrakesh. There was a big pool and a main-stage and you could sit around in the sun watching talks. The two keynote speakers were super interesting: Coss Marte, who founded a New York City startup called ConBody, who used to be an ex-convict and now has turned into a fitness entrepreneur. Growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, he was exposed to drug use at a young age and started dealing them. He went to prison for 7 years and during that time trained himself and other inmates and got his business idea from there. The other speaker was Wim Hof, described as a “Dutch daredevil”, commonly nicknamed “The Iceman” for his ability to withstand extreme cold, which he attributes to exposure to cold, meditation and breathing techniques. His talk was quite intense but very interesting about the power of our mind and how we all have the resources we need inside us to make real change.

And the food! We had a delicious few days food-wise, first a gorgeous meal at Hakkasan’s Ling Ling restaurant and then a 3-course meal at La Sultana. I also really fell in love with the hotel El Fenn which has the best interiors I think I’ve ever seen and feels like one big giant Riad. Really authentic with incredibly detailed interiors and a gorgeous rooftop.

Thank you SUITCASE magazine and PURE Life Experiences for a marvellous few days in the sun, talking about the industry that I love and reminding me of how much I adore the spirit and soul of Marrakech.

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