It's Travel Agent Awareness Week! Who is This Travel Agent Anyway?

It's travel agent awareness week and we're all starting off with 'Who am I?' This week is all about the general public getting reacquainted with travel professionals. We're always sending updates on destinations, hotels and travel tips but here's our day to shine as an actual person behind product. Besides what you can read in the About section on my website here's the run down on how I got started in the travel industry. Like most of the sweetest things in life it was complete serendipity. I studied French for 5 years in school and always thought I'd move to Paris for a while after college, work in a PR firm or in house at a non-profit organizaton. My mom made a huge sacrifice for me to go on an exchange trip to France in high school and I just couldn't wait to go back once I was bitten by the travel bug. Life happened (aka a handsome young man) and I moved to Miami instead. While there we fell in love with cruising. Without even flying you can meet people from all over the world, eat till you're comatose and see some great entertainment. On our first cruise we met some really cool tablemates that we hung out with and kept in touch with for a while. (This was before social media so we fell off writing letters after a while, but I still remember their names.) After I lost my job at a non-profit organization I had to attend a workforce training program for unemployment. That was definitely a life lesson. Apparently the assumption is that anyone collecting unemployment needs to learn a trade, which I didn't. It hadn't even been that long since I graduated. So there I was all salty about my old job, thinking why in the world do I have to do this stupid class for a measly $100 a week and it actually changed my life. On the list of approved community college programs was a travel agent track among the truck driving and plumber classes. Hmmm....so maybe this isn't a total waste of time! It was exciting to think about working in something I loved to do on the side anyway. While it was scary to completely change direction in my career path I found that everything I'd done before actually helped prepare me. Most of the courses were marketing related, so I didn't need to start from zero after all. Around that time more companies were starting to do online trainings. The rise of the internet actually helped me. I still did not see myself as an entrepreneur at all. That also happened by accident. spoke with an acquaintance who owned an agency about my excitement and I got squashed immediately by them saying 'Don't do it! There's no money in travel anymore. You should just use your communication degree and freelance.” Did I mention I got fired 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant? So I also needed to make sure I had a flexible schedule to spend time with that new bundle of joy. Many brick & mortar travel agencies were closing and not willing to take on a newbie. So I figured if I'm going to do this my way I'm on my own! I found an established host agency in California willing to work with me and I've never looked back. Again, look how the internet actually helped! I never met any of those people in person. Eventually I hung out my own shingle, and here we are! I love travel in general for the amazing opportunities if affords people to learn about the world around them and themselves. For some reason I just felt drawn to Mexico. Even though I got sick as a dog on my first visit to Merida. This journey has taught me to roll with the punches and go with the flow. It will usually lead you to something greater than you ever imagined. After all that French I've found myself selling mostly Latin America and cruises. It is rewarding to see the families I help enjoy themselves. They're getting to know each other better and creating memories that will last longer than any other material gifts. Like any business there are challenges, but there aren't too many industries where anyone can say they sell fun and transformation as much as travel professionals.  Each day this week follow the hashtags #TravelAgents #WeExist #TravelAgentAwareness for new topics.

 

Permission to Enjoy

If you've put off taking that trip, you hereby have permission to enjoy life.  I've noticed activists, caretakers and moms feel so bad taking good care of themselves first.  Rarely have I heard a man not in those roles call excusing their desire to vacation or waiting until they're absolutely at the edge to get away.  But oh the embarrassment from others! Disclaimers like  "oh I know it's expensive but I'm turning xx", "I haven't gone anywhere in x years", or "I can't leave the kids with the club..." Why? Maybe they feel spending money and time on themselves for pure enjoyment is a selfish thing or greedy because that time and energy could be spent on others.  We've heard the adage 1,000 times to put your own oxygen mask on first.  Yet I meet so many who deal with the worst of human behavior and problems on a daily basis, but haven't taken time away in forever. Even though we KNOW it at our core, it's still hard to implement.  When we take time to recharge it energizes ourselves and we have MORE to give not less.  Your kids and clients don't need you to be a 24/7 zombie going through the motions, they need a supercharged, creative engaged you.  Get away, gain some perspective and have more of you to give helps everyone.  If you really need an excuse, talk to me about organizing a group and brainstorm on the beach while you work.  

Aren't You Worried About Online Booking Sites?

Et tu Brute? That's how I felt explaining my value proposition to my 9 year old. He really likes this new tripadvisor commercial advertising how easy it is to book on their site. Something about that popping sound when they say "book!" gets him every time. So he asks me, "isn't that going to take away from you, mommy? They said they can get the cheapest price." 

What do you remember about your favorite trip? Now, how much did it cost? Of course he doesn't know, but you get the point. though online agencies will push price to the top of the list of deciding factors it really has nothing to do with the real reason why we travel; and what makes the most impact.  

He remembers bumping his head on a stalactite while snorkeling through a cave in Riviera Maya watching the divers emerge like fairies from underground tunnels far beneath the surface of the water. I remember dancing under the stars kissed by a warm Caribbean breeze after driving through a snowstorm to the port when we cruised sans kid for our 10th anniversary. 

Those are the moments that make a vacation, not the dollar signs and discounts. so no bud, I'm not worried at all. Do you really want cheap on a big vacation, or want your trip to be fun, easy to plan and stress free?  If there were no online booking sites I'd spend my days reserving hotels for road trips(where no one cares about the hotel, it's just a means to an end) instead of helping people plan awesome vacations.

 

For previous posts on exactly why and when you should choose to work with a travel professional, read Travel Matchmaking and others in the Value of a Travel Professional section.

Heavy Hearted Optimism

I woke up to news of a shooting in a historic Charleston church today on the heels of the impending deportation of 250,000 Haitians from the Dominican Republic.  So it's hard to go on as usual writing about happy things without acknowledging the current events.  

I've blogged before about how firmly I believe travel makes more compassionate citizens. I'm not naive enough to think we'd have peace if everyone just took a vacation, but feeling empathy for people with different backgrounds, opinions and lifestyles than our own goes a long way.  Take a look at the news and you'll see perpetrators of different ethnicities, age and upbringing.  One thing I noticed is many of them live very isolated lives in an echo chamber of similar opinion. Many of these people have very narrow views, rarely interacting with others that don't share them.  I'm a big believer in using your passions and gifts to impact the world.  We've got to stop buying into this scarcity view that the 'other' is out to take our limited resources, which is what most of these things boil down to.  So my challenge to you if you feel powerless to curb the tide of hate, is to strike up a conversation with someone new on your next trip (even if that's on a bus downtown).  You'll probably realize the world is smaller than you think and the vast majority of people are all after the same goals.  

World Oceans Day

Happy World Oceans Day!  Do your part to keep plastic bags out of the ocean by taking the 'Better Bag Challenge'.  Use reusable bags instead of disposable plastic for one year and encourage your friends to do the same.

 

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