Today, when the very talented Annie Fitzsimmons mentioned me in her Forbes.com article DREAM JOB: How to Become A Luxury Travel Advisor, my parents both proclaimed: “We told you you had the best job in the world!”
There’s no denying that.
Just look at what you see on this blog : travel, travel, travel. I’m uniquely positioned to take advantage of the travel perks at the moment. I’m three years into the business, I’ve made some great connections, all my would-be rent money is going toward travel, and I work a couple of side jobs to keep me financially stable since it’s sales-based. You’ve really got to love it to stick with it long enough to reap the benefits…and I do love it so deeply.
Almost weekly, someone asks me how I wound up in my job. Honestly, I did not go out in search of the travel industry. It found me.
I feel that every consultant I know has a background as diverse as their own brand of planning, but we do all share a history of having traveled extensively over the course of our pre-travel-agent-lives.
When I was about 7, my parents opened a cruise agency, so I began sailing the seas at a very young age. I knew what escargot was and could tell you the difference between any mass market cruise line before the age of 8. I had also won multiple ship-wide contests including, but not limited to: dancing the Macarena, limboing, hoola hooping, and drawing (I cleverly turned Holland America’s original Nieuw Amsterdam into the New Hamsterdam, complete with a giant rodent relaxing on the Lido Deck). I do not think these great accomplishments are what landed me my job, but, little by little, maybe I was being prepared for the world of travel.
Years later, after studying abroad in college at the Cannes Film Festival, on which I took a quick detour, my passion for travel emerged. I didn’t even consider the position of a travel consultant at the time. I just thought to myself: I sure would love to hop around the world more often. That same summer, I walked into a travel agency to get a brochure for a family cruise and wound up walking out with a job. I didn’t even realize I was talking to the owners when I was enthusiastically recalling stories from my recent trip to France. I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time.
Now, I perform a balancing act: offering my clients the highest level of customer service and feeding my own insatiable desire to see, experience, and learn about the world. Whether that means taking webinars to learn virtually or managing bookings from Paul Tudor Jones’ personal office in his villa at Singita Pamushana in Zimbabwe (we all fought to sit at his desk), I’m always striving to grow in the industry to the best of my ability. I’m fortunate for a network like Virtuoso, which offers me a wonderful support system.
Last weekend at the Four Seasons Scottsdale, Cassie, Beth and I ate breakfast and lamented over some of the industry’s downfalls:
“People think all we do is travel,” Cassie said as she sorted through over 400 business cards from Virtuoso Week, “but they don’t see the behind the scenes.”
“Exactly,” I agreed, taking a bite of my Banana Brulée Oatmeal and choosing what else to order with my $60 breakfast credit. “Like when we get the 5 AM calls because a flight has been canceled.”
“Or when we’re still working until after midnight,” Beth mentioned, taking a swig of her Bloody Mary.
When the waiter asked if he could get us anything else, it’s a shock that we all didn’t say “A LESS STRESSFUL JOB!” from beneath our mound of food and Mimosas.
That conversation was more of a satire than anything, but you get the gist. The job can be demanding!
You have to deal with flight prices fluctuating like the stock market and some picky clients who can’t be pleased, blaming you for the number of children at Universal studios or for causing the tropical storm that delayed their honeymoon. Luckily, that’s a minority of clients, but it does happen.
The biggest joy I have is from forming a relationship with my clients and providing a service that they wouldn’t have otherwise had without me. We are handling our client’s most valuable commodity: their free leisure time. If we lose that for them, they’re never getting it back – a lot rides on the shoulders of a trusted travel advisor.
During my busy season, I had a small emotional breakdown after a particularly crazy day where I made over ten bookings in one sitting at work (that one sitting lasted 12 hours – I did not get out of my chair for anything). My mother looked at me and said, “Next time you want to cry about how hard your job is, I’m going to show you a photo of Turks and Caicos and say ‘This is why you do it.'”
She’s right – it’s the passion for discovering the world paired with an eternally restless spirit that motivates me. I just crave more: one more pushpin on the map, one more passport stamp, one more postcard to add to my collection, one more blog post to share my stories. Working in travel, my bucket list grows daily – there are places that I’d never heard of last week that now I’m dying to get to before 2013.
“You can’t do it all in one year,” my father always reminds me, to which I usually reply: “Watch me.”