Can you believe it’s been a year and a half since I launched my travel agency? If you told me during college that I would one day start my own business, I never would have believed it. You see, my path has never been succinct, never one that I could sum up in a few sentences. Even now, when I meet new people who ask me how I got into the travel industry, I always say,”Well, it’s a long story…”
So why did I give up the stability of a salary and benefits to launch a business in an industry most think went extinct?
Most think passion is enough to start a business. Of course, I love travel, I’m passionate about travel but it was not the only driving factor.
I launched my travel agency because I wanted to design a life that balanced all of my passions and creativity - one that encouraged strong personal relationships with others, that allowed time for following my business instincts but also allowed time to breathe and rest. I wanted a life that allowed my creative projects to come to life, to connect and inspire people through my writing and photography, and to travel as frequently as time and money would allow. Most importantly, I wanted to help people see the world through my eyes and help them experience the powerful transformations travel creates.
Falling in love with travel is something not unlike dating, it starts slow and steady over time and then with such conviction that you cannot go weeks without planning your next tryst, your next addictive hit.
I grew up in an economically depressed town in upstate NY surrounded by cornfields and farmlands. My own parents did not even have passports and "travel" was seen as going to the next town over. The only people I knew who really traveled were my grandparents.
I’d sit at their kitchen table with a plastic world map placemat in front of me, memorizing each country name while my Grandma whipped up her famous mac and cheese. Across from me, my grandfather would sit with a stack of papers, notes, and books next to him. He had a fondness for telling stories or imparting wisdom and always at that worn kitchen table.
“Ruthie,” he’d say to my grandmother, “Do you remember that time when we chartered a boat in the Caribbean?” He always wanted to run off to the Caribbean, he said he’d be happy even in a shack on the beach. Though knowing how fussy and particular he was, I have my doubts.
Other times, he recounted the stories of trekking through Nepal. While my grandmother described this trip with details about the flowers, the house where my aunt lived, my grandfather instead told me that I just had to try the apple pie literally at the top of the world in Namche Bazaar.
It’s easy to imagine then that I had all these stories floating around my head for years before taking the plunge into studying abroad and solidifying my addiction to travel.
Everyone has that story of course, you can practically hear them saying, “Oh my god, when I was studying abroad, I learned soooo much about myself.” But not every college girl comes home from studying abroad and immediately jets off to the Middle East to continue the adventure.
The reason I am addicted to travel is that I am addicted to uncovering the different personalities of myself and addicted to uncovering new experiences. I’d ask myself, who would I be if I lived in a city where no one spoke my language, who would I be if I was the only white person in the room, who would I be if I went to a place I had preconceived notions about?
What would happen if I traced the footsteps of my favorite authors and found treasures buried in the back of bazars?
You probably can guess by now that I hate routine. I hate predictability. I prefer always to be slightly uncomfortable, which is why I’ve always pushed myself to try that new job, to take risks.
What seemed like the biggest risk of all, to move to the Middle East, filled me with an excitement not many people understood.
This "flip your perspective experience" is one of the core values of my agency. As Americans, we are constantly bombarded with terrorist threats, with the “danger” of other countries. We’ve radicalized the notion of a foreigner.
It is our job as American travelers to actually sit back and listen, to let others show us their complex and beautiful cultures, and to even take some ownership that yes, we have a lot to learn.
Only through travel can we confront our otherness and embrace differences. It’s the time when we take time to deepen our relationships, to let go of our anxiety and expectations, and to open our eyes to new ways of living.
There is nothing better than hearing from clients who had experiences that exceeded their expectations, clients who learned from guides who opened their eyes to new ways of thinking. There are endless benefits to travel and endless benefits to trusting the advice of a professional wayfinder.
This is why I started my agency - you deserve a damn good adventure that changes your life.
Don't you agree?