Wouldn’t it be lovely if you and I could just sit down for a cup of coffee and get to know each other? I would tell you all about where I’ve been and what my dreams for this business are and I would gleefully devour all your travel stories and daydream with you about future vacations and bucket list adventures. Sigh. I do hope we have that opportunity soon. For now, though, I would be happy to start the conversation here and share some information with you about where I’ve been and, more importantly, where I got this hair-brained idea to completely change careers in my late 30’s and open my own travel agency.

I was born in San Diego, California and spent my entire childhood there. I suppose you could say that going to Mission Beach every single day in the Summer wasn’t a bad childhood. *wink wink* We took small trips down to Mexico and occasionally into the mountains of Idyllwild. When I was 12 years old, my family moved to Greenwood, Indiana, which was my first experience with culture shock. In high school, I did some mission trips with my youth group, but all of them were stateside.

I flew on an airplane for the first time when I was 14 – an unaccompanied minor on an Indy to Ithaca flight on Christmas Eve. There were no restaurants open in the airport and, due to storms, the flight was severely delayed. By the time I reached New York, a four hour flight had turned into a 12-hour ordeal. All I’d had to eat the entire time was a small bag of peanuts and a candy cane and I was ravenous. This was also my first lesson in travel exhaustion, for when we finally made our way from the airport through a whiteout blizzard to the place we were staying in the Adirondacks, I barely had enough energy to eat a crust of bread and water before I completely passed out. (Rough life, huh? Hee hee.)

I entered Purdue University in 1996. My relationship with travel really took off in college. First, a few trips to Pensacola for Spring Break, several road trips to so many wonderful U.S. states and the pinnacle of travel for me in college was a Spring Break visit to Izmir, Turkey. It was my first experience with overseas flights, passports, a language I didn’t know, public transportation in an unfamiliar city, cultural taboos, and foreign currencies.

After college, I went to work and started a family. There were the requisite Disney World vacations every other year or so. We were so lucky that my in-laws had a timeshare at Disney. My kids experienced this magical place when they were babies (even though my first time was when I was 23). We have loved Disney and stayed in most of their properties and I could give you insider tips for days. In those days, I learned that a city was fully capable of having a personality and that it was entirely possible to visit once and fall in love with her: the jewel of my heart, New Orleans.

I suppose there was always a restless part of me that still wasn’t finished with travel. I would hear about globetrotting friends’ adventures (usually they were married without kids) and I’d feel that familiar pang of jealousy. I got the idea that a “responsible” person who is taking care of a career and a family can’t possibly entertain such wild notions as traveling the entire world. But, I sure wished I’d done more when I was younger and had the chance. Sadly, I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t do much more of it and that my opportunity had passed.

Fast forward about 10 years. Catastrophic life changes. Divorce. Single motherhood. The rekindling of an old romance from high school. Remarriage. And a layoff…after 10 years at the same, steady employer. And here I am…the same woman I was all those years ago, but in a completely different life.

When I was laid off, I found myself at a turning point and I knew I could either continue on the same path I was already on (which was to stay in a field/job that I really didn’t have any passion for or desire to continue) OR I could be braver than I’ve ever been and see the layoff as an opportunity to completely reinvent myself. I could sit around and watch Netflix and sleep all day until I magically ran out of money. Or I could put in 9-14 hour days every single day and risk investing some money into effectively learning an entirely new craft. I chose to take a rather massive leap. I enrolled in and completed a Travel Agent Training Course, joined The Travel Institute and signed up for their 10-week Travel Professionals training series, earned my Destination Caribbean Specialist and Cruise Specialist designations and connected with an industry leading host agency, Incentive Connections Travel (an Ensemble Travel Group partner). I filed for sole proprietorship with my County, set up the financial side of the business, prepared an official Business Plan and expense forecast, started a waitlist of clients who are looking to book soon and I’m about two weeks away from official business launch. Phew! That sounds exhausting just reading it…but nowhere near as exhausting as it actually was.

When my now-husband and I first began dating, we would dream about all the places we’d love to experience together. We made it a priority in our relationship to travel as a way of life. We had already spent 18 years apart (from the first time we were dating) and with a second chance to be together, we wanted to fill our lives with as many amazing memories as possible. The fact is, if we don’t consciously make something a priority, it seems we never actually find the time or the money or the ability. And we’d like our lives to be built on fabulous experiences, so we are willing to live with a little less “stuff” to be able to have those experiences. It is a personal choice we have made for ourselves and we certainly don’t force our beliefs on others. It is what it is. For us, though, travel will be near the top of our priority list until we are too old to get on an airplane.

We have been together a relatively short time, but in the almost four years we’ve spent traveling together, we’ve visited Cozumel (Mexico), San Juan (Puerto Rico), Grand Turk (Turks and Caicos), and Nassau (Bahamas).  In the months to come, I will be sharing more in depth insights into each of these locations with you, here on this blog. This summer, we will embark on an adventure to see Venice (Italy), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Santorini and Katakalon (Greece) and Ephesus (Turkey). And you better believe we’ll be documenting and sharing about that!

I hope this journey through my life in travel (so far) has given you the idea that I have a deep passion for it. I would love to hear your travel stories. More than that, I would love to create vacations for you that are above and beyond anything you could even imagine. If you are interested in chatting about the possibilities, I am happy to provide a complimentary travel consultation at any time. You can reach me by email at leah@drmdestinations.com or contact me via Facebook or Twitter.

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