Feel Good Friday: The impact of travel on the soul

Last week, I excitedly opened my mailbox to find the first issue of my brand new subscription to Conde Nast Traveler. For a person like me (whose life is literally all about travel these days), this publication is one of those that I thoroughly enjoy and savor. I read every single word from front to back, including the ads! But, as I perused this issue, I came across an article so stunningly beautiful, so well-written, so brilliantly crafted…I just stopped reading and pondered it for hours. It was more powerful than anything I’ve ever read on travel and I am certain that you will enjoy it just as much as I did.

How Traveling to 83 Countries Made Me Who I Am

Until next time, wander on!

Meet your travel consultant, Leah Mullins

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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Wishful Thinking Wednesday: Bora Bora

Imagine taking a dip in your own private plunge pool as you overlook a crystal clear turquoise lagoon in the South Pacific. With luxurious service, unparalleled food and fabulous entertainment, travelers would be hard pressed to find a destination more perfect for a romantic getaway or honeymoon vacation. But, if you want white glove service and accommodations, it will come with a price tag. With overwater bungalows averaging $500+ per night and roundtrip airfare priced around $2500 per person, Bora Bora is the winner for our Wishful Thinking Wednesday dream destination!

Why Use A Travel Agent?

As Dream Destinations Unlimited prepares for official launch on May 1, the most common initial reactions we’ve heard are:

  • Travel agents still exist?
  • Why would anyone use a travel agent when you can do it all online now?
  • I am one of those people who loves to plan vacations. Why would I hire a travel agent to take over one of the most fun aspects of my vacation?

To be fair, the industry has changed dramatically in the last decade or so. Gone are the days when the only way to book an airline ticket was through a neighborhood travel agency. As technology has evolved, the industry has also evolved dramatically to create a new breed of travel agent. In fact, the title of agent doesn’t seem to fit the bill any longer. More fitting titles would be: travel adviser, travel consultant or travel concierge.

Today’s breed of agent is no longer utilized primarily for booking travel…rather, they are prized for their  deep knowledge of the industry, their destination and niche expertise, their relationships and connections with suppliers and consortia, their full service planning capabilities (down to dining reservations and guided tours), and their ability to deliver clients the most enjoyable and personalized travel experiences of their lives.

As if that weren’t enough, here are a few practical benefits of working with a travel consultant on your next vacation:

  1. Lower Prices – Because travel agents are often members of consortia organizations (like Ensemble Travel Group, Signature Network or Vacation.com), they are able to access offers that the average traveler doesn’t ever see. You might be thinking, “I can book the cheapest rate on my own by booking directly with the hotel/cruiseline/car company.” Right? Not always. Many times, agents are given package prices that are not available to the public. So, even if you end up paying an up front agency/professional fee for research and planning, you might still get a better deal than if you’d booked on your own.
  2. WYSIWYG – What You See Is What You Get. This is not always true when booking with large online travel engines. Sure, those deals may look wonderful, but even with fellow traveler reviews, how do you know for sure that your hotel is in a safe place or that you are getting the most you can possibly get for the money you are paying? How do you know the one-size-fits-all package you are booking will turn out to be exactly what you’re looking for in your next vacation? You just don’t. At Dream Destinations, every potential client receives a complimentary vacation consultation. In this consultation, we will share the business side of what we do and, more importantly, we will ask you a lot of very specific questions and actually listen to your answers. We will figure out what you are truly looking for in a vacation and we will get to work to make your vacation as enjoyable as possible, so every penny of your money is an investment in a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience.
  3. Payment Options – When you book a trip on one of the online engines, you can find some pretty great deals. But you will pay for the entire vacation up front. For travelers that don’t have that kind of cash on hand all at once, using an agent can be helpful, as they are sometimes able to work out easy-to-manage payment plans.
  4. More Availability – If you listen closely, you will hear stories of hero agents who have secured reservations for clients at a sold out property. Sometimes, agents have access to a block of rooms or cruise cabins that have been pre-reserved especially for their consortia members or their own clients. Other times, well…the agent really is just a rock star and they pull every string in the book to get the client a room in that “sold out” hotel. Remember, suppliers like working with agents and will do things for them because of their previous relationship and camaraderie.
  5. Security/Backup – Even if you’ve purchased travel protection insurance, any number of scenarios could disturb or interrupt your travel. When you agree to work with an agent, you are locking in the agent’s attention, support, advice and guidance – not just in the planning phase of your vacation, but during and after your travel as well. Think of your agent as the angel on your shoulder. Natural disaster in your destination? Flights canceled? Missed a connection? If you booked online, you would be on your own. Use an agent, though, and you can breathe easier…knowing you’ll be taken care of in the event that something goes wrong.
  6. VIP Treatment – Because your agent has connections with travel consortia and suppliers, they are able to pull all sorts of strings to impress you. Why? Because they want nothing more than to impress you again when you come back to them for your next vacation…and your next after that. In addition to familiarity and knowledge of your personal travel preferences and needs, agents constantly have access to special perks, upgrades, treats and surprises that they will use to benefit you on your dream vacation.

So, do better deals, personalized attention, flexible planning and VIP status sound good to you? Dream Destinations Unlimited welcomes the opportunity to serve as your vacation concierge. From now until April 30th, anyone who likes our Facebook page and messages us to be added to our Launch Wait List for a complimentary vacation consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype) will receive a 50% discount on agency fees if they decide to go ahead and work with us to book their travel (no obligations to purchase).

Also, please follow us on Twitter and share with your friends!

Early Client Promotion

Join our waiting list today and we’ll contact you in a couple of weeks, when we officially launch, to schedule your complimentary travel consultation!

Been dreaming of a romantic retreat or a family vacation this summer?

Facebook friends that sign up to be on our wait list for a complimentary 1-hour travel consultation (in-person, phone or Skype) will receive a sizable discount on services.

Contact us before April 30, 2016!