In an instant—everything changed.
It was 2016 and I was working with a truly awesome team as one of two attorneys in a mid-sized medical group. Though I loved my team and was good at the work, for a number of reasons I was rapidly becoming overwhelmed and depressed.
Turns out when you go from one high stress career (US Naval Officer) to another (lawyer) to having two super cute but very high-intensity babies back-to-back, your brain doesn't always take the transition with ease. In fact, it can be a recipe for a mental health crisis.
I could feel the path I'd chosen slowly breaking me. Then, out of the blue, an old friend of the family popped up for a chat with.my husband and mentioned that he was looking for someone to work with him at his new travel agency.
I literally screamed across the room, "I'LL DO IT!!!" which caused both my husband and our friend to laugh. They didn't realize how serious I was.
With an undergraduate degree in Marketing, plenty of customer service and sales experience, and internship in the Walt Disney World Resort's Travel Agent Education Program, returning to a career in the travel industry was truly just coming full-circle for me. For a lot of my colleagues and newer friends, though, it probably seemed insane.
In the beginning, my leap back to the travel industry was an escape. A potential "side gig" that would allow me a flexible schedule and some fun perks; not to mention staving off that potential mental breakdown I had begun to worry about. I think a lot of people start with the first two ideas (maybe not the third).
Very quickly, I rediscovered how much I enjoyed working in the travel industry and how much fun the job could be. I also discovered that I was good at what I was doing. My naturally competitive nature also might have taken over. After a year of being an Associate Advisor, I wanted to build an agency of my own.
I told my very gracious friend what I was planning. Though disappointed, he understood and we have remained friends and colleagues in the industry.
It was four years ago that I officially founded Exemplary Travel Advisors. The Spring of 2019. We had an extraordinarily successful first year. So successful that my stress levels returned with a vengeance. I knew I had to change the way I approached my business so that I could once again enjoy the work.
On the verge of updating my approach, I set out with a group to the Walt Disney World Resort. We arrived on March 11th. On March 12th, everything changed again.
The Disney parks announced they would close after business on the 15th due to the growing threat of a virus. Our flights already set, we decided to stay to the end. I spend half my time canceling trips. We flew home on March 16th, on a half empty plane, to an uncertain future.
It was the lowest of low times. Everything I worked so hard to build went up in smoke in an instant. For months, I worked long hours for no pay, to undo so many vacation dreams. It was heartbreaking and I questioned every decision I had ever made.
I came close to throwing in the towel many times. Like many other people, I wasn't sure if things would ever return to the way they used to be. I continued to travel when it was possible and I learned as much as I could during the downtime. I visited Mexico & Greece. I went to conferences when they were allowed. I got every vaccine I could so I could get out in the world unencumbered.
In May of 2022 the sun finally began to rise on the world of travel. The restrictions were lifted and the floodgates opened. Travel has boomed back even bigger than we could have hoped!
The reopening of the world hasn't been without challenges. The world opened but most businesses weren't ready. Flights were a mess, hotels were understaffed and frustrations on all sides ran high. It has taken almost a year to get back to somewhat "normal" operations. Now we are dealing with sky-high costs and smaller capacities than we'd like for our clients. Still, it's good to be traveling freely again and every day bring us closer to a new equilibrium.
Three years after the world shut down, we have emerged renewed. Exemplary Travel Advisors is now a Platinum ranked agency and is currently ranked as one of the Top 50 agencies with Travel Planners International. In addition to myself, we have a team of five other independent advisors and my lovely assistant, all of whom work together to help our ever-growing list of clients.
Our agency looks a bit different that it did when it was just me, a laptop, and a spreadsheet way back when. I started with lots of Disney vacation planning and now we cover the world! In the next twelve months I will visit Scotland and France, go on two Alaska cruises, visit both the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts, attend the Signature Travel Network Conference in Las Vegas and, for the first time, attend the ASTA River Cruise Expo in Amsterdam.
I'm so proud of how far we've come and I can't wait to see what happens on the journey ahead! If you've lasted this long and would like to know what it's like to work with us, click this link to get started.