Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Why I do what I do

Selling travel is like walking a tightrope without a net. It is a fine mix of being a psychiatrist, coach, bartender, lawyer and salesperson. It is also a very high stress business, constantly changing, and you never know from day to day if it will be creative or if it will be all order-taking.

But this is why I became a travel agent: I believe that if I can provide people with real travel experiences, I am helping to pave a path toward peace and understanding. This goal, this belief, is why I steer away from the sun destinations (Mexico, Caribbean, Hawaii) and focus instead on Southern Hemisphere, adventure and exotic travel, and anything off the beaten path.

My goal is to let people really meet local people, not in a sanitized, touristic theme show, but first-hand - that can mean anything from camping with Aboriginal Elders in a remote area of the Northern Territory to visiting with a Sangomo in Kwazulu Natal. But an intimate experience can change a person's point of view at depth, and that is a path to understanding and peace.

The job is not without stress. People sometimes have unrealistic expectations. Sometimes there is loss - unexpected death, illness, accidents - that affect clients and we have to be there for them - years ago, a colleague had clients take a rental car into a country in Eastern Europe; the car wasn't supposed to go into that particular country. It was a father and son. And the father died of a heart attack, the son spoke only English, he's stuck with an illegal car and not knowing what to do, he called my colleague. I won't go into details but it was the stuff of either a comedy of errors or a spy film, and hard work.

But truly, I do this because I believe that we need to meet other cultures. As of this month, a passport is required for US Citizens to go to Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico. Perhaps those people who've never traveled beyond those places might decide to venture farther afield.

Once you break bread with someone, you find a common ground.


Peacechick Mary said...

I agree totally on the meeting people part of travel. It's my favorite part. I'm working on a driving trip for the summer from Florida to Alberta Canada. Long drive, but I get to meet people in so many different areas of the country that way and I can take my time.

Anonymous said...

What a great post. I am currently reading Imperial Life in the Green Zone, and the attitudes of the American occupiers toward the Iraqis was/is appalling... bringing in tons of "American" food, often to the disgust of the Muslims who have to serve all the pork, little and/or no contact with local culture, cuisine, customs. Argh.

Keep up your good work.

Anonymous said...

You can't without first dehumanizing, and it's harder to dehumanize once you've broken bread with another...

sumo said...

You have an envious and interesting job. You also have the heart to understand and blend with the are fortunate as well as they.

Anonymous said...

You can't **kill** without...damn typos of omission.

Anonymous said...

Canada and Mexico used to be cheap vacations - especially for those of us who live within fairly easy driving distance. Go to another country for less than it costs to go to Disney.

Now you must pony up an unconscionable amount of cash for a passport just to go visit countries with whom we allegedly have a "Free Trade" agreement. I see - we can drink their beer but only HERE!

Another attempt by the Bush Regime to limit the travel of the middle and lower classes.


If I have to get a passport, then I'm not going to Mexico or Canada - I'll go to Scotland and visit friends there!

I'm surprised Mexico and Canada haven't already begun to complain about this and see tourism revenues drop.

Anonymous said...

how true it is. people here tend to think that the whole world is made like here. they expect to find the same shops and the same foods and whatnot- with just a bit of 'local' color thrown in for amusement. perhaps it's because of the strip malls and chain eateries here that have popped up from new york to idaho. it is a good thing that you do- and i admire your sentiment. one person at a time- for you never know who is going to be one to make a difference in the world.

The Fat Lady Sings said...

I agree with you completely. I've been lucky enough to actually live outside the United States more than once. And I've traveled extensively in Asia and Europe. I never, ever went the tourist route. That's no fun. Do you remember the 60’s film 'If it's Tuesday This Must be Belgium'? I'm really not into that sort of experience. You know - if I had the means to do it - I'd like to spend the rest of my life living in different places all around the world. Before my accidents limited my mobility - my husband and I were planning a world tour via tramp steamers. Maris Freighter Cruises - you know all about them, right? That's how we were going to spend one summer. Hopping from one to the next, going wherever we liked, whenever we liked. Heaven. Our alternative was through National Geographic (I think). An ocean voyage replete with scientists lecturing on astronomy, architecture, archeology; all culminating in a dig somewhere – Santorini, Herculaneum. Again – no longer on the agenda I’m afraid. Now I can only visit virtually. I envy you your job, honey. You get to immerse yourself in so many diverse and fascinating cultures. Marvelous!

Yoga Korunta said...

There is nothing like travel to educate and expand one's horizons. More Americans should visit other cultures and be prepared to learn that ours is not the only way to live.

DivaJood said...

when I switched from blogger to the new blogger, some comments got turned to anonymous. Grrr. It seems to not affect new comments, just old ones. Sorry.

I think it's all fixed now.