The year 2020 will be remembered whether we want that or not. My beloved travel industry has been impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic perhaps more than any other industry worldwide. And it was just a little more than 20 years ago when I joined the ranks of my colleagues, eager to hone the skills and learn whatever necessary to expertly craft leisure travel experiences all around the globe. It has been quite a ride!
The year began with great expectations for my travel business, Active Travel Pro. 2019 was my best year ever in earnings, and my travelers who had wonderful adventures planned for 2020 were certainly looking forward to their trips. Dan and I had taken a lovely visit to Punta Cana in early December, and in January we skied in Steamboat Springs with the Cincinnati Ski Club.
The flight I had planned to see my granddaughter and her parents and uncle in LA for early April was grounded along with so many other flights, as you well know by now. The airline industry may never fully recover. And we will surely see, before the end of this worldwide crisis, many more businesses in the travel industry close their doors.
Do you feel as I do that travel is a right and a privilege? I believe travel changes people. I believe travel teaches tolerance. I believe travel is important for mental wellness. When you travel, you are investing in memories that last a lifetime and give back immeasurably.
Most of my travelers vacations and honeymoons were cancelled because the country wasn’t allowing Americans to visit, the supplier cancelled the group, the cruise ship was unable to sail, or the client decided they were not willing to risk the health consequences by taking the trip. I worked countless hours without pay either requesting refunds or rescheduling the trip for future dates. Travel professionals are typically paid either after final payments are made or after they return home. I am actually STILL dealing with this with very few commissions paid this year. At press time I received the email notifying me that a spring-time Northern Europe cruise that three special clients of mine were hoping would depart was cancelled. Here we go again!
To make matter worse, most travel advisors and agency owners are independent contractors, meaning we get 1099 tax forms at the end of the year and have never before qualified to receive unemployment. It was a Godsend for me that in this case of a pandemic, Ohio created a PUA website and those of us in the travel industry were allowed to apply for assistance. I am lucky to get a small weekly amount to help me to pay for food and utilities, as well as my half of the mortgage on the home I share with Dan.
It has not been all gloom and doom, I promise you. One blessing is that I already work from home, right? No adjustment there, other than my love also came home full-time to work, at least for a while; he was this fall a victim of a re-organization by 5/3 and is currently seeking an IT position with, preferably, a company in the Cincinnati area. We have had more time with our pets, Maggie, my aging and likely soon to see the Rainbow Bridge, and Sponge Cat, our adopted and most often outdoor orange tabby. We have also had time to work on renovating our deck, chimney and gardens. I absolutely love gardening, so I feel gratefulness for that time!
As I continue my marketing plan despite the state of the world, I celebrate a great result with you. A group of nearly 90 adults have been booked on a 7-night Celestyal Cruises Greek islands itinerary. Dan and I will lead it in September of 2022, so we are VERY excited to have something on the calendar.
The sudden closure of borders around the world also gave me time to consider how I might make some lemon out of lemonade. Pivoting quickly, I aligned with a good friend to become a consultant for the female-owned skin care business, Lemongrass Spa Products. Already a “health nut”, as they called us back in the day, I had been impressed with the natural, mostly vegan and organic products for a while. It made sense to me, as a business owner who already used social media for my marketing, to give it a whirl.
It’s been a fun and rewarding journey! It feels good to introduce my friends, family and clients to alternatives to the chemical-laden offerings so prevalent in America. You surely already know the industry is largely un-regulated, and so many ingredients on store shelves and peddled online have been linked to diseases and conditions. But I digress, as this is another of my passions, good health…you get my point, right? A wonderful benefit of this side gig is that the interesting people (all strong, entrepreneurial women) I have met know what I do and that I own a travel agency. That may hopefully translate into more travel clients when this horrible pandemic ends. And to be sure, if you would like to know more about the skin, hair and body yummies or your own side hustle, please reach out to me. Your body will thank you!
This past Sunday, I was driving my 2001 Celica (yep, she was nearly 20 years old!) with Dan in the passenger seat to a glassworks place to blow our own Christmas ornaments. I was excited to get dressed to go ANYWHERE beyond the grocery store, for obvious reasons. Perhaps I was distracted by the energy of that. Perhaps it was simply the fact that I glanced quickly at Dan as we conversed. I saw it in his face that split second before I saw the car in front of us had suddenly stopped, and my reaction was just a little too slow. It all happened so fast, and I have to say, those air bags work. But, sadly, with an old car it nearly always means a total loss.
Nearly 20 years…I had named her “Old Black Betty” this year, after the song, hoping that having a name might help her last a little bit longer. I LOVED that little car. Nearly 230,ooo miles of memories, and she was gone in a flash. Dan felt nothing. I felt a lot that day. My chest still hurts two days later. The neck soreness lingers. And I gave in to my GP’s strong suggestion to get an x-ray on my ankle…yep, last night confirmed a possible cracked foot bone, so now I am sporting a lovely gray boot. Luckily for me, there is no live music or dancing these days, but I have been known to cut a rug here at home or out on our new deck once in a while! Insert my sad face here.
That brings us to today. December 8,2020, will be known as V-Day from this day forward. The first approved Covid-19 vaccinations were given in England today! First was a grandmother. The second was a senior gentleman with the name William Shakespeare. When I decided it had been long enough since I had written a blog and began writing this afternoon, I had no idea this day would be named. This milestone is incredibly meaningful and fills me with the promise of an end to this most challenging, crazy, and yes, heartbreaking 2020.
We now have a real reason to have hope. My travel agency will survive, thanks to a business loan I secured in the spring. I may have a car soon that is kinder to the planet and comes with really fun things like Bluetooth. And it is time for you to put hope on your own calendar in the form of a travel experience. Are you ready? I can help you with that. Actually, I would be honored.
PS My totally free, no strings attached gift for you this holiday season? This fabulous cocktail recipe book from all around the world! Which one will be YOUR favorite? Happy New Year!
Peace on Earth,