The travel profession and storytelling
“A human life is a story told by God and in the best of stories told by humans, we come closer to God.” – Hans Christian Anderson
What is your reaction when someone says, “Let me tell you a story?” Most likely you listen attentively. The human mind loves a good story. Some portion of our psyche seeks a beginning, a middle, and an end. Every story has characters, a setting, and a series of incidents resulting in something memorable. Sound familiar?
Travel is actually very much like a good story. There is typically a beginning, middle, and an end, twists and plot complications, high and low points, and almost always something to be learned. Many of my own favorite personal stories are a part of some physical journey I have taken at some point in my life. I’ll wager you might be able to say the same.
Your clients spend most of their time in a very routine, logical work-a-day world. They want to travel, but all too often approach their planning from the same rational, logical mindset they use to purchase a television. Their thinking is all about features, logistics, and numbers. The rational side of our mind gives undue weight to matters like price. It’s up to you, the travel professional, to assist them in breaking through those barriers to a life experience.
As travel coaches charged with the responsibility of helping people travel well, it’s important to learn how to tell a story. When we can romance a memory, a destination, or activity, we move far beyond the logical, rational impediments to travel and move into a more mythical, emotional realm. How often do you reach out to your clients not to sell them anything, but simply to communicate your love of travel? I’m not speaking of manipulation, but rather to the ability to speak to their more intuitive, holistic faculties.
I love Africa. I first went there in my forties and nothing ever looked the same again. I climbed Kilimanjaro with my teenage son; we went on a safari together. I was charged, and nearly caught, by a bull elephant that I accidentally surprised on a path. I roamed the streets of Stonetown in Zanzibar and woke one morning to the simultaneous sounds of the chimes from a Hindu temple, the bells from the Catholic school, and the call to prayer from a mosque. I heard a blind teacher in Bagamoyo in profound gratitude and with pride recite the number of desks, blackboards, and classrooms in her small village school building. I saw there the remnants of the slave trade and learned that in Swahili “Bagamoyo” meant “Lay your heart down” because from that point on, hope was lost to a person captured for slavery.
For the life of me I cannot remember what my trip to Africa cost, but I would gladly pay it all over again just for the privilege of retaining the memories.
That type of passion is what travel is all about. Learn to tell your travel stories in such a way you break through logic to desire, to the place where the full value of the experience exceeds the price to be paid. Your clients want stories of their own. You can be both the catalyst and the pathway for them.
Learn to communicate your favorite travel stories to your clients. When you do, you will open up your passions to them, and passion ignites passion. Be passionate about helping others to travel well. Be passionate about a great value for those who come to you for assistance. Make their well-being your mission.
Help your clients to travel well and they will return to you again and again, because you will be a part of their story.