So last month I shared with you my trip home to Scotland at Christmas for the first time since starting out in the travel industry almost 15 years ago. This month I want to share a little on how I got to where I am at the lovely age of 36. Being raised in Europe I was fortunate to enjoy overseas holidays every year to Spain, France, Greece etc. When I was about 7 and playing with my holiday rep one day in Spain, I told my mum “I want to do that when I am older.” Sure enough when I was able to study, I went into languages in order to have an advantage when moving overseas. Once I graduated, I got my first job as a flight attendant and off to Paris I went. I was 20, young, nervous, lonely, naïve but determined. It took some getting used to but eventually it became home and I thrived.
Being a social butterfly and intrigued with travel from an early age, I got itchy feet and needed to move. I knew there was a post in Amsterdam with better money and even more vacation time than Paris, plus paid vacation–perfect! I got to fly every day, travel cheaply, and had plenty of time off to enjoy my free time to explore. I loved this life and started ticking countries off my bucket list.
After a few years I became an overseas holiday representative based in various resorts around the world looking after the Brits who were on holiday. One thing I learned working with people who are on holiday is that the customer isn’t always right; we just let them be right. You could have someone in a perfect hotel with amazing surroundings, wonderful weather and food; and they would still find something to complain about just to complain. Today it seems the average customer seems to think they should get something for nothing. I used to think that it was only the British but I have later come to realize over the years that that is not the case.
I eventually ended up in Jackson Hole Wyoming in 2003. It was a long way for Scottish lass with this funny accent. All of the cowboys would ask how I ended up in Wyoming? I would always just laugh. My laughter has served me well; today I am in Boise and get the same question!
I am now working as a travel agent (for about a year now) and I love my job; but I have come to realize that in order for me to thrive, I need people to travel. And Americans, in comparison to other countries, are the least travelled. Part of this is due to size. America is so big, many people stay within the country. But my biggest gripe is getting the proper time off. America has the worst vacation time for a developed country, and has been dubbed the “no vacation nation.” In Europe vacation time is considered a human right; so why wouldn’t you want to reward your employees. I have planned out vacations for many people and I get excited every time for them but it saddens me when I get that call a few days … “I can’t get the time off.” What? I find that people are too scared to take some time off for fear of offending their boss or losing their job. And if no one will travel, I don’t get paid.
Reports have proven that almost 60% of Americans had unused vacation time last year. Where I come from we work to live; not live to work. I understand that times are hard and the money isn’t as readily available anymore; but statistics have proven that people who take vacations actually function better in their work field. They are happier. Depression is lower because you look forward to something pleasurable. Stress levels are decreased because you are able to unwind. I could go on and on. I am very passionate about this; and I think travelling is an eduction and should be available to everyone.
I tell my clients you can’t put a price on creating memories of a lifetime; and you can’t take it with you when you’re gone. I ask them to recall the past ten years. What do they remember? That 2002 Honda that has been gone for 6 years? That one time pay raise? Or was it that amazing trip to Tuscany where you learned to cook true authentic Italian food and drank some of the best wine in the region whilst mingling with the locals? I know what I’d remember?
At times I feel like Don Quixote chasing windmills, but I feel very strongly about travel and the benefits it brings. This is my crusade. What’s yours?
Nikki Smith works in a Boise based brick and mortar agency, Global Travel, a Virtuoso Agency. Nikki got her start in her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland when she started in the industry as a flight attendant. She has also worked as a guide for ski and snow vacations worldwide.