Greetings from the nation’s capital of Washington, DC! I never thought that I would be a travel agent or that I would be writing about my experience to share with others, but here it goes! My travel agency, Capital Travel and Events is a full service agency focusing on adventure travel, non-profit organization travel and accessible travel. Everything started by being an affiliate of a host agency (more of that later); and now my agency is independent and I have a team of two others who have joined to assist me as time permits and demand requires. I never thought I’d own a small business but now that I do, I can’t imagine what it would be like not to have it.
It all started roughly four years ago after realizing my friends and family all came to me for hotel and flight deals because I was able to find the bargain prices. I remember going to AAA or Boscov’s Travel with my parents when I was younger to have them book our family trips; but as an adult, I did not realize the travel industry was still alive and thriving. Where was this option in college?
My educational and professional experience prepared me for a career in health care and the human services field as a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. As a Recreation Therapist we are tasked with getting people back to activities and their community after an illness, injury or accident. We preach accessibility, well-being and a positive quality of life. While working with clients I noticed that one thing that came up time after time was, “how do I take my wheelchair on a plane?” or “are hotel rooms accessible?” and realized that there was a population in our country that was undeserved within the travel industry; people with disabilities.
It was (and still is) my passion for working with individuals with disabilities. The challenge in figuring out how to assist friends and family with travel planning while making some additional income, really pushed me to start my own travel agency and enter the home-based world of travel and host agencies. This was the perfect starting platform and for the past three years I’ve been part of a host agency I’ve loved. It was exactly what I needed to hone my skills, receive support and training. They allowed me to bother them almost daily with questions that my clients were posing. And I grew professionally because of that relationship.
At the end of 2014 I made the difficult decision to break away from my host agency safety net and have my agency become truly independent. I obtained my own E&O insurance, agent numbers (TRUE, IATA, ARC, etc.) and jumped through all the hoops and tangled myself in more red tape than anyone should ever be subject to. Was it worth it? Well, that’s what I’m hoping to share throughout this year. This diary will be about my trials and tribulations of being relatively new to the agent world and taking a leap relatively early into being independent and hopefully succeeding!
With everything comes growing pains and I have (and will have) trials by fire. I’ve been a fast learner about purchasing leads, flight-only clients, cancelled flights, travel insurance woes and everything in between. Although I still consider myself new to the industry because I don’t have the 20+ year experience that many have, I hope to bring the view of a new generation to the industry. I look forward to sharing my experience over the next year and look forward to any feedback or suggestions that anyone may have!
Nathan Graeff is the owner of Capital Travel and Events based in the nation’s capital of Washington, DC. His agency is a full service travel agency serving leisure and business clients but specializes in adventure travel, non-profit agency travel and accessible travel. Nathan is a home-based agent and a member of Millennials in Travel and OSSN.