Become a travel agent and change your life forever.When people who don't know me see that I live in San Francisco, The Napa Valley and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, their first thought is that I must have been born into a privileged family.
This notion could not be further from reality. I born on the Greek Island of Santorini, far before it became Greece's crown jewel attracting throngs of visitors and jam-packed with caldera gawking tourists.
My father had once lived in San Francisco and moved my family back to the City by the Bay when I was three years old. I grew up in a middle-class San Francisco neighborhood.
I discovered my wanderlust at a young age. My fondest childhood memories were of summer vacations spent in Greece. I slept on couches, shared rides, and even learned to bake bread at age 12. The sharing economy was a part of my DNA.
At age 19, I did my first Europe stomp where I discovered my inner Hemmingway running alongside the swarming clusters of inebriated daredevil adventurers while dodging a few angry bulls.
I might add that I did graduate from Chico State University with a history degree and a marketing minor. At the time my celebrated college was considered the number one party school in America.
By the time that I was 24, I was still toiling odd jobs and living in my parent's basement room. My favorite means of income at the time was selling beer and souvenirs at Candlestick Park. I worked at Giants and 49ers sporting events; I even sold souvenirs at a Rolling Stones concert.
The reality was beginning to set in. My friends were working 9 to 5 jobs and starting careers in advertising, finance, and sales, I was prolonging the inevitable job search the quest towards meaningful employment.
Not having I headed back to Greece for perhaps one last hurrah. A summer of partying with old friends on Ios Island.
Serendipity reared its lovely head when I met a met Sven and Maria a Swedish couple whose mission in life apparently was to drink me under the table.
After many shots of the chalky Greek liquor Ouzo, Maria somehow convinced me to forfeit my return ticket back to California and join the happy couple on a trip to the Indian subcontinent.
After traveling all throughout Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Southeast Asia, Australia, and the South Pacific, the prodigal son returned home fully loaded with experiences and encounters on the road, and without a single job prospect on the horizons.
As my parents reminded me, "Your sister is a school teacher, and she will retire with a pension."
Since a teaching job did not enamor me; nor was I ready to sit behind a desk pushing pencils: I created a job for myself.
Proving that late bloomers do exist; having just traveled around the world purchasing airline tickets in Athens, Bangkok, and Sydney a light bulb went on.
Let's see, a history degree and a marketing minor, what job qualifications did I possess? The answer, not many!
I chose an alternate fork in the road; the path less travel; the entrepreneur route, and started the first travel agency in America specializing in discount around the world airfares. In the beginning, it was frightening yet exciting at the same time.
I was intoxicated by selling travel and helping fellow pilgrims see the world as I had.
Perseverance paid off and I created a rewarding life by starting three different travel agencies. In fact, I've never left the profession of travel. While I still sell travel, I also write about travel.
Since, the advent of the internet, I've been asked if there are still travel agents. I'm happy to tell the world that travel agents are alive and well, and that business is booming.
Navigating the complex web of internet options is a daunting process. Simply stated, a machine cannot replicate the skill set of a well-trained consultant. That's why consumers are waking up and realizing the value of someone who sells travel on a daily basis.
If you wish to change your life for the better and become a travel agent like I did, luckily there is a governing board for travel agency advocacy that assists and looks out for travel agents called ASTA.
The American Society of Travel Agents or ASTA is the world's largest travel professionals association. ASTA aids travel industry professionals through both training and representation in our nation's capital.
The mission of ASTA and its affiliated organizations is to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism. ASTA seeks a retail travel marketplace that is profitable, growing and a rewarding place to work, invest and do business.
The numbers don't lie, 70% of ASTA travel agents turned a profit in 2016.
I was brought up by Greek immigrant parents who taught me to respect people and to keep lands pristine and to tread lightly; the importance of learning from local society; how to work hard but smart. My venture to become a travel advisor changed my life for the better.
My employees regularly mentioned that I was the nicest boss in the world.
I'm happy to announce that I will not be in need of a pension.