Hello there! It's been a while since I've written a "travel" focused article or blog post, but as some of my longtime friends, former colleagues and current clients know...I started in the travel industry as a journalist fresh out of the S.I Newhouse School at Syracuse University in 1991. That was a LONG time ago, which means I now have 30 years (!) combined experience between my travel journalist/magazine editor and my luxury travel advisor careers.
The below link is a recent video interview that I did with one of my very favorite bosses (1994-2000) at Travel Agent Magazine. One of the most talented travel reporters of all time, my now-good friend James Shillinglaw told me back then that he he gave me (and a handful of others) the most challenging stories, the most pages to fill and tight deadlines because "I could handle it." He also asked me if I was sure I wanted to move to LA in 1998 when I asked for a transfer from our Manhattan offices, and told me he thought I'd want to write for the Wall Street Journal about airlines someday. Ha ha, I responded. No way. Get me to the west coast, let me write about fun things like luxury hotels and ski resorts. So he did. And that kickstarted a move over to the luxury travel/magazine side, as I was hired to launch Elite Traveler---the private jet magazine---as the Founding Editorial Director.
A few years into working crazy hours alongside a super-talented and fun Elite Traveler team, traveling the world to attend fashion shows in Florence, jewelry and watch shows in Basel, travel shows from Berlin to Bangkok, I opted out. My dad was battling cancer. I moved to Florida for a few years to regroup, deal with some family stuff and along the way, had an epiphany. I had an intuitive hit that I had other things to do besides "just" write about the places I was seeing and the people I was meeting. I'd never forgotten one of my first life-changing travel writing assignments, gifted to me by my first boss Veronica Stoddart at Caribbean Travel & Life magazine.
The editor who was supposed to fly to Necker Island and interview Richard Branson's team about the ultra-luxe private island where Princess Di, Demi Moore and Oprah had recently stayed, got sick last minute and backed out. When I was asked if I could pack a bag and leave next week, it was a no brainer. Sure. Send me to the Caribbean at 22 to meet Richard Branson, still my entrepreneurial hero. I had no idea I'd be on the same trip as some of the best luxury travel luminaries in the biz (Peter Carideo and Bill Fischer!). But, that's when the seeds were planted that I needed to share what I was seeing and experiencing with a wider audience than "just" the magazine readership. I'll never forget interview agency owners like Fischer, and to this date, keep in mind his BEST advice: "There are a lot of wealthy people out there. Work with the nice ones. Try to, anyways."
Thanks Bill. That's still my guiding mantra. Fifteen years into selling luxury travel now, I honestly only enjoy what I do because of who I am fortunate enough to work with. If it's not an enjoyable experience for both of us, there's no point. Life is too short not to truly enjoy what you are doing, and who you are doing it with. I hope you enjoy the video and will read my future blog posts. I promise no fluffy hotel reviews. The world has enough writers out there just telling you how pretty hotel rooms are. I'm going to share insights gleaned from 30 years in this travel industry, as well as ongoing thoughts on the current state of the travel world. That's not to say I won't tell you my favorite spots to dine (you gotta try Isana for sushi when next on Maui) OR dole out a few insider tips here and there on how to travel better and more efficiently. I am always learning as I go, and love to share what I learn.
Have a BEAUTIFUL weekend. Feel free to follow me on Twitter & Instagram at @stacyhopesmall and tag me #NotYourAverageTravelAgent if you have a question or topic you'd like me to cover in the future. Email me firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to connect about future travel plans!