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Getting Back to Business & JOY, one hotel visit at a time

by Stacy Hope Small

I did something today I haven’t done in an over a year: I woke up early and drove to my first real, in-person, elite travel business meeting… AT A LOCAL MAUI HOTEL. And then, I took a full-on (masks on) guided tour of said hotel! Took photos, and sent them to clients who will soon be staying at this beautiful Maui resort for birthdays, anniversaries and family vacations. Things that we used to take for granted.

Based on the onslaught of texts, calls and emails I am getting recently from clients, many of us are ready to enjoy life again, after a really really really wild and unexpected pandemic. It threw us all for a loop. It’s time to get back to having fun, in a safe, healthy and conscious way. It struck me when I saw guests sitting by the serenity pool at the Wailea Beach Resort and kids going down the water slides that JOY is our birthright.

follow your heart but take your brain with you

Fresh from a year-long forced sabbatical, I know I sure took a lot for granted the past decade pre-covid when the luxury travel business was BOOMING. One of my clients said my photos got her so excited she could cry. And then, I nearly cried tears of relief because I’ve truly not realized just how much I’ve missed communicating with people about future travel plans. I LOVE visiting hotels, researching options, meeting the on-site teams and matchmaking clients to the right hotels in the right destinations.

I live on Maui. Haven’t left in 15 going on 16 months now. And, while I recently got my vaccination and booked my own very first trip off island to Colorado for June, it appears 2021 is the year everyone wants to come to Hawaii. It’s still a bit complicated due to ever-changing covid rules/travel policies, but the light at the end of the tunnel is here — and it’s why I left my bubble in the Maui suburbs and drove 35 minutes to the Wailea Beach Resort this morning for a meet, greet and a tour.

Wailea Beach Resort
I snapped this photo while touring Wailea Beach Resort, the first hotel I’ve toured in over a year

I know, doesn’t sound all that crazy, but considering we are just slowly emerging from that year of staying home — away from people — it felt pretty damn special to show up for a meeting with a hotel sales director. After a year of sending zero business anywhere, for obvious reasons no one was traveling, we are starting to see signs of life. The “MASK UP” signs all over the resort, the impeccable cleanliness, the mutual respect I observed between the guests and the staff made it ultra-clear that these are different times and to enjoy them, we have to play by the policies in place.

It all comes back around to the JOY I felt pulling up to a hotel drive today, handing the keys to my Jeep to the gloved valet guy and him asking me who I was there to see. It was a lot more fun to be there as Stacy with Elite Travel International — the company I founded 15 years ago — than Stacy the gluten-free cookie lady as I became known all pandemic. While sparking joy one healthier cookie at a time and launching an online healthier cookie company was on my list of things to do in this lifetime, it wasn’t destined to be my destiny. After a year completely away from booking travel, hearing from clients how happy they are that I chose travel over cookies is all I need to remind me that I am always on the RIGHT PATH.

Choose how you want to live your life, there’s so much joy in freedom.

Right path, right time, even when it doesn’t always feel that way. I know when I am aligned and when I am not. For the past year, I don’t think I know anyone who felt super-aligned. We were all doing the best we could to stay healthy and to keep calm amidst the chaos. My own world imploded. It was just a year ago I was t-boned by a speeding van and my Jeep was thrown up an embankment and totaled. I know. I know. I think of that daily and it reminds how freaking fortunate and grateful I am to be OKAY. To be here, making the choice to follow my heart but bring my brain back into the travel business because it now has 30 years of knowledge and too many people need some of what I have to share.

Moral of this story? It’s totally more than okay to go full circle and end up back where you started, but with decades more experience, a whole lot of lessons and a fresh perspective on the world as we know it — thanks to that forced sabbatical, lots of rest, no travel and just a refocus on all that’s truly important: Doing what we love.

Do you. Do what you love. Don’t settle. Don’t be afraid to change course. Love your life. Choose Joy. Enjoy the opportunities that show up…like invites to tour beautiful hotels and chat in person with people you’ve been emailing for months!

Lots of aloha is always a good idea. Practice aloha. xo Stacy

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