Written By: Joanie Ogg CTC, MCC, Co-Owner – Travel Professional NEWS
I suspect some of you can relate to those warm September days when as children we returned to school after our summer break and we could not wait to share our summer stories and happenings with our friends. I recall my teachers handing out the assignment to “Tell Us What You Did on Summer Break”. It was always such fun to write about the many adventures that made up the three month hiatus from school and homework.
Fast forward to today and the experiences and enlightenment that the last three months of life in “Pandemic Reality” and what I reluctantly call My Quarantine Vacation. It has been a time of introspection for many of us and while there are many lessons I would have preferred not to learn from, there are a good number of positives that have come from this unprecedented time in my almost 66 years of life. I can honestly say that I never ever would have thought something like COVID-19 could or would happen in my lifetime, but alas… never say never. Join me as I share some stories and reflect on experiences and lessons learned.
Cherish New & Sometimes Unusual Memories
About 1 week into COVID-19 we were headed to our son Andy’s house for our what would become weekly “Corporate Meeting”. These meetings usually took place in his garage where we all sat socially distanced with sanitizer bottles at the ready and distanced hugs and blown kisses with our sweet granddaughters Peyton and Lyla. As the weather warmed we would venture to his back yard while the girls played ball and we discussed how to manage the business during such crazy times.
Lesson learned was simply to embrace new realities as they rain upon us and to look for the joy in unique experiences. I never thought there would be a time when I could not physically hug my girls, my son and my beautiful daughter in law, but alas it was our new reality. In order to be safe for all concerned, we kept our distance knowing that it was a precaution that needed to take place. The joy in this unique experience was seeing the girls adapt to the situation and learn to blow great kisses and provide amazing distance hugs. To see my son and his wife acting so responsibly for the safety of their girls and for us, their parents, helped me to cherish what would someday be a strange, but memorable experience. It also taught me never to take a hug or a kiss for granted!
Pay it Forward
Tom and I decided a drive-thru coffee experience was the only thing that could get us through another day of lockdown. We jumped in the car with our masks and gloves and headed to Starbucks for our fix. The line of cars awaiting their occupants much needed refreshments was about 20 cars long. Since this was a big outing for us, we just patiently waited moving forward slowly but surely. We ordered our drinks and when we finally reach the pick up window, we were greeted by the barista who told us that the lady in the car ahead of us had already paid for our drinks. Admittedly, we were shocked and so amazed at this random act of generosity provided by a total stranger. We waved at her and mouthed our thanks to her as we pulled up next to her at the traffic light. She smiled and we smiled. That was the gift that made the day so much brighter.
The following week we ventured out to get a coffee drink from our local coffee truck known as Spins. The owner and operator Ted is the consummate happy guy. He has always got and smile and a warm welcome for his loyal following. Wearing our masks and gloves we paid Ted for our drinks and gave him an extra $10. $5 for him just because we love him and $5 for the lady 6 feet behind us to make her smile behind her mask and enjoy her day as we had the week before. Paying it forward feels so darned good!
Spread Love to Colleagues and Customers
Our industry has taken a hit and we are all still reeling from the effects of COVID 19 and the continual delay of travel. There are several support groups on Facebook where agents are sharing stories and helpful suggestions to their peers. The Travel Professional Community which we operate at www.TravelProfessionalCommunity.com has been around for many years and is an amazing resource to communicate with your travel professional colleagues. The comments and helpful discussions that have been taking place during this pandemic have been inspiring. The willingness to share and help one another has been heartening to experience.
Customers missing out on their travel experiences abound and dealing with the cancellations, fees, rebooking and simply holding their hands throughout this journey has been what travel professionals have been doing for the last three months. We have all heard stories or perhaps experienced angst and even anger from customers who are having to accept these situations. Financial hardship is hitting just about everyone involved in our great travel community. Surely, this too shall pass and how we managed these difficult times for our customers will determine our business success moving forward.
Stay the course and focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. I recently saw this quote by Fred Rogers and it seems so appropriate for our industry as we transition and become ready for a different travel experience reality for our customers and for our businesses: “Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” Yes, our industry will likely never go back to what it once was, but it will change and evolve into something new and prosperous if we allow ourselves to open our minds to it. The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” -Socrates