How Working in Retail Tourism Helped Me See The World

My entire life, I’ve dreamed of travel, of experiencing new cultures and doing something unconventional.

As an eager professional fresh out of college, I wanted to see the world. Instead, I saw the inside of a cubicle, every morning, afternoon and early evening. And by the end of each week, I was too drained to go anywhere but home, let alone take a weekend trip.

I was losing motivation, and the thought of spending the next 40 years inside a cubicle scared the crap out of me.

Here’s what I did about it and a few insights I picked up along the way.

Making My Way Out Of Cubicle Hell

First, I applied to an international graduate degree program where I would spend a year divided between Italy and Japan. I remember thinking I’d found my escape from the cubicle. There was nothing more perfect. The only problem was that my application got rejected.

After that, I decided to learn everything I could about what my options were for making a living and being able to travel at the same time. I read career development books, took dozens of personality assessment tests and workshops.

Though there were hundreds of resources that talked about leaving your job to explore the world, there didn’t seem to be any that detailed how to travel and maintain a stable career.

It was at this point that I was introduced to a niche in the retail industry — interestingly enough by the director of the same international graduate degree program that rejected me — that would allow me to travel, meet many fascinating people, and grow my career faster than I thought possible.

As a retail tourism marketer, I got paid to promote American retail stores to international travel agencies and tour operators, so that they could in turn market those stores to their customers traveling to the United States.

These work assignments took me to cities in amazing countries like New Zealand, China, Bahamas, India, Brazil, Australia, Belgium, United Kingdom, Argentina and Switzerland, to name a few.

Working in the retail tourism industry gave me 3 insights that I want to share with you today to help you stop dreaming, get out of the cubicle and get closer to a career that includes travel.

Insight #1: Don’t assume travel careers only involve working in hotels, airlines and travel agencies.

As the world’s largest and most diverse industry and employer (yes really!), the travel industry offers careers that range from working on a beach to developing marketing strategies for an international organization to preparing gourmet meals. The travel industry offers something for everyone, with different stages of responsibility and levels, all providing great opportunities for lucrative career growth.

To learn more about the industry overall, two great resources to start with are the U.S. Travel Association, which promotes travel to and within the United States, and the World Tourism Organization, which promotes tourism worldwide.

Insight #2: Don’t pigeonhole or place limitations on yourself.

The travel industry is a dynamic one where fabulous women like yourself can find your niche. You don’t have to have industry specific experience, background or skills to break into the travel industry. While every job is different and having prior experience is dependent upon what type of work and area you want to go into, most travel industry employers believe in hiring for attitude and fit and training for skills.

Insight #3: Be open to change and just take a chance.

During my retail career in travel, people would always ask me, “How did you get into that?” There are many opportunities out there beyond what we know to exist, so long as we are willing to seek them or perhaps even create them for ourselves. For instance, if you think you might be interested in tourism marketing, you can check out Destination Marketing Association International, an association that focuses specifically on marketing as a career in travel and tourism and provides employment opportunities both here in the U.S. and around the world.

Finding Your Own Niche In The Travel Industry

How do you become a successful professional jetsetter who gets paid to travel around the world, while others wind up chained to their desks, dreaming about traveling to exotic places in the pictures they have taped to their cubicle walls?

It’s not by accident.

The first step is to get really specific and narrow down your existing interests, skills and experience to a desired career path in this industry. The number one barrier to breaking into the travel industry is not knowing what kind of work you want to do and what type of career paths exist in this industry overall. When you figure out what you want to do it becomes a lot easier to know how you are going to do it.

What would it mean to you to have a career where you’re able to travel around the world? What’s stopping you from getting your travel career started? Leave a comment below.