How a Tech Enthusiast Reignited her Travel Bug by Planning Honeymoons

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Fora Author Fora Travel

The Modern Travel Agency

Fora Travel

    It’s the end of the work day, and Rabia Malik closes her laptop and switches off her monitor – the same giant monitor she told her husband not to get; the same giant monitor that she now loves and can’t work without. She’s positioned in front of a large standing desk with not one but two laptops, and when one closes, the other opens, powering down her job in strategy at a popular tech company and diving into her other passion: travel planning.

    For some, the day is over, but for Rabia, the excitement is just beginning. In her off-hours when she’s not working in tech, she’s planning destination proposals and honeymoons, infusing her love of world culture into people’s lasting memories. Being a part of someone’s significant milestone, and knowing that she contributed to making it perfect, is just one of the benefits of Rabia’s life as a travel advisor with Fora.

    This afternoon, though, Rabia gets a break from the romance as she digs into research for a group trip to Mexico City for a close friend. He’s traveling there to celebrate his 29th birthday, and bringing 20 other people along with him. Rabia has been tasked with booking all of it. 

    For some, that would be a monumental assignment, but for Rabia, it’s fun. 

    “It’s everything I want to do,” Rabia said of the trip she’s planning – and one that she’ll be coming along for as well. “I’m basically able to book everyone in a nice place and then do all those things, too.”

    Rabia works surrounded by inspiration; on her left, a map of the world her family bought for her at Borough Market during a trip to London a couple of years ago; on her right, a bulletin board with some of her favorite travel trinkets, like a business card from a hotel she stayed at in Santorini, and tickets from a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia. A dual citizen of the US and UK, Rabia grew up traveling the world, and she hasn’t stopped.

    “My parents worked at BP,” she explained, which took them from living in London, to Ohio, then Texas, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Even in her early years, her parents, who were born in Pakistan and raised in the UK, would take her and her younger sisters back to London for the entire summer, and break up the visit with side-trips around Europe.

    Her travel upbringing is what first fostered Rabia’s love of seeing the world and experiencing different cultures, which led her to study cultural anthropology in school.

    Rabia laughs that some of these early lessons are what piqued her interest to become a travel advisor. In fact, she’s been ‘travel advising’ since she was a kid.

    “I'm the oldest of my sisters, so I was always the one my parents would look to to help tame them and make sure they're staying in line,” she explained. “Always being in charge of them helped me kind of figure out how to stay organized, how to plan a trip and how to know what you need to think about.” 

    It’s no wonder that travel planning for a group of 30 people, or being part of a high-stakes honeymoon or marriage proposal, not only doesn’t phase her, but it energizes her.

    Even still, Rabia never expected to become a travel advisor herself.

    “I didn’t think I could commit to being a travel advisor,” she explained. “But I’ve always been the travel planner for my friends and family and had all these travel guides and itineraries just floating around in my head.”

    She had considered starting a blog, but couldn’t find the time to build one. When Rabia discovered Fora, it seemed like a great way for her to start small and simply publish a few guides and dip her toes in the water of travel advising.

    It turns out, that approach worked better than she expected. 

    “It was really exciting, because people actually liked the content, and were reaching out [to plan a trip],” she said. 

    One woman in particular saw Rabia’s travel guide to Crete, and asked her to plan her family vacation for a trip to Greece. Now she’s one of her biggest clients.

    “She was just someone who came in through the website,” Rabia marveled, crediting the Fora website for helping her find a lot of her current clients.

    This ability to start small was key to Rabia growing her travel advisor business, because, let’s face it, she’s busy. As a strategist in the tech industry, she spends her days on calls with London and Singapore. 

    “I used to work in management consulting, where you worked 80 hours per week and didn't have time for any side hustles,” she said. Now that she works in tech, she’s found a much more manageable work/life balance, and has even planned trips for her coworkers.

    “When I started working in tech, it was like night and day,” she explained. “They really encourage their employees to do things that interest them, and are very supportive of me. When I started doing Fora, I was like, ‘is this okay?’ and people were like, ‘this is amazing, follow your passion.’ They’ve been very encouraging.”

    That encouragement gave Rabia the push she needed to really focus on Fora as a meaningful side hustle. She often spends her lunch break exploring Fora’s community app, called Forum, where she’ll read about what other Fora Advisors are booking and glean new insights. She also loves to create sample travel itineraries, in case she can use them later. 

    “It’s nerdy, but I love it,” she joked.

    In terms of building her client base, Rabia has also found travel-focused Facebook groups to be a powerful way to bring in new customers.

    “Just yesterday I reached out to someone in a travel group who I went to college with and who was asking for tips on travel to London and travel planning for Paris in August for her honeymoon,” she said. “So I messaged her and was like, ‘Hey, remember me? I would love to help.’ I’ve gotten a few old friends to work with me that way.”

    Now that Rabia’s been immersed in Fora for the better half of six months, she’s finding some of her first clients are now coming back for a second round, and her referral base is growing.

    “Someone reached out to me this morning and was like, ‘We have a week off in September; we loved how you did our honeymoon in Italy, can you help us with a resort in the Caribbean?’ It really makes me feel great because I actually get to hear how the work I did for my clients actually worked out.”

    When Rabia feels like the Mexico City trip planning is in a good place, she takes a break. A glint catches her eye; through the large window in front of her, the evening sun is peeking through the lush leaves in her building’s courtyard four stories below, a welcome respite from the bustling Brooklyn background. She loves watching this view, especially as it changes – bright orange and yellow leaves in the autumn, a pristine blanket of snow in the winter.

    She turns to her side to glance toward her husband, Ahyan, who has been working from another desk along the side wall. They signal to each other wordlessly and both power down their laptops, heading toward the door for an evening walk around their neighborhood of Williamsburg. They pass trendy coffee shops and tiny bodegas, walking all the way down to Domino Park by the Williamsburg Bridge where they marvel at the view – the massive skyscrapers of Manhattan on one side, a lush green park filled with dogs playing on the other.

    Rabia watches the dogs wistfully; a recent dog-lover convert, she would love to get her own, but her travel schedule doesn’t make it easy. Just this year, she and Ahyan will be visiting London (where she’ll work for a month, another benefit of her UK citizenship), as well as London, Sweden, Norway, Mexico City, Dubai, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. It’s a combination of true post-pandemic revenge travel – “we wanted to go to places that hopefully aren't going to be too busy, but would really benefit from having tourists back after the pandemic” – and a chance to get in as much travel as possible before Ahyan finally folds on getting that four-legged family member.

    One of Rabia’s favorite parts of honeymoon planning is helping couples explore things outside of their comfort zones. It’s the anthropologist side of her, believing that every good honeymoon requires a bit of cultural immersion.

     “I’m not the kind of person that will sit on the beach for like 10 days and not do anything,” she said. “I love seeing the place that I'm in and kind of being more of a local versus just being a tourist staying at a resort. All of the trips that I plan generally involve some aspect of getting to be like a local, getting to know the culture, experiencing local food and getting a feel for the country itself. There are so many rich histories that you may not know about.”

    One of her favorite things to do as a traveler is to take a local cooking class. For her, it’s a way to get to know local people, experience the food, and learn something that you can take back home with you. 

    “Plus we have all the recipes, which is great,” she added.

    Being a Fora Advisor has allowed Rabia to show her clients the world she sees – one that’s rich with stories, experiences and communities that travelers can learn and grow from. She has loved being able to give her clients her favorite recommendations and even surprise them from time to time with specialty upgrades through the relationships she’s built with hotel staff.

    One time, she booked a room at the Soho Grand for a trip to New York City for a colleague, but when the hotel staff found out that he was going to be proposing to his girlfriend on the trip, they upgraded him to a penthouse suite with a Champagne bottle awaiting their arrival. Rabia explained that she loves being able to help facilitate those extra special touches to a trip to make it truly memorable. 

    And she’s also found that Fora has taught her a lot too, giving her the chance to expand her travel horizons, explore new places, try new hotel properties and branch out into experiences she herself might not have considered before. 

    “We're starting to go out and try some of these incredible hotels that I just probably wouldn't have thought about if I didn't join Fora,” she said. “I love being part of this community.”

    Want to book your next trip with Rabia? Reach out to her today.

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