How Katie Larsen Combined Her Love for Travel & Community Into a Meaningful Second Career

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Fora Author Fora

The Modern Travel Agency


    A woman with a shopping bag stands in front of a mural that says, "Why fit in when you can stand out?"

    Image courtesy of Katie Larsen

    Community has always been integral to Katie Larsen. (“It's just sort of ingrained in who I am,” she said.) She excels at making others feel welcome, and in making communities more available. Her first career was in nursing; a hospital requires exceptional teamwork, after all, and Katie is the ultimate team player. 

    She worked as a pediatric infectious disease nurse for over a decade, took a few breaks to have kids and then worked in adolescent medicine and gender care at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. 

    “I love teens,” Katie said. “I could talk about teen health all day long.”

    Despite how much she loved the work itself, however, after the height of Covid-19, she was ready for a change. One day, she learned about Fora.

    “What the heck? I'll try it. And if I don't succeed, then there's nothing really too crazy about it,” Katie, who has always loved to travel, recalled thinking. “And so I did it, and jumped in. I loved it, and I'm here still.”

    Queen of community

    A woman leans against a red phone booth near an old cathedral

    Images courtesy of Katie Larsen

    Katie joined Fora in August 2023, which happened to align with upcoming Chicago site inspections that Fora HQ had organized. The site inspections are tours where Fora Advisors visit hotels to gain a deeper understanding of them in order to recommend them to clients. They are essentially field research for travel advisors. Katie said that, as a new joiner, she was struck by the kindness of Fora’s group.

    “The day could not have gone better,” she said, adding how she’s still in contact with several of the advisors she met that day. (She said they still WhatsApp constantly.) 

    Fora’s community aspect ultimately convinced her she had made the right decent decision. During the site visits, she met two Fora HQ members: Leslie Overton, Fora’s Head of Travel Operations, and Laura Kilberg, our Head of Advisor Experience.

    “Knowing that Leslie and Laura were as nice and kind and welcoming to somebody who had just [joined] within weeks made me feel so welcomed,” Katie recalled. “I knew I wanted to be like a part of this community.”

    Additional site visits followed: DC and London.

    “I was that person who was like, ‘Okay, I'm going to get on a plane and go from Chicago,’” Katie said. “People are like, ‘Do you live here?’ I said, ‘No, but how else am I going to see eight or 10 hotels, and a city that I don't live in?’”

    Fora recently launched Fora Chapters, in-person networks in various cities around the US. Katie was a clear choice to helm our inaugural Chicago chapter. Our values align: community is paramount to both her and Fora. (Katie also sits on the board of her son’s hockey club, is very involved in her kids’ schools and regularly participates in volunteer work with her family.)

    “On my first Chicago site visit day, if everyone hadn't been so nice, I feel like I could have been scared off,” she said. “But I wasn't, because everyone was so welcoming to me. I want to be that person for others.”

    Katie is inherently warm and empathetic — she can talk to anyone — and she’s also mindful of how other people feel. As a self-described newbie, she’s keen on making new advisors feel empowered and welcome.

    “Especially when you're trying something you've never done before, you have to have somebody encouraging you, or the doubt just sort of seeps in,” she said.

    Connection, compassion & crafting full experiences 

    A woman in sunglasses, a tank, and shorts smiles on a mountain trail

    Images courtesy of Katie Larsen

    Katie’s love for community and connection also informs her travel planning. 

    “Traveling is so much more [than] just seeing a beautiful destination,” she said. “It's really immersing yourself into what it's like to understand the people who live there and the culture and the food.”

    When Katie curates trips for clients, she wants to give them a full experience. She loves helping others get off-the-beaten-path, empowering them to get to know a destination more meaningfully. (Cooking classes are one of her favorite ways to do so.) Still, she does so with an open mind — and with empathetic listening skills.

    “A great travel advisor really listens to what their client wants,” Katie said. “[They put their] opinions and feelings to the side, which sometimes I think can be a little difficult.”

    It all comes down to listening well. She shared a story about a trip to Woodstock, Vermont, she took with her girlfriends last fall. She was sitting at a bar, and there was “this beautiful woman in this really structured hat” sitting next to them.

    The woman was accompanied by her husband, who, it turned out, had worked for the Department of Defense, and who had earned multiple Purple Hearts. The couple ended up having dinner with Katie and her friends. She learned they were into river cruises and luxury hotels. Katie gave them her card, and the couple remain clients to this day. 

    Listening is the first step (which is another reason Katie makes such an excellent Chapter Lead). From there, she puts her travel planning prowess to full effect. She’ll do extensive research, using Fora’s community app Forum or other advisor travel guides for inspiration and recommendations. 

    “I think that's the best thing about Fora: that there is so much support around all the time,” Katie said.

    The support is always there, of course, and Katie works impressively hard. She looks forward to all that lies ahead: including both building her business and leading Fora’s Chicago chapter. 

    “It doesn't really feel like a job,” she admitted. “It's something that's truly a passion. And I'm just hoping that I continue to keep loving it while seeing the world — and helping others do that, too.”

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