The air is already warm, even though it’s still early, and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom — sweet little pink petals that subtly scent the air, clustering over tree branches like party decorations. Spring has hit DC, and Deb relishes in morning walks like this one to clear her mind.
She’s taken long walks for years, though the views have been different over time. Now, she passes by crisp green lawns and front porches in DC’s suburbs. In another lifetime, Deb walked past the imposing stone buildings of Capitol Hill; before that, the busy, disheveled desks and fluorescent lights of a New York City mayoral campaign.
Each view has been unique, each milestone a building block in her career. But there’s one thing Deb always kept close to her heart through all of it: a deep love for travel.
Once, it was a boxing trip to Cartagena. Other times, a resort in Mexico, the azure waters of Santorini or a family trip to Sicily. This year, it’ll be a trip to Ireland, teens in tow. Travel has always found its way into the corners of her life, and in her busiest moments, Deb surrendered completely to her then-travel advisor’s suggestions (Fora’s co-founder Henley Vazquez), fully entrusting Henley with her precious days off. In recognizing how much Henley helped her in these phases of her life, Deb knew it was only a matter of time before she made a shift and became a travel advisor herself.
After her walk, Deb climbs the stairs of her home and settles into the third-floor office. Her two kids are already at school, fresh off another morning of chaos that consisted of rising early and managing two staggered school schedules while also thumbing through a few newspapers (a sticky habit she acquired from her government days).
It wasn’t long ago that Deb traded her political hat for the chance to spend more time with her kids; it became a priority for her to find a career that she could mold around important family time, a recent divorce and doing something she truly enjoys. When Deb heard about Fora, she figured the stars were aligning. Joining has given her the gift of not just a flexible schedule, but maintaining time with her kids.
Deb starts her workday catching up on emails that were sent to her from across the Atlantic while she was asleep. For the next few hours, she’s researching a trip to Italy, her current expertise and passion. And when it’s not Italy, it’s Greece.
“Last spring, the demand for summer trips to Europe was so high that I found myself working more on Central European time than on East Coast time," Deb said. "This left the afternoons free for the kids, which was great. I love planning trips to Europe and getting families set to experience so much history, food and different cultures."
Planning travel like this is fun for Deb, and she often uses what she learns to plan her own vacations, too.
“I’ve been to Greece. I’ve been to Athens, Santorini. But [the last time I went], I was 24. So, I’m learning, while of course planning my own trip there at the same time. It’s super fun because you get to work with and learn about activities and hotels, and the geography of the island. I just love it, and I’m grateful for it.”
Stepping outside of your comfort zone
Deb is a long-time user of travel advisors, and it’s not just because they make travel easier; it’s because they challenge travelers to try new things they might not have considered before.
“My goal is to get the right fit of location, hotel and experiences for everyone in the family,” she explained, adding how she aims “to push people if they want to be pushed out of their comfort zone, and to do it in a way that's safe, and that works for them.”
She laughs when recalling a memory of traveling to Costa Rica with her daughter, Sophia, and ziplining for the first time, something she never would have done if her daughter hadn’t asked for it, and if her travel advisor didn’t approve.
“When I was getting a divorce, I had a trip planned, and Henley was one of the first calls I made,” Deb said. She remembers nervously asking her, “‘Can I still go on this trip with just me and the kids?’ And she said, ‘Yes, you'll be fine.’”
Since then, Deb has taken her kids solo to New Orleans, London, Italy, Costa Rica, Nevis and Ireland. She needed that extra bit of confidence from her advisor, and loves to pay that forward with her own clients now.
From politics to poolside
In a way, Deb’s new career of travel advising isn’t all that different from government work.
“In government, we help people navigate government services and systems. In travel advising, we help people navigate their travels and flights. Should I take the ferry or the plane from Athens to the islands? What kind of hotel do I want? Do I want to be near the beach or near the town? It’s all about navigating a system and giving people the tools to succeed,” she said.
At the end of the day, Deb sees her work as an important component in helping clients identify their priorities and imagine travel possibilities that they may not have considered before.
“People’s time and money are very important,” she said. “If you go on a trip and it’s not what you want, you’ve wasted money and you're unhappy. But you've also wasted time. And nobody wants that. I’m here to get you the most out of your trip.”
There are, of course, some big differences between her old and new careers, and flexibility is a key component of that. Rather than being locked into an office for long hours, Deb is able to spread her work throughout the day, logging a couple of hours at a time and working on her own schedule.
“I couldn't have the jobs that I had, and still get the kids to school,” she said. “Obviously my life is different now, and this is a perfect fit for where I am today.”
On Fridays, she usually spends her day visiting a new hotel so that she can make more thoughtful recommendations to her clients. Sometimes she takes her kids.
“They are very supportive of me," she said, "and they like to go to different places and cool hotels.”
Working from home might seem lonely for some, but Deb always feels surrounded by Fora’s vast community, both on and off the web. When she’s not answering emails or hopping on calls in the morning, she’s joining the virtual destination trainings in the afternoon.
“There's so much to learn from Leslie, Henley and Natasha,” she said of the Fora team.
In March, Deb joined a group of Fora Advisors on a familiarization trip to Yellowstone in Montana.
“I've met some really wonderful people,” she mused. “Everyone comes from different places, but we all found each other. I saw two of them in New York a few weeks ago [for Fora's Live Forum], and it was like a high school reunion. We were so excited to see each other.”
In the end, it’s community that matters most.
“In each of my jobs I've had, whether in government, lobbying or travel advising, the best part has always been, and continues to be, the people I have met along the way,” she said. “I love my new Fora family and can’t wait for it to grow.”
Interested in joining us? Become a travel advisor today.