Monday, April 30, 2018

River Cruises with U by Uniworld - Summer Travel Trend Alert

I know, I know, it's hard to believe summer will ever arrive, given how abysmal the spring has been so far.  However, the longer and rainier this spring gets, the more time I spend thinking about getting outside - into the woods, onto the sea, on a road trip.  ANYWHERE and soon.  From music festivals to international wanderlust, I'm jacking up my summer plans now to get out there and do stuff (and take my mind off the never ending rain...)

This is the first in a new series about local and foreign summer travel trends, music festivals and cultural shenanigans that are super hot right now. Pun. Fully. Intended.

River Cruises (more affordable and flexible than you think)



U by Uniworld


This is my kinda trip.  Seeing Europe by boat, pulling into tiny ports without the hassle of lines brought about by the throngs of passengers on the megaships, U by Uniworld makes their sailings even better with some cool gastronomic enhancements,  including on-shore meals with locals through their eatwith.com program, winery, brewery and farm tours and an entry-level price point that makes the river cruise concept much more attainable for the regular traveler. 

Plus, with a target audience of the more active traveler, off-ship excursions in this brand include multi-mile bike tours, hiking and other bulge-busting trips to combat the, um, indulgences of vacation. Take them or leave them, but know that when the guilt of indulging in a myriad of European culinary delights brings on that nasty Catholic guilt, you've got options.

Now, don't get me wrong.  The Uniworld brand and it's boutique ships are still bomb.com, but with my eyes on multiple trips per year, U makes adding a river cruise AND a culinary adventure a very real probability this summer.

With trips starting at $1,499, there's never been a better time to book your dream vacation. Hurry, this limited-time sale ends tomorrow!  shoot me an email at adventuresbyjennifer@gmail.com or give the agency a call at 978-282-8216 and ask for me to get on board. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

I Joined a Travel Agency - My Dream Job, helping YOU to get out and see the world

Anyone who follows this blog or my TripAdvisor account, my InstaGram, my FaceBook page  or knows me at all knows that my #1 passion in life is travel.  If I could spend every day and every dollar seeing the world, I would.  We travel ALOT.  But, not nearly as much as I'd like.

Which is why when the opportunity to jump on board the team at Cape Ann Travel, under the tutelage of 37 year industry vet, Denise Pascucci, who has booked dozens of my own trips, became an option, I LEAPT!
First rookie mistake, adding the agency IATA # onto my cards. New ones on the way!

You see, it's not just the traveling that gets me excited.  It's the research, the planning, the sharing, the photos, the whole experience of making travel happen that excites me.  I LOVE learning about new places, their history, their people, culture, cuisine, getting around, finding the hidden gems, exploring and sharing what I've learned with people who will go there after me.

It's not unusual for me to get 5, 10 messages a week about places I've been.  "What would you do if you were in Scottsdale with kids?"  "Best AirBnB to rent in Paris?" "House in southern New Hampshire for 10pp?" "Is skip the line worth the money?" "Is that trail dog friendly?" "Can we do the French side of St Maarten if nobody speaks the language?" "Is Mexico safe?"  I have 4 requests in my FaceBook messenger box RIGHT NOW about travel tips.  So, why not make it a thing, like a money making thing, to help people find their dream trip???

With a multi-decade history of marketing, largely IN hospitality, promoting everything from restaurants to event venues, musicians, shows, races and lifestyle brands, it's what I KNOW. Getting inside of the industry from the other side, from the sales side, is a natural progression.  And it works around the ever-growing demands of a high schooler and her need for help on essays and citations and around Ryan's work and travel.  This is perfect for me now.  I see it as a gift received at exactly the right time.

And what's cool about hiring an agent, is that the commission is paid by the airline, hotel and tour group.  So you get someone else to do all the tedious planning FOR FREE.  (I will offer some on-the-ground planning for an hourly fee for those intricacies like subway stops and other outside the box stuff that takes time but doesn't yield a commission).

So, that's just what I'm doing.  And I have been fully immersed in the experience since I met with Denise about the opportunity.  I have already attended an information-rich event with GoGo Travel, with 25 representatives from tour, travel and airlines worldwide and have completed 5 online certifications ranging from Barbados Travel Specialist to Culinary Cruisers.  I am already signed up for dozens more and for a Jamaica specialist event in May.  I have never loved work training or research more.

So starting tomorrow morning, I'll be in the agency learning Sabre and a million other tools of the trade under the patient, knowledgeable Denise.  I CAN currently take travel bookings, honeymoon registries, elaborate and simple requests and everything will be supervised, booked and cashiered under Denise's skilled eye.

I am looking forward to helping her to better navigate social media and maximize co-marketing opportunities with travel partners AND putting together some cool niche tours to attract the experiential traveler who wants to add culinary, hiking, craft beer and more to their trip.

Hook up with me at adventuresbyjennifer@gmail.com to plan your next adventure!


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Doing the Math - Learning to Value Balance Most of All

Baby Julia, feeding my niece
At 43, I made a life-altering discovery.

Chasing "success" was destroying my harmony.

No joke.

As an educated woman with a pretty solid track record of success in marketing, I have been searching for that next gig that will last until retirement.  I wanted a job I could rise up through and hold onto and make my mark and a bundle of dough over the next 20 years.

Except, I really didn't.

I have a teenage daughter wrapping up her freshman year of high school, struggling to acclimate to the rigors of increased homework and honors classes and handle increasingly complicated social situations as her friend group grows and contracts, romance makes it's way into the dialogue and afterschool jobs become a thing.

I have a husband who's in his 15th year with a Fortune 100 company in a senior level training role that has him away ALOT. He's a superstar in his department.  He rocks at his job.  He's been at it forever and we have shaped our lives around Daddy being gone and keeping the  household running the same way whether or not he's here.  And she's a great kid because we committed to her as priority one, whether it is a we 2 or a we 3 week.

And that's probably the biggest piece of this post.

Like all other couples, we talked about parenting goals before we got pregnant.  We agreed that, although we were both working in the professional world, when the time came to have a baby, parenting would be one parents' main gig.  As progressive folks, we were open to it being either parent, depending on who was in the most promising career trajectory.  The other parent would work  around the needs of the children (we, ultimately, only ever had one).  Work would be secondary because nether of us wanted our kid(s) to be "raised by the nanny".  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  I know a LOT of great kids whose primary day-to-day parenting was handled by loving, caring hired help.  It just wasn't for us.

My family in 2018 in front of the Tower of London
When we had Julia, Ryan was already working for his current employer, happy and on the rise in his career. I was working at a university.  It was a great gig, working across the IT department designing online training for professors on everything from Excel to Publisher as well as with the Editor, cultivating press releases about activities and discoveries at the university, even overseeing the creation of hard cover books to be sold in book stores.  I learned how to obtain an ISBN number to get a book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble.  AND, I was getting my Master's Degree FOR FREE.

Until I had a meltdown.  Although we had her in a great morning daycare on a horse farm in the woods of New Hampshire and although I worked afternoons at home, writing web copy from my papasan chair in her nursery, I couldn't handle being away from my family.  I'm sure, looking back that I was super post pardum, but hindsight doesn't account for much.

So, we moved home.  It was the right decision.  I found another path, opening a fitness studio and working as a personal chef (ironically, providing meal preparation services for professional couples with nannies who wanted to ensure there was a proper dinner on the table when they did get home from their super lucrative full time jobs).  Julia was cared for by a local family when I worked in homes and with me at the studio (a bean bag was tucked behind a shoji screen with a dvd player so she could nap and watch movies while I worked, often as early as 5:30am).  Ryan traveled and excelled and grew in his company and we worked around it.
The handsome fella looking very corporate

And then I wanted to go back to my "career".  I'm pretty sure that's when my priorities went to shit.

I've been chasing my own tail, some fake idea of success and a bunch of bullshit markers of wealth that have only served to make me unhappy.

And I haven't been willing to give up the nurturing mother piece.  I won't abandon the homemade lunch piece.  I can't reject the helping with homework piece.  I hold tight to the beds made every morning and dinner at the table every night piece.  I won't "hand it over to the nanny".

And this has been the struggle all along.  I wanted the power job because I was convinced I was far too educated NOT to climb.  I wanted the big dough job and responsibilities because I KNOW I can do it well.  I thought that being the head of a department and taking home all of the BULLSHIT stress proved that I was SOMEBODY.  And, hell, if I could keep up the perfect mom and wife stuff, then I was SUPERSOMEBODY.


Scratch fallafel I now have time to make well
But my priorities were ALL FUCKED UP.  I've spent the past nearly 10 years working in very cool jobs, mostly in hospitality and consumer goods, that were made for either young people or people without kids.  I have worked for tyrants. I have worked for great bosses who had lousy bosses. I have worked impossible all-nighters.  I have made magic with no budget.  I've, literally, even, worked through a tornado.
Choosing health over pursuit

Don't get me wrong.  I've had a lot of fun in many ways (running marketing in restaurants and event venues is the bomb.com) but the never-ending work week, the late nights, the all-weekend emails, the middle-of-dinner texts, the lack of boundaries are not a healthy experience for anyone, and definitely were not an exercise in work-life balance for our brood.

Unconventional assortment of ingredients 
Never mind what we were spending to keep it all together.  $100 a month in pet insurance so the dogs could have every immunization possible to go to doggy daycare at $60 a day, twice a week so we could both work.  $90 a week for the housekeeper because who wants to clean after working 80 hours per week? $50 a week in dry cleaning because I had no time to iron. A Weight Watchers membership at $50 a month that I never even had the time to setup online, let alone attending meetings. A virtual NWT gym membership, again, because who the hell can get to the gym??? The $300 yoga card totally unused because, although I need yoga more than ever, I can't ever make a class.  Out of pocket chiropractor expenses BECAUSE I can't get to yoga.  Nevermind missing every fun thing happening in our community and in her school and in general because there was no time off for me and even in time off, I could never be off. Missing every lunch with the girls because my 9 hour onsite workday didn't include a lunch break, ever.  Gel nails, hair every 4 weeks, pedis, and a whole bunch of impulse shopping with our friend Alexa because we could afford it and, although in the past, if I wanted to spruce up a room, I'd make new curtains and recover pillows I had NO TIME, so I'd buy new stuff to satisfy the urge.

And I was MISERABLE. 
Happy new curtains in our pretty new kitchen

So I am done.  I left my last contract gig and am settling into this new me who is taking back the time I've lost.  This month, we are having the first floor redone.  I just made new curtains for the kitchen. I can't wait to get to the living room pillows. I cancelled WW and the gym and have spent every morning in the woods with the dogs.  I polished my own nails and toes while helping my daughter with an English essay.  I had lunch with my mom.  I ironed Ryan's work stuff.  We eat nightly dinner, crammed into the kitchen because the dining room isn't quite done but we didn't answer texts or emails.  Ryan's company doesn't expect him to have work email on his phone.  They are Fortune 100.  They obviously know a thing or two about success. And he's been there a long, long time.  So they obviously know a thing or two about retention.  When he's home, he is off duty.  And now, so am I.
Blissful pups in the woods

And, I am on to new endeavors.  I am shifting gears to do something that  I love that won't eat my life.  I am going back to working my life AROUND our daughter, just like we agreed to in the past. I am learning a new skill set that plays to my strengths and my primary role as a parent. I am soaking in every free minute with my teenager who will, before long, be off to college.  I am planning dinner parties with my husband and our favorite couples in our beautiful new dining room.  I am reupholstering the dining chairs where our guests will sit.  We are binge watching shows on Mondays and Tuesdays without picking up the phone every time it beeps.  I am going to those fun local events that were the very reason we moved back here.  I am hanging out with my people.  I'm posting on my blog.

I am remembering that healthy people work to live, and not the other way around.

I did the math.  The economy of balance is a beautiful thing. Worth it.