Debra Harris recently retired from a 27-year career in federal law enforcement and was preparing to launch a second career as a travel consultant when, at age 51, she was diagnosed with cancer. breasts.
A Type A personality at his core, Harris said he stopped in his tracks with a 2013 cancer diagnosis. “Like hitting a brick wall. I have questions for anyone diagnosed with cancer to ask: Why me? What am I doing? What is the universe trying to tell me? “
Harris was enrolled in a travel professional certification course and was deciding how to build his unborn business, Life’s Journey Travel, LLC, when he was forced to hit the stop button. For about a year, he suppressed his business aspirations as he focused on his health.
After recovering from necessary operations, Harris moved from greater Washington, DC, to Myrtle Beach, SC Then he took stock. “I said, OK I have it. Now how can I share this path, this journey, with others? ”
Wake up to his mission
The cancer experience has changed Harris in big ways, including opening up this former “just-the-facts ma’am investigator” to his more creative side. “It’s my awakening,” he said.
It also changed his plans for his travel business. “This whole cancer thing is like a long dream. When I wake up, I better explain what I want to do.”
“What the cancer journey told me was that I really had to find people who should benefit from it. Some of them were baby boomers, and some were people at a very high level who were very busy, just checking out one box when they travel.But life is not about checking a box, nor is traveling.
“I feel like my mission is to help people slow down and enjoy life. Use all your senses. Know what’s important. Take the opportunity. Breathe.”
For the pleasure of it
Harris’s sweet spot for small group immersive travel. “I love food, wine, floating experiences. Learning and insatiable curiosity are what motivate me on my travels, and the unique experiences, those little things you can only get to work with me or to travel with me.
“There are people who call me who want to do 10 countries in 10 days. That’s not my traveler. I want to work with travelers who are interested in staying longer, diving deeper, and knowing- the place.
Joy now serves as Harris ’guidepost when deciding whether to plan a trip for a client. “I need to get joy out of the trip you’re taking and send you to a place I know you can have fun with.”
Finding his clients
She finds success in attracting new clients from her involvement with local groups that feed her personal interests. He is a member of two wine clubs, a gastronomy club, and a garden club, all of which happen smoothly in accordance with his preferred travel style.
He also worked with the genealogy researcher who created his own family tree to explore ways to match research and ancestral travel, and he plans to add genealogy research travel to his offering next year.
If qualified clients, Harris uses the high level of interviewing skill he acquired as an investigator for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
“For me, the most important question is why, and from there continue to open questions and dive deeper. It’s really finding out what their dreams and aspirations are for a trip. and qualifying around that.
“If I have anything else to add value to their cause, I’ll be happy there.”
Harris will only work with customers he feels are connected to. “My relationship with my travelers has to be real, real, and real. It wasn’t just because I saw a commission check.
“I want that relationship. That’s the part that really makes me happy. If it doesn’t give me happiness then it’s one and it’s over. Life is too short. ”
That focus on building real relationships with clients helps differentiate him, he said.
The importance of support
Harris praised the teaching support he received through his host agency, Gifted Travel Network, with helping him change his business perspective and explain the unique “medicine” he offers.
He encourages other travel consultants to surround themselves “with a helpful, collaborative industry community where you can bounce ideas and ask for advice.
“On the cancer journey, there are a lot of support groups. You need that in the travel community as well. That’s another thing cancer has taught me.”