Central America

Published on January 23rd, 2011

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So You Wanna Be an Int’l Tour Operator, Huh? Part l

Funny how one can suddenly take a sharp left turn… and end up on a completely different life-long path.  Just a simple little comment made by a coworker by the coffee pot one morning, can send you off on a major detour that will change your entire life.

For me that moment came on a Monday morning in Colorado, where I had a fantastic job in HRM with the City of Aurora (just outside of Denver).  Unlike so many digital nomads these days, I wasn’t at all unhappy with my “cubicle” life.  I’d just finished a Masters degree at the U. of Oregon (as a 30ish student) and snagged a fantastic position as Employment Supervisor for a city of 3,000 employees.  My boss was great (and remains my dearest friend 20+ years later), and I’d just bought my first townhome in one of the best neighborhoods in “the fastest growing city in the U.S.”  Having so recently come off of six years living ultra-frugally as a poor college student (working part time, going to school full time whilst raising my two daughters alone), I was suddenly making so much money I didn’t even know how to spend it.  Clearly life was good.

SoYouWannaPart1-Flags350x234Still… I’d already tasted a bit of wanderlust (backpacking a summer in Mexico when my girls were just 5 and 8 yrs. old, and then an 8 month stint as an undergrad backpacking with the kidlets through Greece, Switzerland, etc. between terms studying in France and Italy).  And though clearly a 9-5 with but 2 weeks vacation wasn’t conducive to such free-wheeling vagabonding, I nonetheless was quite content with heading down to Belize (at the time a most obscure little place that few had even heard of) for my annual vacation.

All well and good.  Belize was fantastic – especially so ‘cuz there was as yet no tourism infrastructure to speak of, nary a single “You’d Better Belize It!” T-shirt for sale, blessedly no airstrip to mar the “No problem, Mon” tranquility of Caye Caulker, and the handful of jungle lodges offered but kerosene lamps and cold water outdoor showers.  I took lots of photos (with f-i-l-m of course) and happily shared my adventures with my coworkers back at the cubicle.

And then the pivotal moment arrived.  The moment that would change the course of my life forever.  While oohing ‘n ahhhing at my tropical prints a co-worker innocently inquired:  “Belize looks fabulous, but I wouldn’t dare go down there on my own.  Why don’t a few of us chip in and pay your way – and you could guide a group of us to the islands and jungles of Belize?”

And in that nanosecond… my entire life jerked to the left, never to return to the corporate career path.

It took awhile of course.  But suffice within a year, I’d blown off my two degrees, resigned my position at the City of Aurora, moved to Seattle (a coincidental tangent ‘cuz I missed my beloved Pacific Northwest), accepted a part-time position in HR (to pay the rent), and delusionally presumed to start my own little international tour company (endearingly dubbed “Imagine” after John Lennon’s epic tune of the same name).

I didn’t have a clue what I was doing of course, but did that stop me from marching forward with this new lunatic travel scheme?  Likewise was I the least bit daunted by the fact that in those days “Central America” was in the nightly news featuring gun-toting Nicaraguan “contras” merrily entertaining prime-time viewers glued to their TV sets with daily doses of the grim butchery of their civil war?

Nope.  Suffice once a dream gets lodged in my wanderlust brain, there’s simply no force on g’s green earth that will stop me from giving it a go.

~ Tune in to the next chapter in this series – for the ups, downs and surreal serendipity that turned me into a veteran international tour operator for the next 20 years…

Check out all in the “So You Wanna Be an Int’l Tour Operator, Huh?” series HERE

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About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!



One Response to So You Wanna Be an Int’l Tour Operator, Huh? Part l

  1. Manyu says:

    Love the post. Its amazing where life takes us as long as we are open to change. I am looking forward to hearing the rest of the story in Part 2.

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