The Trip Architect’s birthday snuck up on me this year. Like any exhausted parent, I’ll be celebrating my baby’s second birthday with just a bit less fanfare than I did the first. My drive to become Trip Planner Extraordinaire admittedly has been waning since last summer, when marketing woes and stiff competition from tech-savvy start-ups and industry giants had me seriously questioning whether I could turn my endeavors into a lucrative business. Over the past six months, I’ve gone from posting sporadic blog updates to virtually nothing at all, and my online presence has been relatively quiet.
Not to worry! There’s a good reason for all of this—a few good reasons, actually. But before I get into them, let me pick up where I left off in January 2014.
When my blog turned one, I was singing the praises of customized trip planning. The Trip Architect was newly incorporated, and I was working on implementing some marketing tactics to get customers through the proverbial door. Never a fan of the hard sell, I avoided any techniques that involved directly approaching potential travelers. Instead, I hoped that SEO, word of mouth, and image crafting on social media would naturally attract customers who genuinely needed my services. I put my ancillary systems in place, and then I waited.
And waited, and waited…
I’m being a little dramatic. I did get some itinerary business in 2014. I designed a New Orleans foodie trip for my good friend Jana, sent an American couple around Bavaria to see the region’s best medieval castles, planned a Napa honeymoon for an old friend, and touted the natural wonders of Switzerland to a young family. But alas, four trips does not a living make.
As those requests trickled in, I attended various conventions and trade shows, trying my hand at making industry partnerships. While these networking ventures were mostly unsuccessful, I did meet Roni Weiss—a whiz at social media in travel—at the D.C. Travel and Adventure Show in February. I didn’t know it then, but Roni has a reputation for opening doors to enthusiastic industry newbies. He extended an on-the-spot invitation to speak at his New York Travel Festival in April. The experience ended up being enlightening, thrilling, and 100% terrifying. Roni: I hope your Google Alerts are turned on and that you’re reading this, a thank you.
OutTrippin and I also continued to foster our partnership throughout 2014. By February, their contract with WebJet was finalized and I was optimistic that someday I would have the opportunity to join them permanently. But in the summer, everything slowed down—on both their end and on mine. We were all encountering the same big industry hurdles. To put it simply, we were finding it extremely difficult to get business through the door with so much outside competition from travel behemoths and start-ups alike. By October, OutTrippin realized their company was drifting too far from their original vision, and with heavy hearts they decided to close their doors. I am just one amongst a long line of writers that owe the company a great deal of gratitude. Indi and Kunal: thank you, thank you, thank you for giving me my first big break in the biz.
Back to summer: business was slow, and it was time for me to try something new. I had accomplished quite a bit in the way of web design, marketing, and business development, but those were areas in which I could probably never compete with the big wigs. It was time to bring my travel pursuits full circle and focus on my writing. I knew I was ready for a challenge, and I had a great idea for a travel guide that I wanted to write. The guide, which is now a work in progress, takes explorers through my home city of Washington, D.C. Without revealing too much too soon, I can say that it encourages readers to look at the city—and all of its diverse influences—with a new set of eyes.
As much as I would like to project a publication date for my book, another new writing endeavor has taken up the bulk of my time and attention as of late. In October, my dear friend Kate alerted me to an opening at her place of employment, National Geographic—an organization that needs no introduction. Since then, I’ve been working with the Expeditions group, writing trip itineraries for their travelers. When I try to express my happiness and excitement for the work, words fail me. But I can report that my relationship with the group continues to grow and strengthen, and I am grateful for every minute that I get to be a part of such an incredible organization.
What does the future hold for The Trip Architect? I’m honestly not sure. For now, trip planning will have to wait. In the future, I would like to use the site for marketing my travel guide. Beyond that, I suppose the sky is the limit. My goal at the start of all this was to find a place in the travel industry, and I think I now can officially say that I’ve done that. Now I want to find my place.
Til next year – cheers!
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