Travel Nerves

 

I’m a nervous traveller.

At first glance this is odd because I’ve been travelling alone since I was 8 years old and despite having made tens if not hundreds of work and leisure trips over the years I still get the jitters.

Even odder is that travel is pretty much my destiny. I don’t take astrology at all seriously, yet I am aware that as a Sagittarian, being a traveller is supposedly a trait.

It’s hard to be sure why travel stresses me so much. I like the freedom and experience of going and being elsewhere but certainly as I get older I feel an anxiety about the transit side of things.

Sagittarius
I don’t believe in Star Signs, but here is mine anyway

My suspicion is that having arranged so many trips for clients over the years added to all my own experiences, I am super-aware of the laws of s-d that means something can always go wrong. I recall that in 1992 as I was queueing in Rome airport to go to Sicily when I thought I’d lost my passport. I was by the gate and completely flipped. I had a tantrum/meltdown that rendered me out of control until an army-clad official came up to me and told me to calm down. He asked for permission to frisk me for the missing document and within a few seconds, he found it.

A similar thing once happened at Porto whnervous-234x300en I missed a flight and more recently as I was sauntering through Heathrow T2 I heard my name aloud on the PA system. The shock and horror hit like a bolt. I had thought I was just a few feet from the gate when it dawned that I was walking in 100% the wrong direction. I span on heel and sprinted from the Iberia to the Alitalia zone and made the flight. I could go on as I’ve had more near misses but even now these recollections are making me even more nervous.

All in then, it’s the not being in control that does it for me. I’ll  stop now because the hyperventilating is starting.

Out and In…

Breathe out and in…

 

 

Pic credits:

Sagitarrius: https://www.the-astrology-of-love.com/how-to-attract/a-sagittarius-man/

http://www.arenapersonnel.com/arena-nervous-attending-interviews/

 

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We are Tangent

My team leader returned a particular student’s exam paper to me and told me that despite the answer being relatively eloquent and logical that I had over marked it and I was required to reduce. Although my instinct was to argue the case, I ceded to my superior and dutifully did as I was told. What a pity.

The pity is not that as a mature person I kept qTangentLine_1000uiet and obeyed, it’s that students, especially in the humanities arena often score lower than they should because they ‘fail to answer the question’. Ever since I was that type of student myself the rebel devil in my head has thought: Actually mate, I have answered your damned question but I’ve taken it upon myself to add something else of interest. What you asked is limited and predictable and as an arty person I’m giving you more. More in fact than you deserve.

Nothing has changed, least of all the continuing conspiracy that places a science template over the bones of creative thought with the sole aim to ‘straighten it all out’ because as we know, ‘they’ have never liked deviation and tangential ideas.

When I was young…I declared myself a romantic thinker in the vein of Goethe and Shelley, I subsequently signed up to Surrealism and Existentialism. I bought into everything I could to demarcate myself from my friends who were homing in on business and science. The main problem though was (and still is) that I had too little talent to be a really great artist and despite my medalling with a guitar, a few pastel on sketchbook etchings and an attempt to make Mime the new language  of global communication I pulled back from faux creativity and became an observer.

I’ve been marking exams for about 6 years and have seen all kinds of variations on the correct answer. The easiest ones to mark are the blank pages because zero is zero in any language and by the way kids, that old wives’ tale about scoring 1 for spelling your own name properly is incorrect. We don’t see or even care about your name and in true ‘Prisoner’ terms you really are a number and not a name.

But I digress.  Students who put nought get nought. Waffle/padding is easy to spot and is not worth including. Eventually what leaners need to put is the right answer. I enjoy reading the extra stuff and once in every two hundred the candidate persuades me to give them extra marks. I however resist that temptation because although I may think it’s deserved, my performance too is being watched and if I were to unilaterally add bonus points I’d be sacked very soon after.exams

The pity then is that the 1 in 200 extra bit of inspiration evaporates. The student probably forgets what she wrote and the assessor can only focus on the correct stuff. Brilliant, inspiring spur of the under-pressure moment ideas arrive and depart in a flash. Tangents are erased and words like plan, focus and quantify continue to maraud the future.

Photo credits
http://mathworld.wolfram.com/TangentLine.html
 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1354174/University-blunder-exam-papers-handed-answers-stapled-back.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Coach Weekend Thought WANTED: Time to Create

Dear Travel Coach

Q. The good news is that my classic-car rental business, that I began during the recession, has done well. The difficulty is that as it has grown, I spend more time being the administrator and less time coming up with new ideas. Also, I get loads of emails requesting internships and money requests from needy charities. I believe in CSR but it’s all too much. How can I address these issues?

Sid, Northampton.

Dear Sid,

A.  It looks like you need a ‘right-hand person’. You will need an assistant that shares your passion and knows everything about the business. This will help in two ways. Firstly when you need to brainstorm and bounce thoughts around, it’s good to do it with someone who reflects your normal self, allowing you to play devil’s advocate. Secondly, you need a trusted person to be able to step in either when you take a well-earned break or if you get run down by the proverbial bus or more likely, a dose of the ‘flu. Invest time in selecting the right person and be prepared also to invest substantially in their wages. You are appointing a professional and not just someone to fill a gap.

Hertz advert

Once your ’emissary-on-earth’ is in place you can shut yourself away and get back to developing schemes, meeting creative talent (designers, web-builders, young tech experts etc). Your team will soon get used to arranging their own lunch breaks, sorting appointments and returning forgotten baby-seats and roof-racks without having to disturb you at all.

Forward non-urgent e-mails to a second, secret (known only to you) mail box that you can look through in your own time. It’s good to support students needing work advice and it’s important to consider the needs of various charities, but do these things on the way home or indeed at any time that you choose.

 

 

If these strategies are designed to show your team where their interaction with you halts, you need to do something that allows you to engage with them too. The best way to achieve this is to hold a weekly scheduled meeting. As always, it needs fixed start and finishing times and has to be structured. Although this may initially feel a little too ‘bossy’, a viable agenda is to allow your staff the chance to ask advice and opinion and for you to answer their queries and to agree their goals and strategies.

Ensure somebody takes notes of what has been agreed and make it clear that there ought to be no reason to revisit what has been said unless there are problems. Remember, the aim here is to empower each person to have total control over what they do, in order for you to be free to do what you want to do. These strategies are for everyone to benefit and that in turn will benefit your business. apple advert

Many artists, creatives and innovators find their idea gets swamped by their business admin – don’t let it happen to yours!

 

 

 

 

 

 

(originally featured in Travel Bulletin’s Travel Coach /Ask Renato-October 2009)

 

 

Photo credits:

Hertz: q=Vintage+cars&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjCjJPtnurTAhVnLMAKHdwNAYgQ_AUICigB&biw=1094&bih=487#tbm=isch&q=Vintage+car+rental+advert&imgrc=d5EyWNKrvHUqFM:
Apple advert:
i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/01/15/article-0-16F3902B000005DC-58_634x919.jpg

 

What Now

 

Travel Coach Weekend Thought:

Q. I am a student on work experience with a travel agency that is set to merge. What is the point in starting a career in travel when the future looks so bleak for me and the other members of staff?

Dorothy, Nottingham

A  Dear Dorothy,

There is no quick answer because despite all the changes in booking patterns in the trade, nobody really knows where our industry is heading. The speed of change is rapid and many of us find it hard to keep up with, let alone get ahead of the game. As a coach however it is my duty to focus on the positives, so here goes

 

Youth equals choice. Being a student means you can still select your career direction. If you develop I.T. skills, you will be in great demand because the industry uses technology a lot. Previously being a computer person meant being a background figure, but now and in the future, you have the chance to be much more centre stage.

A White Star passenger list cover from 1930

 

If you fancied front-desk work in a travel agency, why not use the same skills in a hotel or a conference centre? When I coach agency staff that looking to change career, I emphasise the great range of prospects in Hospitality. If you start at reception and become good at it, you can soon be on the route to management. The same applies to Food & Beverage and restaurant work. There are some really fantastic jobs in the Conference and Meetings side of the business and the support provided by organisations like ABPCO (https://www.abpco.org/) is way ahead of what has been available to retail travel.

Experience also equals choice. Your more experienced colleagues can take a similar view, because even if they may not have your exuberance and youth, they still have gravitas and know-how. Loads of people are achieving great success with the excellent satellite travel agencies (the term home-worker is being used less because many do not now work from home.) This way of working suits those who enjoy being their own boss, have an entrepreneurial spirit and are content with being alone for long stretches – it is not for everyone.

Travel agencies will not vanish completely. They will however become more specific in whom the serve and in what they offer. Your senior colleagues should focus on their individual skills and strengthen them. An example would be someone who is very good at selling a particular product such as cruises, or a destination such as Florida. They need to home in on what they are good at and become as indispensable as possible.

None of these ideas are guarantees of job tenure but it is important to remember that although there will be fewer jobs as a travel agent, the broader travel business will actually offer more prospects than ever before.  Opportunities are out there, but not as you knew them.

Photos:

http://titanicbelfast.com/Discover/Titanic-Stories/Secrets-of-ocean-liner-passenger-lists.aspx

thechronicleherald.ca/sites/default/files/u23/westinbellboy.JPG

Originally published in Travel Bulletin – What Now? Travel Coach 28 March 2007

©Renato Fantoni

 

The Overview Effect, (the manifesto anteprima*)

Ever heard of Spacex?

NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise

I hadn’t until I was recently struck by an audio bolt from the radio blue and learnt from the excellent presenter@NickyAACampbell that it is a private company at the vanguard of commercialising space travel. It aims to launch, literally, within months. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTIYPzfThps&feature=youtu.be

The radio discussion then morphed onto the Overview Effect which seemed so interesting…I had to learn more.

The Overview Effect appears to be a new(ish) awareness. It is a combination of thoughts and feelings around looking at Earth from space and realising:

  • Our planet is so small, it is probably only significant to the organisms that live here.
  • The only divisions on the globe are the ones of physical geography e.g. mountain ranges and water (lakes, oceans, rivers). Any political or national or human interventions are false constructs that despite the best efforts of ancient China or Hadrian are basically meaningless.
  • The human species’ desire to build fences and stake out ownership of land walks hand -in-hand with our communal actions of abusing land by chopping down oxygen giving greenery, melting polar ice caps, exploding/testing nuclear warheads and challenging animal species to cope with whatever we feel can be thrown at them.

The effect can probably be summed up; the planet in space is fragile and beautiful and perhaps godly. Yet ‘we’ prioritise other things and take it all for granted, probably because there is no such thing as ‘we’, just me plus me plus me…

This blog however is not a pro-eco clarion call. You can read that kind of thing anywhere (although if you want to cut out the chaff go straight to http://www.monbiot.com/

What I’m writing about is more akin to the exclamation (though neither the film nor its sci-fi context; “In SpaceNo One Can Hear You Scream.” (Alien dir. Ridley Scott 1979 sci-fi) and how, in effect, Space is the last quiet place. Alien

Some of my blogs over the last year have dealt with my Silence Project. It is something I find myself constructing piecemeal and it’s like building a jigsaw puzzle with no guarantee that the all the pieces are present and the box top picture is almost certainly a different scene from the one I am making.

Two weeks ago I went in search of silence in London. My plan was to visit an obvious silent place and then find a less obvious one in its shadow. I began at the British Library (my thoughts from there are at the foot of this page) and although I found a lovely art book on the topic (which I then bought online) my doubts about the existence of silence were confirmed as soon as I explained my project to a librarian called Ulmila. Her unprovoked reaction was something like ’Silence? In a library? You’re joking. This place is full of background sounds which are amplified by the voices of complaining people who want quiet.’

I left the magnificent building with every intention of going to at least one nearby park but my ardour was so dampened by the angular London rain, I returned to the Library and had Silence IMG_2387a coffee and high-sugar bun until I went home. It was in this café however that I had a mini revelation in the form of a flashback reverie.

I thought back to six days before when I had attended a wedding in a deconstructed brewery in the City of London. I recalled the moment my wife and I ambled towards the bar to say ‘hello’ to somebody and somebody. The bar was by the wall and the whole area was bathed in purple lights that jumped to this sick beat (so sue me Swift!) of the darkened vibrating room. The noise was nauseating and I didn’t hear a word that ‘we’ uttered to somebody and somebody, nor what somebody and somebody said back to ‘us’. Acting under previously dealt instructions not to abandon my spouse, I took a sidestep shuffle and propped up the once keg-lined wall. Seeing that somebody and somebody and my wife were merrily gesturing above the noise to each other I grabbed the moment by the ears, tipped my head forwards and shifted my gaze down at my non-dancing feet.

Aah…silence. Of sorts. In a room with 220 people competing with the pumping line of the hellish bass thumps I managed to crawl into the snail shell of my mind. I timed 26 seconds of respite. I snapped a mental photo of my shoes atop the light wood dance floor and although the music was present, I managed to subdue its relevance by allowing it to become wallpaper. Sure my ear drums were still being struck towards terminal deafness and no doubt any observer would have thought of me as a sad loner but I had stolen some hard-to-find thought time against the odds and in a throbbing environment to boot.

I have long argued that silence is more a state of mind than an absolute and now I have experienced it. I suppose my version of silence is a subjective truth rather than an unequivocal one but I am confident that with this rather muted revelation I have found a way forwards with the Silence Project.

Perhaps this is the birth of an Inner/Under View Effect or maybe it’s simply the overview as seen from inside. Either way, it’s no less valid.

True silence is impossible to find. Experts confirm this and add that even in a scientifically silent place you can hear your own blood careening through your system.

My staring point therefore is that silence is impossible. Extreme quiet however is possible and can bring about similar benefits. I’d actually go on to say that it’s preferable because it is natural and more comfortable for thinking beings to deal with.

Photos:

Earthrise; http://www.ecology.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise.jpg

Alien Poster: http://www.pxleyes.com/images/contests/movie-poster-recreation/fullsize/movie-poster-recreation-52953fe575c29.jpg

*anteprima=preview

15 / 02/ 2017 Rough notes

Facts: 11. Feb 2017 British Library, London 10.16 am. 22 degrees C Humanities 1. Thirty Two fellow readers, 65% female.

SOUND: A/C hum, padded footsteps on looped carpet. The soft slide of my borrowed pink pencil (TATE: [not sweet}). Low female voice with a non-local accent, brief punctuated coughing. Key board clicks. The low ecru suspended ceiling swallows bigger sounds and bounces them out through its holes.

SMELL: Cool tinge to a bookish musk

FEEL: Deep paged paper (this book!) smoothly springs up against my writing right hand. My own unshaven face.

SIGHT: Blanched people moving at slow pace and purpose. A woman breaks into a march and a bald male (professor?) follows suit. He slides to his chair, positions four books at jaunty angles (Blue one on the top) and flicker/reads the pages. Broad wide room, up lights shine up and move the white to grey.

Light wood modern desks consume the floor. A library, this one too, a centre of knowledge. These walls house data, opinion. Old news and accidental history (when I write now I’m not thinking of becoming the past).

My own concentration — as ever — is fragile and waning and the SILENCE is only a truth in outer space and earthling death.

Realising upon flickering and reading (flickerding?) that SILENCE (Kamps, Said Menil collections 2012) turns phrases of non-sound to pictorial art. Once concept represents another and my problem with (love of) art is that it borrows its stabilizers from philosophy and intellectual impulse. My project needs to come in at a non-intellectual level.

Person I met: Ulmila, female library assistant who once worked in ASDA and the library in Colindale and at once misses the buzz of retail yet appreciates the calm of the British Library. She also -now that she is older -likes the detail of handling book loans. She agrees that true silence is an unrealistic concept, even in the BL. People complain about human generated sounds, but it is futile.

Love, lost past and loneliness.

 

In 1975 I had a Saturday job in a North London travel agency called Frames Travel. It wasn’t so great because all I did was rubber stamp the holiday brochures and put them on the shelves. An exciting day was when I took the old brochures off the shelves and threw them away. Such fun.

During the ensuing forty years and as I grew up, that branch of Frames became a Thomas Cook travel shop. Since my own business transferred to North Finchley in 1990 I have walked past this shop every working day and every working day therefore has offered a connection to my past.  nostalgia

This week Thomas Cook closed the shop down. The building is still there but the erosion begins instantly. The interior colours will fade, the furniture has already gone and my personal connection will wither from a time spanning umbilical cord to a frayed thread of rain sodden parcel string.

I’m not complaining about the past being cut away from me. After all, it’s not necessarily desirable to be in daily contact with one’s yesteryears and it can be argued that being surrounded by your youth can hold you back as it offers the comfort of familiarity that may in fact be a false friend.

On the other hand, I recently visited the hotel in Rome where I worked and lived many years ago. The changes to the locale had been so total and complete that it left me feeling abandoned. There was nothing recognisable at all. Although the upper parts of the buildings were, I presume, the same the street level shops and office fronts were all new and nothing was familiar. The sadness from this experience was sharper than the slow evolving changes that occur daily in North London.

People have different levels of nostalgia. I suffer from it quite deeply and am one of those who looks for his own past and scratches the surface of time in the vain hope of finding small ways to re-trace what once was. My suffering however is a philosophical luxury. I have always had freedom to live where I wanted and have only every moved when I elected to. I imagine that refugees and people that move around because of their work e.g. army personnel, develop an immunity to nostalgia as pragmatism and survival instincts take over. The sub-conscious probably kicks in knowing that if you cannot be sure of where you’ll be tomorrow why upset yourself by connecting to the now and the past?

At a time when the media has ‘moved on’ from reporting on migrants in Northern France (and presumable elsewhere in Europe) it makes me wonder how people from stable and rooted lives are coping with reality of being cut adrift. It also makes me wonder that with President Trump appearing keen on shutting the door on people flying BACK to the USA how they cope with being told on arrival that their country is now in their past. The human timeline is a fragile thing.

I recently learned about the condition of ’separation anxiety’ and this week I felt it vicariously when I saw this story about the kidnapping of baby chimps to be sold as pets, my primal reaction was disgust towards the ‘nappers with subsequent thoughts that their lives are actually worth less than the monkeys’ and the planet would be better off with fewer useless hunting humans and more cuddly animals. This however is not the point. monkey

The point is that we feel so much for the little chimp because we can relate to his loneliness and isolation from his tribe and his home.  Very shortly, maybe even today, you will see a homeless person or somebody meandering with symptoms of dementia and remember that like the loveable chimp, everything about them before this moment has been smashed and effectively deleted. Judge them after you have helped them and I shall try to do the same.

 

b/w photo; http://i1.examiner.co.uk/incoming/article12361723.ece/ALTERNATES/s1200/JS107379643.jpg

Travel Coach Weekend thought; How to handle a client

The following is one of several letters I have received on the theme, namely “How to handle a client”.

Dear Travel Coach

My late winter-sun and early Summer ’17 booking season was quite good, especially with the specials. Many clients saw the e-mail offers and just booked them. I am still busy with people contacting me but now they are not booking. Some are even showing me deals they have collected from competitors and are simply trying to beat down the price. Do you have any suggestions?

Pat B, Birmingham

Dear Pat,

My first thought is that you are allowing the price of the holidays to dictate whether people book or not. Without doubt price is very important and customers are ever more conscious of the choices in front of them, but there is more to booking a holiday than cost alone.man gives her a loving heart

If as you say people are actually making the effort to contact you then you and your colleagues are missing out on more business. When someone pushes open your door, walks over the threshold and sit opposite you, they are giving a very strong buying signal. It is up to you guys to read that signal and make a sale. The same applies to phone calls and email requests.

When you meet a customer face to face you have a great advantage over on-line systems and telephone sales operations; you have the chance to build a one-to-one relationship with another person. The old saying “People buy people first” still applies. Try using this four-stage “Random Romance” model:

Engage.

When you meet a potential customer why not go to the door and open it for them?  Sit them down and ask how they are. Even if the shop is busy a few old fashioned courtesies will not go amiss and the client will be struck by your friendliness. Most importantly, remember to smile! Engaging with the customer also means making it clear to them that you are prepared to listen. Nod your head as they talk and make eye contact.

Discover.

Being a travel agent can be a bit like being a detective. People seldom say exactly what they want as they frequently don’t know it. The Discover phase is the chance to actively listen to them. Start with open questions like “What kind of holiday do you fancy” or “Which kind of city would you prefer”? This will help you continue to give a good impression while simultaneously getting important information. Take notes as they talk, it looks professional (like a doctor) and enables you to capture vital data such as their names and contact details.

Pair off.

Only when you have reached this point do you demonstrate your product knowledge. By this stage you will know a lot about the client and can match them to the best trip for them. I would suggest making a maximum of three alternatives. While describing each one inform them how this will benefit them. For example, if they enjoy eating local food tell them that “this hotel is near typical restaurants where many locals eat-this means that you will be able to have a true gastronomic experience of Rome”.

 

Commit.

Once you have presented your three options ask the client which is their preference. If you have done sales training you will recall that this has the effect of saying “So, which one shall we go for” rather than fatal “Do you want to book then”? In reaching this stage you have put in a lot of work so you don’t want to blow it all away with one clumsy question. Likewise, you cannot afford to let the client leave with all your great ideas.

Good luck with using these four stages.

FOOT NOTE. Thinking of joining a networking group? If so, take time to pick the right one. My first tip is to find one with a florist, gift seller or stationer as they are the people the sell the lowest ticket products. These groups feed off the guilt felt by people that don’t have a referral and because they are so desperate to be seen to be referring, they will always come up with a low-value lead. If a florist is present, he/she will pick up the dregs and you’ll be spared the wasted time. I have nothing against florists, but they are used to £10 here and £15 there. As a travel professional you need to hold out for much better than that.

image; http://www.drewsmarketingminute.com/images/old/6a00d8341bf7cb53ef0134887edcf4970c-pi.jpg