This past week, on May 29, marked the 60th anniversary of the first successful British expedition to Mount Everest. These days we’re able to travel easily to pretty much any place on the planet, yet Everest still represents a challenge to anyone who attempts to climb it. That’s a good thing.
We all have our Everest. It might be something we’ve already accomplished or something we’re still aiming toward. We may keep it private or choose to publicize it. Whether we’re taking baby steps or moving fast, the point is we’re moving. That’s also a good thing. Writing is like this, and for travel agents and advisors with any interest in using this medium to create value for themselves, and their customers, taking advantage of the opportunities that expose them to travel experiences is key. Sometimes you need to have “soft eyes” to see the opportunities.
What are soft eyes? If you’ve ever been on safari, you know what they are. If not, well…it’s
kind of like separating the forest from the trees, literally. Everything looks like the same color out there on the savannah but the place is teeming with animals, large and small, yet many times you can’t see them. So you try really hard to find them, and you can’t…but they’re there. Opportunities that connect you to travel can kind of be like that and I recently found one. It’s not always possible to get away, so I’ve come to have soft eyes about where I get my travel kicks.
Ever read Pax Britannica? If not—no worries. I haven’t read it either, but I do know who Jan Morris is—she’s the author of that book. She also accompanied the first British summit to Mount Everest, except at that time she was a man. In 1953 Morris was a journalist for The Times, and was assigned as an embedded special correspondent with Sir Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay on their trek to Everest. The rest—as we know—is history, and that summit also made Morris famous. Morris had never climbed a mountain before that epic journey but was a very ambitious person and saw the opportunity for what it was. Years later Morris became a well-known, and well-respected, travel writer. In April, I worked an event at the Times Center and noticed that she would be in New York City for a Times Talk interview as part of GeoEx’s far-flung journeys. I immediately booked a ticket.
A few weeks later, sitting in the theatre, listening to Jan Morris’ English accent, it almost felt like we were at home with her in Wales as she retold her travel tales. The only thing missing was the pot of tea. The questions focused on Everest but eventually settled on traveling and writing. It was good to hear that she writes for her own pleasure. So many times you hear of writers who slog it out, but writing—especially when it flows—is extremely pleasurable. Sure, as a journalist, she may have had a head start but she still had to experience a sense of place to write about the destinations she visited. And so it goes with travel agents.
For those who have no writing experience, where do they start? The place we all start, at the foot of the mountain. There is no other way. When asked how she takes stock of a new place, Morris quoted from The Bible, “grin like a dog and run around the city.” Travel agents who go away on their company’s dime often travel with industry colleagues and adhere to an itinerary, but that doesn’t mean they can’t break away from the pack. The best moments to write about often come from meeting up with locals or finding your own special spot. It’s about capturing all the experiences—large and small—that happen along the way and mining your notes for the gems.
Those who climb Everest, or any mountain, don’t fix their eyes at the top. They put one foot in front of the other and take it step by step. They rest, they watch, they climb. They collect information all along the way. It’s about soft eyes.
What kind of travel opportunities do you see these days?