Greg and I are in the middle of a crazy road trip right now – visiting dear friends and family, and attending a wedding and the TBEX travel bloggers conference before we head back to Europe. At this time of year two years ago, Greg and I had just returned to Texas from our annual sojourn in Canada, to begin a new semester at Tarleton. For several years prior to that, we had been spending many evenings on the back porch by the chiminea trying to decide what we should do next and where we should go when Greg could finally retire.
Just to make sure we were still on track, we made an appointment with Human Resources to talk about his upcoming retirement, which we thought would be in two more years. It was during that meeting that we found out he actually had enough years of service and age to retire at the end of that same academic year instead of having to wait. We couldn’t believe it! We nearly skipped out of that office and promptly went home, cracked open a bottle of very nice wine and started talking in earnest about what we were going to do!
Way back when Greg and I were in high school, we dreamed of traveling. We felt we would need to travel inexpensively so our idea was to bike across the country with panniers and camp to save money on lodging. Then our life took an interesting and delightful, but different, path and we ended up in Texas with good jobs, great friends and wonderful kids. That dream never died though – in fact it was nurtured by all the travel we have done over the past 30+ years. Over that same time frame, like everyone else, we have had friends and family get sick and sometimes pass away, and it gives us pause. Who knows how long we have on this amazing planet? We’re getting older and our bodies are beginning to ache. So, should we be staying home and focusing on our health instead of doing what we’re doing? I think the answer is a resounding “no” – we are doing what is right for our mental AND physical health. We are preoccupied with life and living it to the fullest, in a way we have always dreamed of. I saw a sign recently that said “live your potential.” Although I have always tried to do that, I have often said that I feel like a bundle of unfulfilled potential. Maybe this phase of our life is a chance to make the most of where this life journey has brought us so far. Euro Travel Coach is a chance for us to live our potential and push the boundaries of the lifestyle we have enjoyed to date.
People have been telling me for a long time that I should start a travel company. So, 2 years ago when we realized that retirement was possible and imminent, Greg was my biggest encourager. I guess I figured it was now or never. We really wanted to travel and we had to support ourselves somehow so this seemed like the time to go beyond my comfort zone and try my hand at entrepreneurship. My initial business plan was to give people travel advice and create custom itineraries for clients who want to travel to Europe. I researched other companies doing similar things and then jumped into the challenge of building a website – which everyone knows is NOT my expertise. I had no idea how to do it. I heard Square Space created slick websites and was user friendly so I signed up for my free trial and started figuring things out. I spent many hours with the Square Space Help Line learning how to create our website and write a blog. You can see more about my struggles with technology here.
As I am up to renew my website and domain in just a few days, I am reminded that it has now been two years since Euro Travel Coach was born! I’m here to tell you that we are having a blast!
I’m not sure that we could have imagined what it would be like to sell most of our stuff, move the remainder to Ohio, and then travel throughout Europe for 9 months living out of a suitcase and a backpack. I don’t think we had any idea how much fun it would be to go into business and to have our daughter share her expertise in hospitality with our company. We simply stepped out there into the unknown and did our best to use our skills, knowledge and passion to build something that people could use and enjoy.
It has been really interesting to be traveling so “light.” It was really strange to go back to our storage unit in Ohio and look at all our worldly belongings and realize that we hadn’t seen or used any of it in a year – and we really didn’t need it! Someday I suspect that we will settle down again, somewhere, but until that time, everything will remain in those boxes. That’s OK – I am realizing that I like measuring my life in memories more than mementoes. I hope I still feel that way when everything come out of storage and I find out that I can’t find anything because I gave it away or sold it for a song. I guess we’ll see when the time comes. But I can say that it is wonderful to pare your expenses down to the basics: health care, cell phone, travel and food (and wine!). We don’t have to worry about homeowner’s insurance, cutting the lawn, property taxes, mortgages and utilities. We have traded those expenses for experiential travel and we love it. Extending our travel budget by using workaway, WWOOFing and housesitting helps us to meet local people and feel more like we live where we are traveling rather than just passing through. We like that. We are not taking the extended bike trip we originally imagined – at least not yet, but we are finding other ways to travel inexpensively that weren’t even available when we were teenagers. See how we are managing to afford to travel long term here.
Our business model expanded to include leading trips and we want to expand it even further and find groups of friends and family who want to travel together and then create and lead custom trips specifically for them. Won’t that be awesome? When I launched the website I was told it would take time to rate on Google and build the business and that has been true – but we are making progress and it’s amazing to serve our clients and help them make their travel dreams come true. So far we have served multiple clients in all our levels of service: one hour coaching, email coaching, itinerary planning where the client makes reservations and itinerary planning where we handle all the bookings. This last offering, Itinerary Planning Plus, has been our most popular level of service. Our small group trips are so much fun and we never anticipated leading those kinds of trips in the beginning. We enjoyed Tuscany so much that we are doing that trip 2 more times in the spring and we created a trip to one of our all-time favorite places – Piedmont! And we have ideas for so many more trips! How about a beer tour through Belgium or a single malt scotch tour through Scotland? Doesn't that sound fun? We have led 19 guests through Tuscany and 21 people are already booked for our trips to Tuscany and Piedmont in 2019, 6 of those being repeat customers who loved the Brunello and now want to try Barolo! We’re excited to lead these trips in the new year. If you’d like to join us, see the itinerary here and drop me an email. We will have a fantastic time traveling together!
So, Happy Birthday to Euro Travel Coach and here’s to many more. We are enjoying the work of making this dream come true for us and for others. We’re about to set off on our second year of extended travel and a digital nomad lifestyle. We are open to lots of new possibilities – who knows what opportunities may open up that we will enjoy? What I do know is that we fly to Milan in the middle of September. We hope you’ll continue to follow our adventures and travel with us in person or virtually. We love staying connected to all of you!
Are you planning a trip somewhere in Europe? We can help with that! Remember that we are always available to you and your friends and family for custom trip planning to Italy, France, Ireland, England and all of Europe. We also still have spots available on our small group trip to Tuscany in May and our small group trip to Piedmont in October 2019! We'd love for you to join us! You can always reach Betsy at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to help you make your travel dreams to Europe come true!