The agent from Northumberland explains how she left her comfort zone to launch the podcast and why mental health is her passion. Juliet Dennis reports.
Q. Have you always been a travel agent?
A. No, I was a secondary school teacher. But all I ever wanted to do was work in travel. At 16 I went round all our local travel agents to see if I could get a job. But my mum told them all not to give me a job as I was going to university to do business and economics! In 2000 I got my own back. I had a serious illness that made me re-evaluate my life. I blagged my way into Airtours doing flight-only sales and somehow became the top sales person and ended up in Newcastle, helping to set up a call centre. I ended up in corporate travel and then came to Travel Counsellors. It’s always been my dream to run my own business. You reap the rewards of your own business.
“I blagged my way into Airtours doing flight-only sales and somehow became the top sales person and ended up in Newcastle, helping to set up a call centre.”
Q. What’s your experience of working through the pandemic this year?
A. The start of Covid-19 was very difficult. We had good support from head office. Like everyone, there were tearful days. I have Travel Counsellors friends and we’d be crying on the phone, but by the end of the conversation we were laughing. You were never on your own. At the beginning of [the first] lockdown I had 500 postcards made, which I sent to everyone on my database to say “thinking of you” and telling them to give me a call if they wanted. Clients loved it. The business person in me didn’t want them to think I’d gone bust. A little bit of kindness can go a long way. I chose not to sell things during lockdown so my social media messages were more inspirational. It’s also been a horrible time personally too; I’ve lost three friends to Covid.
Q. Why did you launch your podcast Mind. Body. Travel?
A. Another Travel Counsellor, Marie Rowe, gave me the idea. She has a marketing background and recorded a bit of training on our intranet. I rang her and she talked about her podcast and gave me the confidence to do it. I had said there was no way I was putting myself out there – I can’t stand the sound of my own voice. But she told me to do it and put me in touch with a professional podcast producer. Together they persuaded me. It was so far out of my technology comfort zone you wouldn’t believe it – if my husband is away he has to leave me Post-it notes on how to use the TV remote!
“[Marie Rowe] told me to do it and put me in touch with a professional podcast producer. Together they persuaded me. It was so far out of my technology comfort zone you wouldn’t believe it.”
Q. Why did you choose mental health as the subject for your podcasts?
A. It’s always been my passion but due to Covid it became even more important. I truly believe travel improves us in terms of health and well-being. I thought, ‘let’s talk about travel and how it is good for your mental health’. I have experience of mental health issues from my teaching days and my son and other family members and friends. My youngest son has Asperger’s, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a few other mental health issues, hence my inspiration for these podcasts. With my son we always stayed in a villa on holiday, we couldn’t take him to a busy resort. In the UK he would not get on public transport but, on holiday, if he wanted to be on his own he could, whether it was because of a different culture overseas or a slower pace of life.
My son is thriving now. During my teaching days I worked with some very challenging classes and came across mental health issues daily. I went on school trips and some of the children had never left their housing estates. We gave them experiences to show them more of life. This podcast gives me the opportunity to reach out again and use the contacts I’ve made to talk about why travel is good for your mental health. I also wanted to look forward and do some dreaming about travel.
“Due to Covid [mental health] became even more important. I truly believe travel improves us in terms of health and well-being. I thought, ‘let’s talk about travel and how it is good for your mental health’.”
Q. What has the response been like?
A. We seem to have hit on something. I’m already getting amazing feedback and clients are calling me about them. I’ve no plans to stop doing them. It’s great fun, and my husband Colin, who is retired, is doing them with me. I feel comfortable doing them now, although it’s still hard listening to my own voice!
Who do you chat to on your podcasts?
Some of my clients are on my podcasts. I have Kate Mackay, a business consultant in the NHS who is also a snowboarder and performance coach. She has a blog called Mummy Snowboarder and has snowboarded with some of the best in Britain. She talks about the benefits of moving out of your comfort zone to visit different places and the positive effect it can have on mental health.
“[Kate Mackay] talks about the benefits of moving out of your comfort zone to visit different places and the positive effect it can have on mental health.”
Other people on my podcasts are Rannveig Snorradottir, managing director of destination management company Obeo Travel, who talks about Iceland, from snorkelling to yoga and beer baths, and The Travel Corporation’s UK sales manager Lee Evanson, who works on brands including Insight Vacations and talks about the company’s Wander Women journeys to India.
I am doing one podcast a week. I have people champing at the bit to take part!