I remember it well… sitting on my parents’ patio in Johannesburg, listening to my uncle tell stories of his adventures around the world.
He owned a large travel agency in Germany, and was escorting a small group of clients on yet another African Safari. His life seemed so interesting as he regaled us with his travel experiences in exotic places like Asia, South America and Australasia. I was mesmerized and inspired, and then it hit me – this was what I wanted to do too!
My graduation gift was a ships’ passage from South Africa to England, and so I packed up my belongings in one of those huge silver travel trunks, and boarded the S.A. Vaal – a mail ship that commuted between Durban and Southhampton in the sixties and seventies.
We sailed north along the coast of Africa, weathered a storm in the Bay of Biscayne and eventually docked in the U.K., from where I made my way by train and ferry via Belgium and France to Germany. After a month of travelling I finally arrived in Remscheid – ready to start my career as a travel agent, just like my uncle.
It was exactly 40 years ago today that I stepped foot in TravelSchmidt for the first time. I was a keener – excited to take my first group of clients around the world. The destination didn’t really matter to me, as long as I would be travelling! As you can imagine, it didn’t quite work out that way…
Like everyone else, I started on the bottom rung of the travel agent’s ladder – as an apprentice. On my first day I was shown to my place in the rail department, where clients would purchase their train tickets to the next town, or sometimes a little further afield.
“Learn the timetable between Remscheid and Cologne” I was told. WHAT? I thought I was going to travel, not be an assistant train ticket seller… This was not what I had signed up for! I was devastated, and my dream of travelling the world was shattered.
Persistence has always been my strong suit, and after finishing my 3 year apprenticeship I worked in many different departments of the travel industry and in many cities, be it arranging tour groups from Düsseldorf, or booking flights, hotels, trains, cars, ferries for large corporations or vacationers in Johannesburg. For a while I was a travel wholesaler and even pounded the pavement in Cape Town as a sales rep for various African safari lodges.
Fast forward to today and – although I have yet to escort a group, I absolutely love what I do here in Vancouver BC. Every day I discover another part of our wonderful world as I research and design fabulous journeys, and often travel vicariously through my clients.
Looking back, I could not imagine spending my days doing anything else. Over the past 40 years I’ve lived on three continents – Europe, Africa and now, North America and been privileged to visit and explore over 50 countries. My dream of travelling the world did come to fruition, and I’m so grateful that I didn’t give up on that first day in March 1977 in the rail department!