A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
Yes, today we are heading to a destination that feels light years away. Back to my pre-children life…and specifically, What I Used to Do At Work!
Once upon a time… after I was a struggling waitress, and before there were kids… I used to be a travel agent.
This was back in prehistoric travel times when travel agencies had specific computers that you could access an airlines schedule… via each individual airline (AA, UA, USAir, etc… each entity would set up an office with a terminal… yes, one of those very same clunky old things they had at the airport counter back in Olden Times)
I actually went to “travel school” at the Herman Miller Headquarters in Zeeland, Michigan (taught by the lovely woman who was, at that time, responsible for all their corporate travel). It was curiously a lengthy course, 6-weeks as I recall and it was not free! I think it cost in the area of a whopping $150 (which in the mid 80’s was a good bit of money, at least on “waitress pay!”) Anyway, I remember being more than a bit overwhelmed. Not only was there oodles of things to learn, it was the first time I ever worked with a computer. And there was so much memorization… the most important of which was all the airport codes. (Life pre-Google required a lot of brain bandwidth! lol) If you did not know the airport codes, there was no way to look them up on the computer. Really. So LOTS of memorization and yes, there were tests… about which I remember stressing over… greatly. But I passed and went on to use almost none of the things I learned in the 6-week course (outside of the airport codes) because back in that galaxy… technology was moving at warp speed. (Yes, beam me up Scotty speed!) Within a couple of months of being hired by Pathfinder’s Travel (which is still in operation and owned by the lovely, lovely, lovely gentleman who hired me) the airlines moved from having a “terminal” in our office to allowing travel agents to access their system directly via a DOS computer… (So all the things I learned for ONE airline, I now needed to learn for ALL the airlines… or at least all the airlines that serviced the airports in my area.)
I did a mix travel coordination for both corporate travelers and leisure travelers…both fun but very different clients! However, neither was the reason why any sane person would go into the travel industry. One went for the perks… which back in prehistoric times were really awesome. My office had a regular cache of dozens of tickets – honestly, more than we could use in the time allotted – and they were replenished on a regular basis.
This did not include accommodations, but a couple of phone calls and you could pair a free ticket with free or greatly reduced accommodations, car rentals, and touristy things like museums and this was how I saw a small bit of the world. Literally. Which for a girl from Holland, Michigan, living in a family that did not vacation… anywhere… it was so amazing!
NYC, Washington DC, California. Florida. Washington, Idaho, and a large chunk of Canada. Japan. British ruled Hong Kong. Mainland China (a mere two years after they opened up for tourist travel… which is a story all by itself). The Netherlands, England and Scotland are just some of the highlights of my “work benefits”.
Most of this travel I coordinated with Rachel, Heidi and Sam’s dad… before we had Rachel, Heidi, and Sam… he would be working and if there was a free ticket and I could join him away I went. I liked this kind of travel…last minute, no itinerary, no group… and most of the time it was really just me… he’d be working and I would be on my own. My gosh, good times.
I have had the incredible fortune to stay at places like The Roman Camp in Callendar Scotland (my gosh, it was divine), The Grand Hotel in Amsterdam with all it’s incredible history, The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong, and The Hotel Intercontinental in Kowloon (where we had our own butler… what?!?) with a view of Victoria Harbor at night that was just magical. And I have seen Kabuki Theatre in the Ginza and stayed in a hotel next-door to the US Embassy in Tokyo (When Walter Mondale was the ambassador!)
Sometimes the perks of being just a travel agent were incredible… and they helped build some of the most amazing memories ever. Like the time I went to a koffee house in Amsterdam, but really wanted to be in a coffee house, and the lovely lovely people who enjoyed my faux pax… and just gave me coffee… yes for free. Or the time I decided I wanted to visit the Ueno Park Zoo in Tokyo…during morning rush hour…but how incredibly helpful every single person was to this very naive American…. so helpful that even the rush of workers coming up from the subway all made space for me to make my way down the stairs. Added to those memories were the life skills I learned… how to exciting it is to step outside your comfort zone and be immersed in new things.
Good times… such very good times. (And all before cell phones… yes, you read that right, before cell phones!)
Once we had Rachel… work soon ended. I did not “earn enough” to cover daycare expenses and thus began my life of Being Just a Mom for a good number of years.
And when I finally did go back to work, the travel industry had changed dramatically (with a significant reduction in those perks) and so I set my feet on a different pathway… with fond memories of what once was my my life in a galaxy far far away.
These days, the extent of my travel is limited to a quick trip to Erie… or an annual trip to Michigan. Would I like to do overseas travel again? Yes! There are so many places I’d like to go and see.
A huge thanks to Kym for these Museum of Me prompts!
Have a great weekend everyone! See you all back here on Monday!
what a fun read and to learn you were adventurous!! how exciting! I used to be a speech language pathologist before kids. Once I had them I became a stay at home mom. Travel has changed so much since back then and now because of the virus I fear it will never be the same as it once was.
This is really interesting, Kat! I think I “know” you, but I only sort of know the present you and have no idea about all the experiences leading up to now. I’m glad you worked at the travel agency during the heyday of travel and got to enjoy so many perks. Oh, the places you’ve been and the things you’ve seen! (I’m almost as amazed that Pathfinders Travel is still operating. I thought travel agents were a thing of the past!) Thanks for sharing!
What a fascinating former job, Kat! And such great adventures, too! I loved booking travel through travel agents back in the way-back times. They were always so helpful and knowledgeable and . . . happy. (I think being well-traveled makes people happy, and so their job perks must have been showing!) Thanks so much for sharing this little glimpse into your life-before-we-knew-you! XO
Wow Kat! What adventures and good times. Amazing places and sights (and sites). You certainly did have a lot of perks. The only thing I disagree with is your statement …Being just a Mom…no one is “just a mom”!!
So glad you had those opportunities to travel and explore. For the record, I do still use a travel agency! I regularly book travel for my bosses. I go to each person’s preferred airline and find the flight that works and then just email our corporate agent (AMEX) with what I want, hotel, car, etc. My parent company does have preferred vendors for hotels and cars so there is not a lot of latitude with those, but our agents are such a help!!
I longed to be a travel agent back in the day. I had a friend who worked for AAA, and though it was different than being a travel agent, a lot of the perks were similar. She and her partner travelled to some crazy places.
Isn’t it funny to think that most people now have no idea that such a job existed? Wow.
You were so fortunate to have those great travel experiences. Travel really helps a person become more open to other cultures and other ideas.
That’s so cool, Kat! So many amazing places!!
I, too, once had a job that I loved (ZERO perks, though), with a computer dedicated to doing that one thing, that now anyone with a computer can do!
This is fabulous exhibit because I learned so much about you! You have truly seen some amazing things — how lucky you are to have traveled so widely! Kiddo and I spend time sometimes talking about where we’d like to travel around the world once it’s safe to do so. We had *just* gotten passports right before the world shut down and had talked about traveling to the UK that summer. I think it kind of works out well that she’ll be older by the time we feel comfortable doing it (I hope) because I think she’ll understand and appreciate it more. But for now I’ll just sit here being envious of the places you’ve gotten to go!
Thank you for that great insight into your early working life. What a different world it was then. People laugh when I tell them I worked a night shift as a young mother to help a business get their data loaded onto the computer. The firm had 10 office staff and now there 2.
I so thoroughly enjoyed this exhibit of YOU, Kat! What a story you tell…and stories within the story. I could have read for pages. (And oh my gosh, when is the last time I thought about DOS?) We had a travel agent, right around the corner, up until mid-2020. And it always warmed me up a bit to know they were still there. I’m curious–did you have a preference, corporate or leisure travel?
What a fabulous job you had, and wonderful memories.
Some things really WERE better pre-internet age. Sounds like you had some WONDERFUL travels.
What wonderful travels and adventures. It is hard to recall how we did things pre-internet days. Thanks for sharing your sense of adventure and memories.
What a COOL career, Kat – love reading about it!
What a great post Kat! You must have had soooo much fun!