Why did I write a book? As I’ve announced before, I am self-publishing a book (How to be Your Own Travel Agent) that is the result of years of posts on Traveling with Nina. I started this blog as a way to share my travel successes and failures with friends and family. I wanted to inspire and empower others to plan their own fun adventures. I had no idea it would lead to a self-published book, but I wanted to take the travel tips I’ve spent years writing to the next level. I wanted to put them in one place so that everyone who has said to me, “I can never plan a trip” would have the tools they need for them to see that they CAN actually plan an amazing trip.
I’ve been working with a friend, Joe Clarke, who started his own business called Exalted 343. (Or… Exalted Media… The Exalted…. name is still a work in progress). I asked him to help me with a promo video for my book release and he has been compiling some of my photographs and videos. (As a side note, he’s watched my home travel videos more than I have, and said he felt like he watched Jared and I grow up. Sweet, right? Or weird….) So, he’s been editing my videos, but, honestly, he’s been doing so much more than that. He’s been asking me the hard questions. The questions that get to my core: Why are you blogging? Why do you want to share things with others? Why are you doing any of this?
But the one that I thought would be the easiest to answer actually challenged me, because of his response: Why did you write a book?
Me: “I want to empower people to plan their own trips.”
Joe: “That’s the desired outcome, but it’s not why you’re doing it. Why did you want to write a book to begin with?”
I want people to be empowered, but the question is why do I want that? What would motivate me to want to empower people to be their own travel agent? It took me a minute to articulate it, and after we talked for awhile, I became more solid on my “why.”
I believe in information-sharing. This is why I love sites like TripAdvisor. It’s people like me sharing information that’s helpful for anyone who is visiting the place they visited. No one is paying them to do it, they do it because of the information-sharing culture within the travel community. I want to know if the hotel sucks, and so do others, so we share that information. That’s what this blog is: information-sharing. If you think about Wikipedia, it started for the same reasons. People writing down their expertise on a subject. Yes, they’re a lot of crap online, but there’s also a lot of good and useful information, and mostly for free.
My book is called “How to be Your Own Travel Agent.” I named it this because I’ve become my own travel agent. According to Merriam-Webster, a travel agent is “a person engaged in selling and arranging transportation, accommodations, tours, or trips for travelers.”
I’m not talking about travel guides. Those are different. Those are the wonderful souls who walk you around cities and tell you fascinating history. They’re the ones who say, “this is the best ice cream place in town!” Travel guides can be books, blog entries, Airbnb hosts, TripAdvisor, etc. Guides are engaged in information-sharing. They’re very helpful, and I highly recommend travel guides!
So I’m talking about travel agents (and agencies). Travel agents are the companies that charge you to book flights and accommodations. I don’t want to trash them, because I’m sure they can help some people, but they weren’t for me. And they might not be for you either.
Why aren’t travel agents right for me? Well, I used an agent on my first trip overseas. They charged me a lot of money. What did I get? Mediocre hotels in areas that weren’t close to where I wanted to be and flights that had us in and out at really weird times with long layovers. I was given no practical information on how to navigate the cities, I didn’t know much about currency-exchange or sightseeing passes, or what shoes and clothing to bring. I needed so much more than they could provide. I also wanted more than they could provide. I wanted authenticity, but they put me in cookie-cutter hotels that they had partnerships with. They got us the cheapest flights, even though we were charged more because after all “they booked it for us.” And I’m purposefully not saying the name of the company because its irrelevant. (But just in case your’e wondering, it’s a well-known and well-respected travel agency. It’s not some off-shoot I found on the dark web.) The point is, it wasn’t the trip I wanted. It wasn’t the trip of my dreams. It was a trip they made for me. They made it for me with whatever they wanted, not with what I wanted.
One question Joe asked me was, “Do you want to plan trips for people?” And the answer is a resounding no. I don’t want to be another travel agent. In fact, I wrote this book because booking trips is simple. No one should pay me to do something they’re perfectly capable of doing on their own. (OK, I watch The Office a lot and now I’m thinking of when Dwight Schrute said he never tips people and explained why: “Why tip someone for a job I’m capable of doing myself? I can deliver food, I can drive a taxi, I can and do cut my own hair. I did, however, tip my urologist. Because I am unable to pulverize my own kidney stones.”)
Another real reason why I don’t want to book trips for people is because I don’t know what they want. What do you want on your vacation? I can’t answer that for you. You can’t answer that for me.
All you need are the tools to do it, and then you can do it on your own. The beauty of this, too, is that you get to tailor it to exactly what you want. You get to choose what you want to do. I’ve hand-selected some of the most amazing places because I know how to search. I know where to find these places.
I know how to use websites, guidebooks and blogs to find what interests me. That’s what I’m sharing in this book.
I know how to budget for a trip and I know how to save for a trip. That’s also what I’m sharing in this book.
Because I don’t want to stay at a Holiday Inn hotel in Europe. I want to stay at a bed and breakfast run by an 80-year-old Sicilian woman who makes me a traditional Sicilian dinner for just me and my husband in a beautiful room with a window overlooking the ocean while Mt. Etna erupts.
Because I want a unique experience. I want to stay at a working dairy farm in Ecuador where they take me out for horseback-riding during the day, serve me homemade farm-fresh meals, and set up a fire with wine for me in a grand room that overlooks a farm.
Because I want to do a five-day camping and hiking excursion on my own. Because on a hike like that, you’re not on your own, you’re with other hikers who support you throughout the trek and become your buddies.
Because I don’t want to get ripped off. I want to know the affordable ways to sight-see, and get the most out of my vacation. I want to afford an amazing vacation without breaking the bank, and it is possible!
Because my time is limited and I don’t want to waste it. I don’t want to stay in a hotel that takes an hour of driving to get to main heart of the city. I want to stay somewhere where I step onto the street and see the Eiffel Tower while I pick up a fresh Strawberry Tart from the bakery on a pedestrian-only street.
Don’t you want that, too?
So this is “my why”: information-sharing is very important to me as a traveler. I rely on it. You will rely on it. This book is my contribution to the information-sharing world of traveling.
If you are intimidated by the traveling world, this book is for you. I am a big believer in free, which is why everything on this website is free. However, this book costs money. And the reason is because I can’t provide this information in one smart place without a cost. It costs to print and ship, and it cost me a lot of time to put this together. It took me years of compiling information through trial and error. But the book is affordable, and it’s an easy read. It’s not 500 pages. It’s short, sweet and to the point, and includes a budget template (I’m sure your jaw just dropped! A BUDGET TEMPLATE!? Stop, Nina, it’s just too much.)
My hope is that this book will help someone feel empowered to plan a trip for themselves by themselves. Not go on someone else’s trip, but on their trip. The trip with all the bells and whistles they want. And if no one finds this helpful, well, then shucks. I don’t plan on quitting my day job, so all’s well that ends well.
So, to make a long post even longer I’ll end with this: I am committed to information-sharing. I will continue to do that here. As for you, my “expert advice” is: Plan a trip! You can do it!
How to be Your Own Travel Agent
Available NOW on Amazon!
Click on the book jacket below to order!
eBook: $4.99 (eBooks will be released on October 31, 2017! You can order now!)