Remember when you were in high school and your teacher made you write about what you did for your summer vacation? After just getting back from a three week family vacation to the West Coast (and a three day real estate technology conference), I wanted to share some of the things I learned as it relates to marketing and life.
1. Service can make or break your experience.
We decided to take Amtrak from Albany, near Portland, Oregon, to San Jose, CA. Having only been on the train once and it was by myself in coach, I did not know quite what to expect when I decided to get a sleeper car for TWO members of my family and two regular seats. The Amtrak station guard said he could not guarantee that the attendant that serviced the sleeper cars was going to let us put four of us in that space which was designed for two. When we got on the train, the attendant, a very proficient and cheery woman of about 55, heard what we wanted to do and said, “Don’t worry about it. Let me take your bags. I’ll have some chilled champagne waiting for you in your car when you get back from dinner.” “Dinner?” we asked..”Oh, don’t worry about that..I’ll make reservations for you in the dining car and although the sleeper car only is supposed to come with two free meals, I’ll make a note to the server to allow the children to eat with you for free. Oh, and by the way, the bar car is currently having their afternoon wine and cheese reception. I’ll show you that car and then I’ll take the kids down to the theater car so they can watch the afternoon movie so you can enjoy your wine tasting.”
I had to pick up my jaw as she was leading us to the club car, where we were greeted by the nicest man serving fantastic Oregon wines. We then went on to have a very nice dinner as we watched the landscape change from farmland to forest. Indeed, chilled champagne was waiting for us in our car (though we chose to hold on to it until later in the trip.) The next morning, all four of us enjoyed pancakes and eggs as we headed over the Benecia bridge, while our attendant remade the room so we could enjoy the last hour of the journey together. The attendant made a fun trip, fantastic. Her attitude, helpfulness and professionalism made me an Amtrak fan and you can bet I’ll tell my friends and family to take the Starlight Express or other vacation packages they offer and have an amazing time like we did!
2. Seek Out Advice From A Pro
I was invited to attend a pre-party before the Inman Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco. It was a party geared towards women professionals in real estate (thanks Sherry Chris and Better Homes and Gardens!) and a well known speaker and journalist, Bernice Ross, was in the crowd. Instead of just staying with the people I knew really well, I made it point to say hello to Bernice, and we struck up a conversation. I told her that I enjoyed speaking in public, but always felt that I spoke too fast for my audience. I asked for her advice. She gave me about 10 minutes of her time to give me tips and tricks to lower the timbre my voice, focus on the audience, be sure they had at least two take aways, and keep my speed in check. I used the advice she gave me last week at a presentation and I really nailed it. I could have used that party to just reconnect with the women I was already friends with (which I did, too!) but using that networking opportunity with pointed precision to get some help for a specific professional issue, made the time spent there very valuable.
3. Use Nature As A Tool For Reflection
Sometimes we all need to just get out of our offices, out of our heads and get into nature for a battery recharge. I ran trails on the Coast of Oregon, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, and in the Bay Area. Being out in a different environment gave me the opportunity to think about the past year and how far I had come in just one year professionally. I really had not done much reflection on that due to the “go go go” aspect of my consultancy. Taking time to lay down on a log and look up into the crown of a 2000 year old redwood tree in the Santa Cruz Mountains and doing it again to peer straight up El Capitan gave me a chance to take a breath and look at the grandness of nature and time to just thank the universe for my life and let me look back on some of the petty annoyances that had gotten in the way a bit this year. I was able to refocus on what I wanted to accomplish this year and with the visual imagery of my time in the woods, on the trails, near the ocean, etc I know I am ready to take on the rest of the year.
4. Remember Who I’m Doing It For
Taking my children on a three week vacation meant spending ALOT of time with them! Sure, there was some fighting, bickering, and time outs. But there were also MANY moments of pride, joy and memories made. My son almost ran up the 300 granite steps to Vernal Falls in Yosemite and proclaimed that he would like to make climbing Half Dome NEXT YEAR a goal for our family – the kid is 8. They learned how to ice skate together at a rink in Lake Tahoe and although there were a few falls, they both did not give up and stayed on the ice for the full two hours consistently getting better. My daughter asked for and received permission to navigate her own canoe in Lake Tahoe to the little island in the middle of Emerald Bay. (talk about beaming with pride and independence!) My son blew me away when he volunteered THREE times to be part of the Yosemite naturalist’s discussion on the ecology of Yosemite as he gave the talk at Glacier Point. This is the son who says he hates to perform in public..while doing pushups to show how the earth was pushed up from the force of plate tectonics. Getting the children out of their comfort zones and going camping, taking the train, exploring nature and seeing our families, while putting down the iPad and spending time together was the best part of the trip. I had to work pretty hard to make a three week vacation happen and I am already putting a plan in place to do it again next year, but every hour I work to do it, I know who I’m doing it for.
5. Look For Ideas That Could Work At Home
When I travel away from Hawaii, I like to see what people on the mainland are doing that could be brought back to the island. When I was traveling in San Francisco, I kept seeing the environmental effort the City and its residents were making to purchase local, recycle, and reuse. All the restaurants at the Ferry Building were using compostable take out containers and silver ware and they had set up waste stations for compostables, recyclables and trash. We SHOULD be doing that on this island with all the tourists we get and how much trash ends up in our landfills. We visited the Exploratorium and they too, had the mixed use trash, along with a restaurant that prided itself that everything on the menu was sourced within 50 miles of the restaurant. I went on to see that “value proposition” in many other eateries. I loved that environmental sustainability had become part of the culture in such a short time.
During my time away I also went wine tasting in Los Gatos at three mountain wineries. I posted pictures of the wineries with the wish we had more wine events like they have in the Bay Area on my “365 Things to Do in Kona” Facebook page and received so many likes and comments about putting on a wine tasting paired with Hawaiian fusion cuisine that a small group was formed to look into the idea!
I have always been a fan of travel and adventure. When you can combine it with family, friends, professional development and an eye towards making the world a better place..it’s a VERY good day.