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404 – PAGE NOT FOUND

What’s so special about this site?

I got to it via a sponsored Google Ad, looking for “luxury cruises” – which means that this site just paid $2 for me to hit a dead page. Marketing is not “set it and forget it” like the Showtime Rotisserie Grill. You’ve got to watch your PPC ads every single day.

The Lost Innocence of Travel

After traveling to several countries alone in my late teens and early twenties – those golden times that my mother refers to as “The burning of the trust fund”, I found that I loved being lost in a foreign place with a water bottle, backpack and good shoes. No map, no itinerary, no cell phone, even. Looking back, and with two teenage daughters myself, I’m astounded and a little appalled that my mom actually let me run around Mexico alone, like my favorite travel writer Anthony Bourdain. Of course, he’s from Jersey, stands 2 feet taller than I, and runs with a posse of cameramen that would have his back if anything unsavory happened. I, on the other hand, was seriously alone. And loved every minute of it.

I’ve realized that as I’ve grown older, married, borne my daughters and become a professional serial entrepreneur, my problem has become one of “analysis paralysis”. I have literally stopped loving to travel. I mourn its apparent demise and like the good C.S.I. couch potato I’ve become, I must look back and try and see what caused its death. Let the autopsy begin.

Cause of Death #1: I thought I was pretty dang smart
Since my Great Grandmother was Cuban and taught me Spanish from an early age, I was fairly fluent and could really barter at marketplace mercados. I also grew up in a pretty sheltered place, so I didn’t have the street savvy that some might. Looking back, once I started reading the news and especially with the advent of the Internet, I actually heard about all the terrible things that could happen to people in foreign lands, like poor Natalie Holloway or that sweet child kidnapped recently from her hotel room. Oh, sure, bad things have always happened, but now we have a conduit for instant information 24/7, and you know the old saying, “If it Bleeds, it Leads”. I realize now that I wasn’t smart, I was lucky and it was a terrible realization that I took risks I shouldn’t have taken, getting into unmarked cabs, following a vendor to a back room to look at an onyx and marble chessboard, eating late at night and walking to and from the restaurant and the hotel.

Cause of Death #2: The 9/11 factor
I think we all suffer a little from this one. Seeing planes hit buildings over and over and over again didn’t desensitize us to the horror of it. When I was 6 years old I started taking the now defunct airlines PSA and Air Cal from Ontatio, California to Oakland, California on a regular basis. I was always so excited to get dressed up in my best dress, complete with hat and gloves of course, have the stewardess pin on some souvenir wings, peek inside the cockpit, smile at the crew and chat with my seatmates. Now I don’t look at my fellow passengers with the possibilities of interesting conversation, I look at ethnicity, with fear and trepidation – and I hate myself for it. I’m also sure that I would be yanked off any flight and jailed for trying to chat with the captain and peek in the cockpit.

Cause of Death #3: All those Cruise Line Stories
I am just so frustrated with people who can’t grasp the notion of being on a moving vessel in an ocean. Stop looking at the rail like a limbo stick! Sober up and stay on the ship, would you? I’m sure that all those people that paid good, hard earned dollars for the cruise are really bummed out having to circle the same water for three days looking for you. They have tourism dollars to spend in carefully laid traps on many islands! Which brings me to…

Cause of Death #4: Stupid, Stupid Tourists
I once went to Paris with two wonderful friends. One, like me, wanted to have an indigenous experience – local food, local flavor. One friend couldn’t get to Planet Hollywood fast enough for a Thai Chicken Salad. We lived in a city at the time that had a Planet Hollywood and I almost had a stroke when she insisted on it for dinner. Of course, I ordered the Croque-monsieur for dinner just so I could not break my travel rule of eating as the locals do, but it always frosted me a little bit that I had a dumb poster of Sylvester Stallone looming over me and our server was from our home town and had the thickest southern accent I’ve ever heard. Travel should be about getting away from what you know and learning about what you don’t. If you want the same thing, stay home!

Cause of Death #5: The Hassle Factor
Airports are seriously crowded and everyone’s crabby. I stood in three different lines at LAX for a sum total of three hours to catch a flight that used to take me 25 minutes from car to gate to seat. That’s just sad. I hate taking off my shoes because I don’t know where everyone else’s feet have been. And, I’ve been told; it’s rude to ask. They confiscated my seriously expensive face cream the last trip at the security checkpoint. I can’t take the $8 Starbucks coffee I just bought onto the plane anymore and they want to sell me the notoriously worst food possible, for twice the price I would have paid elsewhere? What kind of madness is this?

I think the investigation is complete. I think now that my loner travel backpack would contain all the stereotypical American “necessities”: Hand disinfectant, (lots of) bottled water, a satellite phone, GPS system, Google Maps loaded on my Palm Smartphone, headphones, my ipod, small containers of my expensive toiletries, and the addresses of all foreign Starbucks locations and yes, maybe even a gift card to Planet Hollywood.

Rest In Peace, Love of Travel. It was wondrous while it lasted and you were a good and interesting friend. Don’t tell my daughters I said this, but perhaps ignorance really is bliss.

Travel Marketing 2.0

Time was, travel website marketing, let’s call it 1.0, was all about keyword stuffing – that is – sticking a bunch of keywords into a page to trick the search engines into really thinking that your website knew what it was talking about. You’d bring people to you site which was loaded with the logos of vendors and suppliers and travelers would have to sift, search and self-serve to figure out what kind of trip they were looking for. Don’t get me started on Titanic music in the background – is that really an incentive for someone to BUY a CRUISE??? I’ve looked at thousands, literally, maybe even tens of thousands of travel websites and that’s the worst. You know who you are, and you still owe me some money, by the way.

The next version was all about booking engines, content from other sources and duplicate content – which also got everyone nowhere. Everyone had the same website and only the names were changed to protect the not-so-innocent. More herd mentality – one guy at lunch says he gets some leads from his website and everyone copies what he’s doing. Guess what? They’re the same 100 travelers shoppping multiple websites and that means you’re getting the SAME LEADS and the guy you had lunch with. Oh, and BTW – they’re all Carnival 3/4 night sailings.

So then we come to travel web marketing 1.75 – google adwords. Buying placement with keywords which essentially promised to level the playing field. It did – but still brought visitors to a couple of roadblocks – the same crappy websites, loaded with the same duplicate content and the same real estate devoted to the same vendors – or – the mega players like travelocity, vacationstogo.com (who I see EVERYWHERE), Orbitz and the like.

Still, doesn’t help the average travel counselor, right?

Now, its all about the “2.0” craze of marketing – and travel marketing is leading the charge. 2.0 is all about social marketing. Putting reviews, polls, commentary, blogs, forums and wikis in the hands of the travelers that are either at the destination, going to the destination, using the vendor, product or service. Opinions matter, labels matter and simplicity matters. Travelers are more savvy, more connected – and more in need of travel agents than ever. Good ones, with good websites with good content. Come on folks, we can do this. Let’s commit to revamp our websites this year with great stuff that people really care about – not the same old star ratings, the same old deck plans, the same old schlock. Shock people with your own opinions -and ask for theirs! Make it easy for them to connect to you. Write your thoughts down about great trips, ask them for input on the best places to journal, to get a cup of non-Starbucks coffee (although I love a good Cinnamon Dolce latte, don’t get me wrong).

CONNECT.

I must have this.

http://www.officeorganix.com/Eropod500.htm

So, I’ve been really excited about the new implemented technology that allows me to leave the house, but DANG, this is pretty awesome. The only thing better is if I could somehow hook up my cappuccino maker to pipe it in… hmmm… must ponder that one.

Celebrating the Little Things

They say, “don’t sweat the small stuff” – and I agree. Small Stuff bogs you down. Small stuff keeps you from doing big things. Except they also say, “the devil is in the details”

OK, first of all, who is “they”? and why am I listening to them?

I’ve decided to sweat whatever I want to sweat, and watch volleyball. So there.

Great day. A client that I really, really like signed as my third marketing client. I was really hoping she would because I think she’s smart, determined and her suite of sites have a lot of potential. She’s one of those people that gets it, and knows where she wants to go, and guess what? I’m holding the OnSTAR button.

So I’ve got three, and I think four and five tomorrow to round it out. And then the fun begins. Actually, its been fun so far choosing the clients that I really think are a good fit in terms of time, energy and potential. I’m batting .1000 and it’s pretty awesome after the insanity of the summer. I [heart] work again.

Favorite YouTube Video d’Moment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nuj7DTrDOkk
Stuff I need to Watch on DVR: Texas Tech vs. K-State Volleyball, New Gilmore Girls
9pm snack to keep me on task: Creme Brule’ Latte & 3 Excedrin.

Good Times.

// C

Sometimes You Give It Away

Sometimes you get stuff for free at garage sales. There’s usually a box there with stuff that you, the seller, just can’t bring yourself to charge for. That’s OK – but be sure that you don’t throw a Van Gogh or Renior in there thinking that Aunt June painted it when she was “resting” in her “special place up North” – ya know what I mean? Be sure you know the value of things. Which brings me to another point – why are all the good artists really crazy?

I went to the beach this morning to meditate. We’ve got this awful Red Tide thing happening here lately. Its an algae that sticks to the top of the water and kills fish. The stench was killer, so I drove up to Port A for some Cotter Street Coffee. I love that place – always a smile on their faces and awesome Creme Brulee Lattes and home-baked goodies. Chatting with the owner, she told me she was looking for a way to increase business in the off-season. Naturally, I slipped into consultant mode and asked her if she had considered a coffee service to the locals. Brilliant, she proclaimed, just what she was looking for.

I can’t make coffee, but I can help her get it in people’s hands. I don’t mind giving her this idea from the freebee box because I have an interest in keeping her successful. It’s not selfish, it’s just good commerce. And Good Coffee.