Stephanie Myers

Stephanie Myers

Travel Agent | Podcaster | Online Course Creator

BlogTourism

Ask me to name a favourite word from the dictionary and “Wanderlust” is always in my top 5. I love how it sounds when spoken aloud, and always obsess over the meaning, as it’s different for everyone. When I think of Steph Myers and her career journey to date, I instantly think of Wonderlust. Images of sun-drenched beaches, palm trees, beers on the deck after a morning surf – of experiences that last a lifetime, and, through her work, giving those experiences to others.

Stephanie is a Travel Agent and host of the Unplug In Paradise Podcast and a self confessed travel junkie. Growing up in the waves of Byron Shire, Steph signed up and completed a Diploma in Tourism Operations Management at 19 years of age and has never looked back. 

In this interview, Steph shares how the seeds of her travel and business acumen were planted – quite literally – in childhood, the “out of this world” work experiences that have taken her overseas, what a day in the life of a travel agent really looks like, and her advice for anyone wanting to commence a career in travel industry, including where to start. 

Let’s Begin. 

Where did you grow up and how did your experience shape the person you are and the career that you are in today?

I grew up in one of the smallest surfside towns in Northern NSW, Brooms Head. I lived there, across the road from the beach until I was 10 years old, hanging out with my twin sister and younger brother building cubby houses and camping in our backyard – but we only camped when it was holiday times as that’s when our town filled up with cool new kids to play with. As you can probably tell by that sentence alone, our backyard was the place I spent the most time – aside from the beach of course but that was a given.

When I was 10, we moved from Brooms Head to the Byron Shire. My family are fifth generations Byron Bay and so it made sense for us to settle here.  My casual job in high school was in a local surf shop, where I first heard the word ‘tourism’ by a customer who asked me whilst in the changeroom trying on a dress, ‘have you ever thought about going into tourism? You definitely have the personality; I think you would be great at it’.

During the party phase, my Dad took his chance to have ‘the chat’ about what I wanted my life to look like. FUN, was the only thing on my agenda so how did I blend fun in with a potential career choice?  I enrolled in TAFE and studied my Diploma in Tourism for 12 months. I was then unleashed into the world, hungry for my opportunity to start in travel. All in all, I think it’s safe to say that I fell in love with the world of travel in the most unconventional way, because the world was literally at my doorstep.

Working in Byron Bay, I was constantly surrounded by beautiful people from every single country on Earth. Especially, during my stint of working in backpacker travel, where I shyly admit that I fell in love 22,000 times a day. Before I could bear another swift goodbye to another stunning human, one must run to catch the next greyhound bus out of town to continue their East Coast adventure – and let’s face it, it wasn’t me! Fast at it now, my humble beginnings look so different to my current day in business. But without this, I would not be able to have created the business I love now. 

Love all of that Steph, and can totally relate to the falling in love with gorgeous travellers from OS. Ha! So, when you were a young girl what did you want to be when you grew up?

I either wanted to be a stain-glass painter (don’t even ask!) or a primary school teacher, as I would practice teaching my brother and sister, both who I decided to name ‘Kevin’, inside of my classroom/bedroom. There were loads of ruler slapping, asking for silence and for my unruly students to stay seated in their chairs. Safe to say, there were plenty of time-out warnings – every couple of minutes in fact.

Where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you? 

I went to Mullumbimby High School from 7- early year 10 and dropped out to help my dad build our family home. Things were tough because at the time we had a massive family breakdown and living on a jobsite wasn’t that fun, so I decided to quit school altogether when I was 15 years old. I did return to school the following year to repeat year 10 but after being in the workforce and building our house for 12 months, the school bumped us up into our old year. So yes, the kids were jealous that I did my HSC but didn’t have to do my Year 10 School Certificate. 

Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?

Growing up in the Northern Rivers and going to a school with the highest population and most socially diverse range of students from all over the Byron shire, I don’t think I can say that my school played a role in wanting to pursue a career or further education. Mind you, because having skipped a whole year of school, I did need a lot of help catching up. Most of the teachers were amazing in helping with tutoring etc but due to the fact I missed out on so much, school became more of a social thing rather than solidifying a career pathway. Coming back from the workforce back into the school environment did feel different in the way that I could communicate with the teachers a lot more effectively and adult-like due to having that workplace experience, especially being in a retail environment.

Did you complete any internships or work experience placements in high school? Tell us about that experience.

I didn’t do any placements in high school, but I did I start work experience at World Surfaris in the Kirra Surf office when I finished TAFE in 2008. My time there consisted of setting up the office, stamping brochures, making coffees, and learning about the destinations they had on their books. Also had the odd sneaky morning tea with Occy & Parko who would sometimes come to visit and watch themselves on the big screen upstairs. This is when I learnt that it’s impolite to stare and that people actually do notice when you vacuum in the same spot for longer than needed. *blushes*

Hahaha! Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them? 

After taking a gap year after high school to work in a surf shop and become the President of the Brunswick Boardriders Club at 18 years old, I enrolled to TAFE NSW and started a Diploma in Tourism Operations Management. I initially thought I had signed up to an Events Management Diploma – being young, you never actually read the fine print. When I began constructing airline tickets from scratch, I quickly learnt this was actually a Travel Retail course that progressed into the management side of the business. Funny, because when I started my diploma, I hadn’t ever been on a plane, let alone away on a holiday before.  Unsure whether I should stay in the course, I decided to stick with it and see if it ‘could be’ a right fit and gave it a chance. The interesting thing though, as I progressed through the course, I started falling in love with so many destinations all over the world, experiences to be had, things to see and places to immerse myself in – the world was so big and magical, I was in absolute awe. So, this is where I made a promise to make travel a huge part of my life and from then, I have not looked back.

Tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights?

My first job in travel was in a backpacker travel agency in Byron Bay. I learnt so much about the different experiences you could do in Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji – plus working with so many international tourists and students. The competition started to heat up in Byron Bay so my role as a travel consultant, grew rapidly to touting on the street. Yep, right out front of the agency, in the main street of Byron. The business became so tough that it was expected to go above and beyond the ‘strategy’ of some of our competition, where offices resorted to short-shorts, hula hoop competitions with random bystanders, dance-off’s on the street, flicking vouchers to young- sun-peached backpackers to have free use of the internet portals and doing anything I could to make rapport and get backpackers into our office. 

As a local girl, it was a hard pill to swallow that generating business had come down to ultimately sexualising myself like this. And the biggest thing was? This is my hometown, so of course people would recognise me and at the time I knew I had to honour my skills in the industry and move onto a mainstream agency – which I did, 200m down the street. LOL! I skipped over to Byron Cruise & Travel, where I started working for a family-owned and operated business – and it was the best thing I could have ever done. It taught me to work closely with my colleagues (small office in Byron with snuggly toaster vibes) and that’s when I fell hard for providing top-level, personalised service. I mean, I really knew my clients, pretty much to the point that when they’d rock up to the front door, I knew exactly where they were heading to and what they needed. It was here that I developed my everlasting passion for cruising, ships and everything to do with ocean travel. I was on every single ship inspection that arrived at Brisbane Cruise Terminal, jumping onboard, taking all the photos, taste testing all the food and blogging about it on our social media channels. 

I also went on my first ever paid famil. (SIDE NOTE: A famil or familiarisation is a PR tool designed to give select journalists the opportunity to experience a region, venue, product or package.) My manager got a phone call saying ‘Steph, you’re off to Tassie’, I can tell you that I nearly fainted off my chair (they always tell you this day will be one of the best days of your life but you never really know until it happens to you!). I jumped up and squealed with excitement until he started laughing at me. I stopped suddenly in shock and thought ‘what is going on?’ ‘Sorry Steph’ he says, ‘you’re not going to Tassie… you’re off to Fiji… next week… is that cool?’ UMM… HELL YESSSS, FIJI COME AT ME BABY! I really had the best boss and the best team around me, but as is normal to anyone living, working in the town they grew up in, it was time to fly the coop.

So I did exactly that and moved 600km north to the tiny seaside town of Bargara, east of Bundaberg QLD. I started a job that was not travel-related as I was convinced my career in travel at run its course. Not even two months later, I was back working in a local travel agency, starting from the beginning in a new town, with new faces and selling travel to a whole new type of clientele. A few months after starting at Travel & Cruise Bundaberg, I came to a crossroads. I either stay and build up a whole new client base and make this my home indefinitely or fly overseas and work on cruise liners as it would have been easy enough with my skills to transfer across too.

Not long after, I discovered I was pregnant. Six months later I moved back to the Byron Shire and gave birth to my son Billy in the hills of Mullumbimby NSW. Finding my feet as a brand new mum, on her own, navigating housing and DV support, only 9 months after birthing my now 6-year-old son, I was poached off Seek to start a senior travel consultant role at Helloworld Coolangatta. I remember being so excited to make my comeback into travel to start serving those who had stuck by me from my Byron days, to travel and explore the world once again. Only this time, I was taking on this role as a single working mother to young toddler. It was here in this office, that I learnt some of the hardest lessons I have ever learnt in my time as a travel agent.

Despite these invaluable lessons, I did build a community of mum’s who wanted to travel and hosted my first ever group cruise departure with over 32+ passengers full of mums and kids who have never holidayed together as a family before. So away we sailed, creating memories at sea with our kiddies.  My creative streak began to take flight and I soon realised my ideas and marketing proposals to generate leads and community support were being overlooked and so I decided to jump ship and start my own business where I could do things my way.

Um WOW, what a journey and what a story. So Steph, how did you get into the role that you are in now?

It was all about the timing. In 2018 when I first decided to start my mobile travel agency business, I needed to be the mum my son needed me to be because at the time, we wasn’t settling into the day-care scene as well as most other kids and as a single mumma, I needed a business where I could work on my own terms but still be available for him. I worked part-time in a surf shop while building my travel business and podcast following and when the pandemic began, I studied hard and have since birthed my flagship digital online course, Travel Agent Runway®. It’s a course designed exclusively for travel business owners to develop a Rockstar online personal brand and lead generation strategy ready to hit the ground running even if they struggle with consistency, tech isn’t their jam and they have no idea where to start. So at the moment, yes, I am directing 2 businesses alongside each other, but both within the travel industry. My travel agency for the consumer and my digital course is marketed toward B2B. I have some very exciting new concepts on the horizon which I am in the early stages of optimising to see if it’s viable so watch this space!

What is the hardest part of your current job? 

The hardest thing for me is being a one-woman band. Because my business is home-based, it can be hard to switch off from work and be present at home with my son. Not having enough hours in the day to learn all the things can be tricky too so I automate what I can and time-block the things I need to do. With saying this, it’d not always as easy as it sounds. So in an ideal world, having ‘another me’ in the house helping me with work and life would be a total game changer.

What does a day a typical business day look like for you in your current job? 

My workday starts after my full morning of child wrangling and school drop. I check emails, flight queues and attend to anything pending from the day before. I jump onto Facebook and check in with my Travel Agent Runway students and spend a couple of hours either jumping onto a webinar and/or doing actual work. Depending on the day, I might head out and grab something to eat for lunch or devour leftovers at home. Now it’s my fav time of day – nap time. I sleep and then do some home duties before school pick up. After we do after-school activities, I’m home to help with homework, make afternoon tea and settle my boy in for free time. I log back on and work for a couple of hours before I get prompted that hunger pains are too unbearable. He showers while I’m making dinner and I’m tuning into a podcast or audiobook, which primes me for my witching hour. My son goes to bed and I log on and punch out a whole heap of work as I find I work best when the world is winding down. Bedtime for me is normally around midnight. I have done this for years, I am trialling early starts, although I’m not quite there yet. This is the ultimate goal for me though. But, we know creating new habits are hard. 

Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?

It’s no question that my dad has been my biggest inspiration throughout my life. He has had a huge young life and his 20’s and 30’s were spent working dawn until dark building houses and on the weekends, working to complete his 72ft yacht, Starsand. Knowing he understands the grind and what it takes to have something in this life shows me that I can have the same success, only now, I am doing things differently by having learnt from his mistakes. Just knowing that strength, passion, determination, and drive runs in my blood is enough for me to always continue to do my best and keep building up my resilience as I go. Love ya dad!

What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career? 

A career in travel is the love affair you have for life. If you choose another avenue after having been in travel, you can’t help but always gravitate back towards it in some way, shape or form. It becomes a way of life, and one simply cannot survive waking up another day without a holiday booked in advance to look forward too. The constant yearning to explore, the itchy feet, the sense of adventure, endless discovery and need to touch and experience the world around you – it’s addictive. So, make sure you have a casual hustle on the side so you can fund all of those trips.

List the most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your profession?

  • Favourite Websites: Google – is by far my bestest friend and most valued resource – there are literally too many websites to list but Canva is a hot favourite and one that I have tabs open for daily.
  • Name an Instagram Account that you can’t go a day without checking:  At the moment, I love Alyce’s copy content at @bossycopywriting – she’s the absolute bomb!
  • Favourite Podcast: Unplug In Paradise: The Podcast
  • Favourite Netflix/Stan/ Series: Animal Kingdom
  • Who is your mentor? Stevie Dillon, Stevie Says Social
  • Favourite all time book/s:  Setting Boundaries By Rebecca Ray is my current read and OMG, if you want to set your soul on fire by taking aligned action and honouring yourself, this book is for you!
  • Favourite App that you use every day: Apart from Facebook & Instagram apps on heavy rotation, my other one is Spotify where I’m forever adding new songs to my travel playlist ‘Travel By Stephanie [travel mode on]’ DM me with your best song suggestions that you like listening too when packing your suitcase.

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