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Interview With A Travel Muse

While most of us can only dream up travel plans once or twice a year, Anne Herndon is making travel dreams come true on every occasion possible! As a travel professional with her own company, Anne has bravely gone where few have -- to a career in uncharted territory.

Very few travel professionals have dared to venture into the relatively unknown realm of a travel concierge, especially in a fragile industry so often impacted by the political climate and economic cycles of a nation. But as anyone with a passion for travel can attest, the spirit of adventure can manifest itself in many ways. Anne has shown us that hers lie in serving others as a Travel Concierge.

Anne has been kind enough to share her insights with us on select topics ranging from her business to her personal travel wish list. She is truly a travel muse who, not only can inspire a hundred travel ideas, but also tailor unique vacations to those who dare dream. This is my interview with a travel muse.

Anne, let's start with the basics. Tell me more about yourself and your business.
I live in San Francisco. Until 2 years ago I was an executive assistant planning travel for busy senior executives. I have always been a passionate traveler myself. I am constantly dreaming about and planning trips. Eventually, I started offering advice to my bosses, friends and family whenever they were traveling. When I decided to leave my job I was in search of a new direction. Over breakfast one morning my husband suggested that I use my love of travel and my natural gifts for planning/logisitics and start a travel concierge service. That's how Instant Native was born.

I am basically a personal assistant who specifically handles travel. I can coordinate any detail of your trip. I noticed in my own travels that there are some holes in the travel planning industry. For instance there's no one other than yourself and your airline who can help you use your frequent flier miles. I can help. I provide my clients with research and logistical help for their travel. Need a great restaurant recommendation? I can give you that and a reservation. Looking for destination ideas? I can tailor some options specifically to your interests. I tell my clients, if you've ever landed with a guidebook in hand and no idea what you're going to do, then you need a personal travel concierge.

How did your travel career start?
I worked as an executive assistant for many years. My bosses were consultants who traveled extensively. Part of my job was to make sure that they were taken care of on the road no matter what. I booked flights, hotels, and arranged transportation. If something went wrong on the road, I received the call and was expected to fix it. I loved the challenge of planning seamless travel. The more trips I planned the more interested I became in the travel industry. I worked with an amazing travel agent at the time. His name was David Lusher and he worked for American Express Travel. Dave always took time to answer my questions, and he explained to me from a travel agent's perspective how things worked.

What were the challenges you've encountered along the way?
A lot of people confuse me with a travel agent. I'm not, I am a travel planner. The biggest challenge I'm facing right now is all the turbulence in the airline industry. They are cutting flights, raising fares and adding fees to compensate for high fuel prices. Unfortunately that's making travel more complex and stressful, and people are putting off vacations.

What skills do you need in this business to be successfully self-sufficient?
I've learned not to accept the answer "No" too quickly. There are always ways to get things done. It may involve some creative thinking, but if you're willing to work at it you can get your clients what they need. To be a successful travel concierge I'd say you have to be polite, charming, well networked and unflappable. When problems arise, and they will, you have to be able to remain calm and resolve things quickly and efficiently.

Can you share your thoughts to others who are interested in getting their foot in this kind of career?
Well, travel concierge is a brand new career. I only know of one competitor in my field right now. If you're interested in travel I would advise you to read a lot. I read several magazines and at least a book a week. Also, look around online. There are some great travel sites like Folie a Deux, Cool Travel Guide and Follow Alena. And talk to people in the field. As I said I had an incredible travel agent to answer my questions. Be interested in people's travels, and really value those who are willing to share their knowledge and experiences.

What is your vision of a perfect vacation?
A secluded beach with an adirondack chair and a parasol drink is my idea of heaven. That said, most of my vacations are much more active. I just returned from a 10 day hiking trip in the desert Southwest and I loved it. I like to explore and meet people, which I can pretty much do anywhere. It's hard for me to have a bad vacation!

Tell me about a destination that would be considered affordable at this day and age of economic downturns and increasing fuel costs?
Our National Parks in the U.S. are both beautiful and extremely affordable. You can camp in the park itself or get a hotel room nearby pretty inexpensively. I just spent 4 days in Zion National Park, and it was breathtaking. Just $25 gets a car full of people entrance to the park for 7 days. The Park Service provides free shuttles to take you around, so you can park and save on gas. I would definitely recommend it to my clients who have families and are looking for a budget vacation.

Name your Top 10 Things To Experience in this lifetime.
This is an ever changing list, but here's what's on my mind right now:
See the pyramids in Egypt and take a dhow cruise down the Nile
Go back to Venice and stay in a palazzo
See the Iguazu Falls from both sides (Brazil & Argentina)
Visit Machu Picchu
Hike the glaciers on South Island in New Zealand
Drive the Amalfi Coast, see Mount Vesuvius, and take a boat out to Capri for the day
Go to Dubai and Oman
Travel in Morocco
Head to Bodrum, Turkey to sees the ruins of Ancient Halicarnassus
Hike/drive through the Island of Corsica

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Interview With A Travel Muse + trip