Wait, travel coaches? Why would you pay someone to teach you how to travel, especially when they don’t plan itineraries or even book flights and hotel rooms?
Well, says Sahara Rose De Vore, founder of The Travel Coach Network, because travel coaching is more about the “why” of travel than about the logistical and geographical details. It’s about maximizing the experiential and transformative power of travel to forge a new way of living and being in the world. Travel coaches focus on helping clients sustain a travel lifestyle and plan extended vacations and sabbaticals rather than just individual trips, she continues. They have highly specialized niches—air miles; working, studying, and volunteering abroad; and backpacking–based on their own experiences as passionate travelers. And they are accessible to almost anyone, not just luxury travelers who can afford to book with a travel agent.
But today’s travel agents (many of whom now call themselves advisors and charge fees for their professional services) fulfill much the same function, responds Virtuoso travel advisor Ellen Goldman, “We spend a lot of time digging down deep and discerning clients’ needs, wants, and desires and developing long-term relationships,” she says. “I specialize in my clients versus particular geographical destinations, and my personal travel quests have taken me to more than 60 countries and Antarctica. My question is,” she continues, “if travel coaches aren’t booking the trips and they don’t know the logistics of how things operate, how can they suggest things for clients to do?”
De Vore says it’s because they’ve been in their clients’ shoes, while Geneva Lutomski of Unwrap Your Map, a travel coach who helps 20- and 30-somethings figure out how to travel extensively and work abroad, says that exact drawback is actually part of the coaching process. She encourages her clients to handle their own bookings because “it facilitates problem-solving skills while on the road. I feel strongly that this sense of ownership and responsibility ultimately leads to a more authentic and meaningful travel experience.”
An Extension of Life Coaching
As an extension of life coaching, travel coaching actually makes good sense. “It’s as much about shifting your mindset to embrace travel as a life-changing experience as it is about traveling,” confirms Shelly Nyquist of Your Mescape, who is certified as both a life and a travel coach. “This is how I describe my travel coach approach,” she says. “Think life coach who weaves in travel as the cherry on top to make ‘mind-shift’ happen.” Nyquist says she helps people discover where they want to travel to and why, as well as muster up the courage to do so while holding them accountable for their life, career, and travel goals.
That’s a pretty relevant role for a post-COVID world where people want to venture out but are concerned about their health.
“Exactly,” agrees De Vore, who suggests a long list of other potential clients who might benefit from coaches, including people relocating for their job, solo travelers, gap-year teens, digital nomads, travel photographers, adventure travelers, eco-conscious travelers, travelers looking to volunteer, travelers looking to heal Eat, Pray, Love-style from a recent break up or a traumatic life event, and travelers with a disability, a severe allergy, or other chronic health issues like diabetes or multiple sclerosis.
Say you want to spend a year in Australia and New Zealand but you’re worried about finding housing, being lonely, and potentially finding work. That was 23-year-old Shannon Turner’s dilemma. “I knew I wanted to do a year abroad and do some backpacking, but I didn’t know how to do it,” she says. Through a cousin, she found Lutomski. “I really needed someone to help me explore my options,” Turner says, “and every time I would doubt I could make the trip, Geneva would have an insight from her own experience to share that would convince me I could.”
Turner adds that “Working with a travel coach removed some of the stress of creating my own travel plan. Geneva gave me tips on how to book my trip, and said I could do follow-up sessions after I arrived. She touched on crucial things I didn’t even know I should know, like how to get a work visa, and told me that I couldn’t start working in Australia without a local phone number, tax ID number, and bank account.”
Don and Barb Humes, a retired couple looking to travel inexpensively but widely in retirement, had a similarly positive experience when they turned to travel hacking coach Julia Menez of Geobreeze Travel. “We are at the very beginning of being citizens of the world,” says Don Humes. “We left Tampa, Florida on December 31, 2020 for Cancun, Mexico. We were there for one and a half months, and [then] came to Panama City, Panama.”
Next up, they plan to go to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, to meet with family members for a month or so, then Las Vegas for a couple of weeks, and then South Dakota, where he owns a couple of businesses. “From there, we are scheduled to go to Helsinki and St. Petersburg. Beyond that, we don’t have a clue,” he reports. The couple found Menez through a colleague after mentioning that they needed some travel advice. While Humes had accrued over 4 million air miles, he didn’t have a plan for how to use them. Menez came up with a detailed strategy to earn even more miles and points, as well as spending and reward redemption tips. “Could I have done this myself?” Hume asks. “Of course. But I lacked the tools, the knowledge, and frankly, the time to do it.”
How to Find a Travel Coach
Although it’s unclear how many people have adopted the travel coach moniker nationwide and internationally, it’s becoming easier to find them. Not surprisingly, word-of-mouth referrals, Google searches for “travel coaches,” and social media are top resources. “Most of my clients find me through my Instagram @geobreezetravel, where I post daily travel hacking tips, or through my podcast, where I interview travel hackers from all walks of life about their points and miles’ strategies,” says Menez.
The Travel Coach Network is another avenue. De Vore founded the network in 2018 and has trained 80 travel coaches so far and offered them coaching certification through the International Coach Foundation. She has a list of members on her website.
How Much Does It Cost?
Fees vary according to the coaching program selected. Menez charges $125 to develop a personalized 12-month strategy for her clients, which includes a month-by-month plan for how to maximize earnings and redeem points and miles. Lutomski offers several packages, starting with a “Travel Trifecta” package comprised of three hour-long sessions for $297 on up to a “Fully Unwrapped” eight-session package for $697.
Traveling Longer, Cheaper, and More Often
While travel advisors are a great go-to option for people who can afford higher-end travel, travel coaches appear to fit the bill for many others. “Many travelers today want to travel longer, cheaper, and more often,” says De Vore, who herself backpacked around the world. “There are a myriad of travel apps, websites, and tools available, but travelers are still seeking the confidence to take control of their life’s journey through travel experiences. Travel coaches speak the language of the everyday travel dreamer, helping them turn their travel goals into reality.”