Lora Bodensteiner shares her story with Girl Power Talk.
“Always treat people the way you want to be treated.”
From envisioning a life of adventure not found on the traditional path at 17 to dancing my way into the travel industry as a young entrepreneur, I have always followed my heart. My passion for traveling is deeply rooted in my aspirations to leverage every opportunity to learn, meet new people & support the disadvantaged. It was my mother’s suggestion to enroll in a 6-week course at a travel agency in Philly to better equip myself with the necessary skills. On completion, I was lucky enough to be hired by a travel agency to deliver airline tickets. This was before the age of the internet & we had to hand print every ticket. Moreover, these clients were always inquiring about their location & the experience that the resort could offer. Being a teenager, I hadn’t yet traveled much, but I quickly realized the importance of the first-hand experience when making an authentic recommendation for the best resort experiences.
In the ever-changing travel sector, it is important to be able to give clients honest and genuine recommendations. I made a practice of familiarizing myself with trips to destinations before recommending them to a client. So far, I have traveled to Mexico, Jamaica, Alaska, India, Nigeria, Germany, Hawaii & 30+ countries. My approach over the past 30 years has been to just go in & love people for who they are regardless of where they come from. I have traveled all over the world, meeting the poorest of the poor to the cream of the society, and believe me, they all are the same. Nobody is better than anybody else.
After learning the proverbial ropes of the business, my life took an unexpected turn when I was 21. The owner of the agency offered to sell it to me. I did not have enough money, but I knew I couldn’t let this chance go. I secured a loan to buy it. As a new business owner, I hired talented employees to step up my business. I had the foresight to invest in the right leaders and that afforded me the opportunity to travel more to Europe & the Middle East. Suddenly, our beautiful world seemed much bigger to me & more doors opened automatically.
Over the years, I worked relentlessly to develop strong client relationships, which grew over time & it paid off. Even in the face of the internet revolution, my clients always come back to me for authentic holiday planning. My business has evolved to become more of a concierge experience. We are trusted for a wide range of events, including corporate retreats & event planning, exquisite leisure travel experiences & destination weddings. It warms my soul to play a small part in celebrating the union of two hearts. I derive real happiness from playing an instrumental role in the priceless memories created by family and friends, many of whom are visiting a destination for the first time.
Life is a mixture of ups and downs. Adversities will come, but how we react to them is up to us. Two big thunderbolts were 9/11 & then COVID-19. But giving up is never an option for me. We completely changed our business model at times, knowing that change is the only constant in life. Having said that, one piece of advice I always give to my clients is to have insurance, simply because you never know what will happen.
We are living in a world where stress is the norm. We receive calls to solve every client’s problem, from cold eggs to expired passports. I have learned how important it is to just step back, breathe & relax. To do that, I love hitting the gym, reading a book, or going for a walk.
Most of all, I look forward to just hanging out with my friends & Rudi, my soulmate, husband & business partner. Rudi has the same passion for traveling & we have been in the industry together for over 20 years now. I have loved every bit of it. He encourages & inspires me to always aim for more. Whether it is an adventure we are taking together or planning one for others, he is the one who pushes me to always give my absolute best. I draw energy from him, and of course from my faith in God.
The advice I always give to young people is to never be ashamed of what you don’t know. This is just a reminder of the fact that there is still room to grow and become a smarter version of ourselves.