Michelle Brown has been walking in the door of the same travel agency for more than three decades.
Aug. 26, marked exactly 35 years of Brown working in Qualicum Beach at Cruise Plus Travel and Tours (which has changed names over the years.)
Brown said she knew it was the career for her after the first time she traveled. It was with her father and sister to Palm Springs when she was a teenager, the first time she really understood that another world existed outside her Vancouver Island life.
“At 15, my eyes opened up to like…wow. There’s a real-world out there! And then when I was 16, I went to England for two weeks and played field hockey and I never wanted to come home, I just kind of wanted to keep traveling,” she said.
After first taking business at Malaspina College (now Vancouver Island University), she eventually ended up at Vancouver Travel School.
For Brown, the agency is her home away from a home. She’s grown up there and seen the world change through her office window. Technology has been the biggest shift, said Brown, who started off having to write everything by hand. She remembers the ‘hotel books,’ which she said must have weighed 10 pounds, that she would have to reference to find accommodation for travelers.
“We hand-wrote tickets and we had the old fashioned zip-zop for Visas and we had plates for cards… like for the airlines,” she said. “We had our little book, we had to look up airfares. It was very different back then.”
Brown said, surprisingly, one thing that she hasn’t seen change drastically is prices.
“The airline industry has had to cut back on everything to keep the flights at a cost that people could afford to travel, but back then you were treated like royalty when you went on an airplane,” she said. “And now, it’s nothing compared.”
Brown said no specific stories stick out for her, but rather a feeling of gratitude. She said she feels lucky to be working right now, as the only one currently in the office, helping people with a bit of domestic travel, refunds and other adjustments.
“My blessing has been that once I got the flow of being established here, I’m still booking two people from 35 years ago,” she said. “My biggest blessing is that people trust me and my loyalty with clients and the faces that have come and gone, just the difference scenery around me in 35 years.”
Although COVID-19 has significantly impacted travel for the foreseeable future, Brown said she’s trying to stay optimistic.
“I’m not going to be negative because, if you ask people what they want to do in life, I think travel is probably in the top two or three,” she said. “People want to travel, they really want to travel.”
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