Note: This week’s blog is written by Carole Peck as Carole Peck. I approached Thia with a blog topic idea where I would interview her so that she could introduce herself to new clients and get reacquainted with existing clients. The video that I wrote this from can do more justice to Thia’s passion, charm, soulfulness and warm, inviting personality than my words could ever hope to achieve – although I did my best to try to convey the beauty that is Thia in the blog entry below. Enjoy!
This week I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with Cynthia “Thia” Brounno to discuss a variety of topics including her decision to enter the travel industry, her favorite type of trip to plan, why she should be your go-to travel advisor and much more. As she was speaking, I found myself mesmerized by not only her words – but her tone, her gestures and most importantly her passion. And yes – I do mean passion for travel of course – but also her passion for people in general – from those she plans the trips of a lifetime for to the those who reside in the destinations her clients visit. For Thia it’s obviously not just about providing her clients with an amazing vacation – which that she certainly does – it’s also about making sure they come away from that vacation with a new appreciation for the destination, its culture and most importantly, its people.
Whether you have used Thia to curate your travel experience in the past or you are discovering her for the first time – I guarantee you are going to so enjoy her! And you’re definitely going to want her to put your next adventure together. That being said – here is a synopsis of – as well as my take aways from – what was for me, a super fun and inspiring interview.
Question #1 – Let’s get right to it – how long have you been in travel and what led to your decision to take on the role of travel advisor?
Listening to Thia discuss how she got into travel leaves one with no doubt that it was a path she was meant to follow. One of the youngest of six – the second to the youngest to be exact – she got the opportunity to travel and see much of the world due to the line of work her parents were in. She explained that they pretty much divided up the trips so that everyone got the chance to go – so perhaps the three oldest would go on one, then the three youngest on the next one and so on. Although she did jokingly admit she got to go on a lot of them when maybe it wasn’t her turn, because being the second to the youngest baby in the family, all she had to do was cry. Which you know was probably a foreshadowing of what her future career path would take. The fact she always wanted to be included in those journeys speaks volumes. Her life from an early age was consumed by travel and for the past decade she has been installing her love for it in others. For Thia, travel is a lifestyle – not a career – and it has always been that way – long before Thia’s Travel Services opened its doors ten years ago.
Question #2 – What is the most important piece of information you need to get from your clients before you start researching their vacations?
Thia’s answer to this was spot on and that answer was: What is the reasoning for you going on this trip? Why are you travelling? The need for this knowledge prior to starting the actual planning process is due to the fact that people travel for so much more than just that yearly vacation to get away from the real world for some rest and relaxation. Although that is one of the reasons and a very popular, and dare I say, much needed one for most of us. But they also travel for a myriad of other reasons. Some travel for medical purposes. Some travel for business and then turn those trips into what is referred to as bleisure trips – mixing in some personal travel before, during or after the business part. Some travel for family reunions, destination weddings or vow renewal ceremonies. Yes, I could go on and on as the reasons one plans a trip are endless and individualized to each and every client that reaches out to her. For Thia – knowing the ultimate reason behind the journey for that person – or the end result they are hoping to get out of the journey – is the key to making it a success.
Question #3 – What is your favorite type of trip to plan?
So, confession time here. In the interview I actually misread my notes and asked her what her all-time favorite trip or itinerary was that she had put together for a client. However, my intention was to ask the subtitle of this section – what is your favorite type of trip to plan. But almost as if she were reading my mind, she redirected the question and asked if she could generalize that answer – which is what I was going for anyway. (Clearly, we make a great team.) Her response was that she loves, loves, loves planning family trips. And you know, the way that she explained how she goes about it is a great indication of the kind of deep, personal thought she is going to put into your trip. She explained first that she thinks about the children and what excited her at that age and what she wanted to do. She literally puts herself into the equation – drawing on how she learned to travel and how to appreciate people, land and culture. She also always requests to speak with the children one on one and loves taking that time to talk with them to see exactly what their interests are to help her plan an itinerary that is going to be as wonderful for them as it is for their parents and / or grandparents. With a thought process like that its no wonder that Thia has so many satisfied clients of all ages.
Question #4 – Where is one place that you think everyone should have the opportunity to visit at least once in their lifetime?
Thia was quick to ask if she could have two answers for this particular question – which of course I agreed to. Her first choice was so passionately expressed that it gave me chills and cemented the fact that Africa should be on my bucket list. And not just one place in Africa – as she enthusiastically explained – the entire continent is phenomenal – north, east, south and west and everywhere in-between. Her excitement about the culture and the warmth of the people came across oh so powerfully as she gushed that this is one continent that is not to be missed by anyone who has the opportunity to travel.
The second destination which definitely surprised me is the good old USA. And she noted – which I totally and completely agree with – that we tend to take the United States for granted because we live here. To further her point, she went on to say that just because we live in the same country – what I see and experience here in the northeast from landscape to traditions to weather, for instance, is completely different from say someone who lives in California. Which are just two of 50 amazing and unique states at our disposal. Not to mention the different cities and towns in each. And Thia noted that one of the positives that came out of the pandemic was the fact that she was forced to stop traveling internationally and that gave her the chance to start exploring her own back yard – for which she is oh so grateful.
Question #5 – What do you want people to know about Thia? Why should people come to Thia to get their adventures curated.
Ok, full disclosure here. How she started out answering this one floored me. I have been working with Thia for about four months now and had no idea, but this woman speaks eight different languages! Yup – eight – including English, of course, along with four Nigerian languages, German, French and she’s currently in the process of learning Spanish. So, as she ever so eloquently stated – “Thia understands you when no one else does.” I just love that!
Her second reason was a quite powerful and once again personal one. Thia explained that she understands the need to get away, to experience the world around us, to refresh and rejuvenate – even if you are working to make that happen on a limited budget. She has firsthand experience with budgeting getaways into your finances, as she has been a single mother for quite some time. And she is more than willing to help you work towards the perfect vacation with what you can afford. And you can tell she not only sincerely means that, but that she will do everything in her power to make it happen for you.
Her third point was that she does not just plan a vacation – she goes on vacation with you.
Meaning that she doesn’t just book your vacation and run so to speak. She charges a retainer – which most advisors do now – and may I say rightly so. Part of that fee is that she is with you before, during and after your trip. She will be accessible to you the entire time she is planning it, while you are there and when you are on your way back. When you call Thia’s Travel Services – the person who booked your flights, hotel, transfers, tours, etc. – that is the same person who is answering the phone. Which means she knows how to answer your questions or where to get the answers quickly if she doesn’t have them. Personalized service in this day and age is so incredibly important. And when you use a small, local business you get that personalized service. Just ask those who were traveling or about to travel when the lock down occurred last March. I guarantee you will get two completely different stories of how those trips ended up from those who booked on their own as opposed to those who used a travel advisor. Travel advisors like Thia are worth every penny. I promise.
While that concluded my questions – Thia took the opportunity to end our interview with one oh so touching and inspirational thought (or perhaps mantra is a better term) – “the journey itself is my home.” She passionately implored that whenever you go on a trip to make that journey your home. In other words – don’t compare where you are from with where you are. Enjoy that journey – make it a place where you can embrace, appreciate and admire the people and the land for just what they are and in the simplest form. Oh, my heart.
See what I mean? What a joy it was to speak to this woman. If you haven’t watched the interview yet please do, as I know if you have not fallen in love with her from this overview, you will after seeing her speak so eloquently about travel and her passion for all it has to offer us. In her words – she is not just a travel expert – she is a travel enthusiast. Do yourself a favor and contact Thia when you are ready to book your next travel adventure. You won’t regret it.