Susan Horn-Deubel - Globe Trotter & Travel Agent
Today in the Interrogation Room, I bring you Susan Horn-Deubel, my closest high school friend, who now runs her own travel agency along with her husband Rick. They’re raising their grandson, Justice, and taken him along on their many adventures to exotic places in the world.
We’re going to explore what it’s like to be a travel agent and get some great advice on why you might want to use a travel agent. We’ll also learn how to ease back into traveling during the time of the China virus, and professional packing tips for your travel.
Now, imagine yourself on an exotic beach, the waves lapping at your toes while you sip a cocktail embellished with a paper umbrella and a pineapple slice…
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to own a travel agency?
In 2012 I sold my Insurance Business in northern California and my husband Rick and I decided to start traveling even more than we normally did. We spent 6 months making our way around the globe knowing we would end up in Vietnam stay there for an undetermined period of time.
My dad had been a Vietnam veteran and did 3 tours there during my growing up and I honestly had some strong feelings that I felt needed to be resolved and wanted to go there to do it. I wanted to volunteer in an orphanage which we both ended up doing. Rick got his international teaching credentials and taught English during the 14 months we lived there in Saigon.
After the 14 months, I was done and wanted out of Vietnam, Rick would have stayed had I not bribed him with moving to Italy and his being able to cook there for others. So, we moved and bought a 350-year-old farmhouse and restored it into a guest house and he cooked for our guests.
During our time in Italy, I organized tours and activities for our guests and even planned their trips around the country and sometimes the travel to and from. All this without being an official travel agent. So after having done this for guests in Italy and the years prior for our guests in Costa Rica I figured I would make it official and get my credentials and actually get paid for doing the work.
Rick and I had bought a piece of property in Costa Rica in 2003, had a home built there and had rented it to guests since 2005. I did the same thing with the guests, organizing their travel to Costa Rica and in the country while they were there.
2. Why do you recommend using a travel agency when the internet is so handy?
Yes, the internet is very handy for looking and browsing for travel anywhere in the world. However why not use an expert when you pay the same price either way? I do not charge a travel agency fee and you will pay the same price with any vendor you choose or actually maybe less by using my services.
Also isn’t nice to use an expert that may have actually been to the place you want to travel to that may have access to things you are not aware of or might really need to know. That’s also the reason that I write a travel blog which gives insight into cultural things you might need to know before you show up some place you have never been before. TravelDreamFamily.com
3. Can you tell us a few of the places you’ve visited and/or lived?
As of last year, I have personally traveled to 43 out of the 195 countries in the world and around the globe many times. Having lived in the US on the east and west coast, Vietnam, Italy (6 years) and Costa Rica on and off for many months over the last 17 years I figured I should share my knowledge about travel with those who might be interested.
4. What is your favorite part of being a travel agent?
My favorite part is getting to help someone plan and experience something new and different.
5. Obviously, the China virus has affected travel over the past twelve months. What advice would you give to folks wanting to start traveling again?
My advice is the same it has always been, each individual has their own comfort level with travel.
We have had a few guests come to both our houses in Costa Rica and Italy and been unhappy because they expected it to be like their hometown wherever that is. Those people will not be happy anywhere other than at home and should not travel far from it.
Now add in the Covid concerns and really that is about setting up realistic expectations for when you arrive someplace new. Costa Rica for example has been open since Nov 1st to all travelers worldwide and has made drastic requirements for its citizens and visitors to follow to make sure that precautions against transmission of the virus are minimized.
We spent the entire month of November down there and it was nice to see some travelers out doing tourist things and not being scared to live life. So, when or if someone travels it will depend on their comfort level and no one can help them decide what that is.
Every time in get on an airplane (which is a lot), or in my car to drive to the store I know it could be the last time I do that because anything can happen—we are not promised tomorrow. I personally will make the most of today and not worry about things that I cannot control.
6. What is your best “how to pack your bag” tip?
Take as little as possible, because unless you are going to the deep jungle or the Sahara Desert you can buy something you need or forgot. Take less clothes than you think you will need, don’t take expensive jewelry EVER.
If you’re American and normally wear T-shirts that proudly display your countries flag etc., leave those home. The idea is to try and blend in and not stick out like a tourist. Especially in today’s political conditions around the world, don’t put a target on your back.
7. I know you and your husband own homes in Costa Rica and Italy. What made you choose those locations? Are they available to rent?
Costa Rica was chosen in 2003 when I typed in a search engine: “Cheap hot beach.” Literally our timeshare took us there, and we bought the property on our first visit. Yes, we are impulsive! Our website for rentals: www.ShortsNFlipFlops.com
Italy was chosen in 2013. Rick is half Italian and loves to cook. Italy was, and still is, my favorite place in the world to visit. But after living there for six years, and raising our grandson, I wanted to return to the US because Justice was becoming too Italian. Our farmhouse there is 2 hours north of where Ricks grandfather was born and raised. Website for Italy: www.CasaTreQuerceItaly.com
8. What is something that potential travelers do that drives travel agents crazy?
Like I mentioned above, unrealistic expectations. We can only help you plan the best trip ever if you give us as much information as you can.
9. In all of your travels, what was something you couldn’t believe you were seeing?
Being on a photo safari in Tanzania, Africa and finding out the Pride Rock is real. I thought that Disney actually made it up. When we arrived, I cried because the whole experience being there was surreal and overwhelming.
Upon arrival, we found two lioness and 7 cubs laying on the rocks in front. Our park ranger who drove us said in all his years of taking people there he had never seen that. I told him I had really prayed for the best weather that day and he said, “Well you got way more than you prayed for.” Here is a link to the video I shot that day. We have a YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOGrjbF7C9lTpoMr9k5WwUQ
10. If someone from the USA was going out of the country for the first time, where would you recommend that they go?
If they like warm weather then Costa Rica or the Caribbean on a cruise, if they like history, art, culture then Italy of course.
11. If someone from anywhere other than the USA was coming to the US, where would you recommend that they go?
California is a melting pot of people from all over the world and has many things from the beach and Spanish culture in the south to San Francisco and the mountains and Lake Tahoe in the north. But of course, NYC is a personal favorite but right now is too depressing. I’m hoping that will change soon. When it does, I/we will be one of the first in line for a Broadway show and cheesecake afterwards.
Susan, thank you so much for your insight in the travel agent business and for sharing the beautiful video from your trip to Africa. It was a treat.
A note from Kathy: Take five minutes and watch the video. It was well worth it, and the shots of the lionesses and their cubs are spectacular. I noticed the mothers were laying back-to-back, so they’d have a 360-degree view in case a predator thought they were going walk off with one of those baby lion cubs. I would be tempted to try to take one home—even with them watching me!
That’s it for this time in the Interrogation Room. We’ll meet back here soon!