TORONTO — Some people may consider a travel agent’s fear of flying their greatest weakness. But for Shari Tucker, it’s what makes her downright heroic.
The home-based agent from Halifax, Nova Scotia and owner of Love the Way You Travel, an affiliate of Trevello, has been afraid to fly ever since surviving a plane crash in 1997. Back then, she had yet to enter the travel business, earning a living as a photographer. But that fateful flight from Fredericton, New Brunswick would eventually become the starting point of a new life path for Tucker.
“I didn’t fly for over 10 years after that as I was grounded by fear,” she tells Travelweek. “But I decided long ago that I didn’t want the fear of my lived experiences to stop me from exploring our amazing world for the rest of my life.”
Her first flight post-crash was a short, direct journey from Halifax to Bermuda to visit her childhood best friend. Little by little, flight by flight, Tucker found her wings again until one day in February 2012, she had a chance encounter with a travel advisor at a networking event.
“She asked me if I could go anywhere in the world, where would I go, and I immediately answered Machu Picchu, Peru. She said, ‘Well, let’s make that happen,’ and from that point forward I worked with the agency to plan a photo tour, with me as a photography instructor hosting a dozen or so travellers,” says Tucker.
The trip, she adds, culminated one foggy day in a profound moment at the heart of the ancient Inca citadel, with tears pouring down her face.
“I was completely overcome with the realization that I no longer wanted to be a photographer. As the fog rolled around us on the mountain, I realized that I needed the ‘fog’ of my life to clear for a new path to pursue. While I didn’t know at the time that I would become a travel advisor, it was the beginning of a series of events that led me to where I am today,” she says.
The travel advisor who initially helped Tucker plan her Machu Picchu trip eventually hired her as an adventure travel consultant. Now, 10 years later, Tucker has become an adventure and responsible travel specialist, visiting more than 50 countries and accumulating such adventures as mountain biking in Colombia, sleeping in a tent in the Serengeti, and even being charged by an elephant in South Africa.
But aside from all her travels, Tucker says helping clients experience the world firsthand, just like she has, is what she finds most rewarding about her job.
“This industry has truly changed my life, over and over. It has done the same for many of my clients, and has shaped who we all are and how we see the world,” she says.
So, has Tucker been cured of her fear of flying? Not at all, she says. She still fears flying – she just does it scared.
“There are still times when days before a flight I become crippled with anxiety,” she says, adding that breathing techniques, medication and watching videos about the mechanics of planes seem to help. “But the incredible experiences that I’ve been able to create for myself and for my clients through owning my own business, and the connections I’ve made in the travel industry have been invaluable. This industry has taught me so many life lessons, and it has given me the opportunity to meet the most interesting, wonderful and unique people all around the world.”
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