April 15, 2021
by Hacker Valley Studio
In this featured episode of Hacker Valley Studio podcast, Ron and Chris are joined by Sarah Groen, founder and CEO of Bell & Bly Travel, a luxury travel advisory firm. Bell & Bly Travel helps executives, entrepreneurs, and their families take a holistic view of their vacation planning, allowing them to save time, enjoy amazing experiences they can't plan on their own, and make lasting memories with loved ones. Sarah is a contributing columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine and is the host for the Luxury Travel insider podcast.
In most of our episodes, we talk about work, the grind, and getting better every single day. In this episode, we talk about something a little different; talking about taking time for yourself and maximizing vacations and time off, time with family, friends, and time for experiences.
Sarah is no stranger to experiences; she has traveled the world and is an expert at planning vacations. We brought her into the studio to talk about getting the most out of our time off.
Her background is varied; she has an extremely random resume. She is from South Texas and lives in Houston. She started in the financial world but wanted to get off the corporate rat race track because she didn’t enjoy what she was doing. She went back to business school, not knowing what she wanted to do, but focused on entrepreneurship.
After school, Sarah went back to Houston and did many things, such as investing in an energy software startup and being an accelerator that she co-founded. She worked at Uber - launching and running UberEats in Houston and Phoenix. Finally, Sarah realized that if she was going to put that much time and effort into a business, she wanted it to be her own and build her own equity. So, she started looking into companies to invest in and buy. She finally began to focus on her passion for travel.
She describes herself as crazy about travel and shares how many countries she has visited and continents - and it’s a lot! She is always thinking about where she is going next. It all started due to her early experience where at 15 she went to Germany for an entire summer. She loves planning travel for families who have kids at that age which is an impetus to loving travel. This love led her to use all her free time for travel.
Sarah loves all her travel experiences for so many reasons. Trips fulfill you in many different ways. Her ability to share what she loves led to her acceptance at Stanford. Travel reminds her that she is so small in the world. There are so many other ways to think and live, that when she travels, she is reminded of that.
As the episode progresses, Sarah describes how travel benefits the mind and health. There is a lot of research that shows how vacations and travel is good for you. People need it! One example is neuroplasticity. If something brand new happens, you will remember it more. This keeps your brain more agile and to be more creative. Travel puts you in a different environment and helps create new neuropathways.
It is a fact that Americans are skipping tons of vacation days; there are millions of vacation days left on the table. As that number goes up, all sorts of things are happening such as anxiety, mental health issues and other things that are symptoms of working too hard.
In order to plan travel for groups, they bring people in and ask multiple questions to get to the bottom of what’s most important about this vacation and why. What helps them relax. This helps discover what is needed most by the travelers. Making the most of the vacations is different for every person. Some want to do everything, and some don’t want to do much at all.
The needs are different for everybody! Luxury travel means something different, however. She hesitates to put the word “luxury” in marketing, etc. Generations want different things and luxury means true customization. People don’t want to feel like a number anymore. She is catering toward personalized and customized things.
What does customized mean? How does it get specific? What do people look at? Sarah can do and plan things that are “ungoogleable.” There are so many experiences that can be customized based on interests and passions. These are “behind the scenes” and not amongst the packed tours that one encounters when on typical vacations.
Sarah shares how networking is important in the role as a luxury travel planner. She specializes in clients’ needs and wants, and they plan the world. That can only happen through fantastic networks and partnerships. They have worked with them and keep up with them on a regular basis. They have vetted partners in every corner of the world, and are kept up-to-date and help curate these specific itineraries and ideas. Doesn’t matter if it is art or basketball, they make it happen due to their network.
How people spend their money is personal, but don’t save it for a day you are never going to spend it. If there is something you want to do, make a plan to make it happen. Lay out what you want to achieve in your travel bucket list, and make a plan. Pencil the experiences in that you want to have!
Travel has changed alot since Covid-19. Don’t let it scare you off when you are planning travel. Hotels and airlines and tour operators have adjusted to safety protocols. Safety is different for all people and their wants in regard to the degree of risk they are willing to take. Booking and cancellation policies have flexed greatly. Those dream trips can be planned almost risk-free right now.
When it comes to food, it is trending to having more local cuisine experiences. For instance, going to the market, following a local expert, going to different places and trying different things. It is food combined with stories and history that is the trend.
Sarah is planning our “Think Week”, and we were excited to hear what she had in store for us. She has our interests and general information based on the forms sent to us. The next step is a call to hear what changes from the form and speaking in person. This gives a true vision of what might make sense and then talk about options and possibilities.
0:00 - Welcome back to the Hacker Valley Studio
1:26 - This episode features Sarah Groen
2:25 - Where they met Sarah
2:44 - Sarah’s background is extremely varied
3:19 - Where the entrepreneurship started
3:57 - Decided to start focusing on her passion - travel
4:14 - Why travel? What does it mean to her?
5:19 - Most memorable travel experience?
7:40 - How good travel is for you
10:35 - How people get the most out of time off?
13:04 - What does luxury travel mean for clients?
17:57 - How important is networking in this type of role?
20:23 - What would you say to our listeners who want to dip their toes in luxury travel?
22:08 - How travel has changed due to Covid-19.
25:36 - How food fits into travel
27:58 - What’s in store for our “Think Week”
29:29 - Best ways to stay in or get in touch with Sarah
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