Episode Transcript

Travel as a Force for Good with Bex Shapiro



[00:00:08] BS1: Hey, I’m Britt Skrabanek and you’re listening to Love Your Enthusiasm, a podcast that continually inspires you to make space for the thing you love to do most. With us on the show today is Bex Shapiro, the senior editorial manager at Intrepid Travel.

In this episode, Bex talks about what it means to use travel as a force for good. Covering everything from sustainability to sensitivity. Bex challenges us to remain hopeful about the future of travel, continue supporting travel responsibly, embrace these times of deep introspection and do market in the world by taking action, both on the road and at home. Enjoy this lovely, thoughtful conversation with Bex.


[00:00:59] BS1: Bex, welcome to the show.

[00:01:00] BS2: Thank you so much for having me, Britt.

[00:01:03] BS1: This is so fun. What a great way to spend a Friday after a long week, right?

[00:01:08] BS2: It is so nice. It feels like a massive relief to just have a conversation with a like-minded soul.

[00:01:15] BS1: Oh, I feel that way about you as well. We’ve worked together, I’ve written many, many travel articles for you over the years and that’s how we’re connected, but we don’t know each other that well.

[00:01:29] BS2: No, we really don’t. It’s been one of those moments where you feel like you know someone because of social media. You have the realization that social media is not real life, so it’s exciting to be a [human 00:01:42] right now.

[00:01:43] BS1: I think we’re all really realizing, that social media is not real life, especially lately.

[00:01:51] BS2: All the nuances and things that social media doesn’t necessarily allow for. It’s something, so nice in hearing another person’s voice and seeing what their life is like. I think it’s been really nice to get rid of the professional facades and get rid of the formalities and kind of get to know people in their home environments more recently.

[00:02:13] BS1: That’s really true. It’s been fun even — I’ve talked about taking some online dance classes on like Facebook live with my local dance studio here, and they were actually teaching and Kim Johnson, she was on the podcast before on Episode 4. We talked about this a little bit, but she was teaching classes in her basement. It was really fun because it was like, she is in her basement and her dogs were on the videos and it was just totally different taking a ballet class with her in that environment, instead of in the studio where everything was completely different and there were just a lot more barriers.

[00:02:49] BS2: Yeah, I think that’s a really valid point. I think that there’s almost lesser need for small talk right now, because you launch straight into it. It just feels like the formalities of face-to-face meeting, and office life and interactions that are more formalized have gone out the window. People are their real selves in their real homes.

[00:03:14] BS1: Yeah, I think that’s a good thing. I did learn a fun fact about you that I want to start with before we jump into the interview, which is, you told me that you can speak backwards. I find this interesting because the extent of my speaking backwards was my name and I had a friend that used to call me Yenttirb back in high school, Brittney backwards. Everyone isYenttirb, which sounds gross. Tell me more about speaking backwards, Bex. What is this?

[00:03:46] BS2: I mean, I would love to know someone else in the world who could also speak backwards, because it seems like that person would really be a soulmate on some level. I suppose it’s natural in the field that I’m a pretty wordy person, and I think I visualize words and I’m pretty much fluent in speaking backwards, unless it’s an extremely lengthy words, I can say it backward fairly fluently and there’s not much more to say apart from that. It’s just a strange work and a party trick.

[00:04:18] BS1: That is a great party trick. That’s what I was wondering. I’m like, was this a secret language that you had with another childhood friend?

[00:04:26] BS2: I wish I wasn’t so alone in this curse, in this gift. No, I mean you said, you don’t like the sound of your name backward, but my dad is called Marcus, and that name backwards is sacrum.

[00:04:39] BS1: I don’t know. That’s not so bad. How would you say Bex backwards?

[00:04:42] BS2: Xeb. And then my surname backwards, I suppose would be Oripahs. I’m being quite phonetic with this. It’s tricky. I mean, you know, no one can really fact check it because no one can speak backwards.

[00:04:55] BS1: Well, hopefully, somebody listening to this podcast one day will be your kindred spirit and you guys can connect and speak backward together.

[00:05:04] BS2: That would be beautiful, a true meeting of the minds.

[00:05:09] BS1: Let’s talk about your enthusiasm which I love, which is travel as a force for good. Let’s talk about what that means first. What does travel as a force for good mean to you?

[00:05:23] BS2: Yeah. I was thinking about the best way of trying convey this and I almost think, it’s truly the almost next stage in evolution of almost the eat pray love revolution. I think to me and when travel become more accessible to, I suppose, every day westerners. It was something that we’ve seen as for self-reflection, and self-discovery and very much the transformative impact was really focused I think around the self and what it could do for your piece of mind and what it could for your journey of discovery.

I think the big change that’s happening right now with COVID, but also with Black Lives Matter Movement, and also with the climate crisis essentially is that people really realizing how interconnected humanity and how your actions obviously course repercussions with a massive ripple effect worldwide. For me, travel as a force for good is not just travel being a force for good in your own life, but in other people’s lives. So very much, you decide where your money is going towards and you decide what your actions are going to drive. In doing so, kind if you do it meaningfully and consciously, then you can make a real impact on local economies, local communities, local livelihoods. I think it’s a nice way of, I suppose changing up the narrative and redistributing privilege. I hope that isn’t too long an answer, but I suppose seeing it as something that can positively impact other people.

[00:07:31] BS1: You are one of the people that I was — I don’t want to say stalking on social media, but I was keeping track of as the lockdown happened. Because as soon as I think about travel not being allowed, travel bans for lack of a better word, you made me write a piece about this once, ironically. But your social media got really quiet, I remember when the lockdown happened. But then, you started posting these really beautiful pieces about connecting with the people around you, being at home more because you’re such a nomad. So I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind talking about your experience a little bit. How many countries have you been to you and then how has your life — everybody lives have been impacted from COVID, obviously, but can you talk about some of the positive ways your life has been impacted by, for lack of a better word, being more grounded this year?

[00:08:28] BS2: Yeah, a hundred percent. I think that a lot of people have probably realized the moderation that was needed in their lives, and particularly people who were traveling regularly for work or for play. I mean, I feel very lucky as someone who was brought up in London, in the UK because obviously, Europe on your doorstep means that travel is significantly more accessible. And I was lucky to also be brought up to a family where it was prioritized. Experience really were more [inaudible 00:09:00].

Travel to places like France, and Spain and Italy was part of my upbringing. My first bigger trip was Israel when I was 16, which is almost a bit of a right pf passage for a lot of Jews particularly in the UK and US to do kind of a trip where you reconnect with your roots and your religion. Then another big trip I did was to Central America when I was 18 with my best friends. I think what really changed in those big trips was the realization that everyone comes back to, no matter who you are, no matter where you are, every human has the same vulnerabilities, the same desires. Everyone wants to feel happy; everyone wants to feel secure, and it really comes down to that base realization that humans are more like than they are different and no matter where you are in the world.

I then did a solo trip to Morocco. I did a press trip to Zimbabwe. There were definitely down sides. There’s always going to be obstacles, and fear and negative experience that you have on the road. But they made me more confident, they made the realize how beautiful the world is, how travel really can break down barriers and dispel misconceptions. It felt like a no-brainer career wise, to try make a passion into a career.

Really, the last four to five years I worked in the travel industry, I would want to be in another industry. Yeah, I suppose through work, I traveled internationally for work a few times a year. Traveled for leisure internationally another few times a year, and have gone between London, Toronto and Vancouver, which have been the kind of three basis in my life the last five years or so. So very much on the go, lots of side trips to New York and other parts of Canada. So yeah, I was probably doing a trip every month the last few years, which is a lot.

I think, when I come down and realize the changes in the last four to five months, I’ve got a lot more comfortable with being in one place. I’ve got a lot more comfortable with focusing on skills like cooking, and Yoga and just sitting with myself, instead of almost hunting down distractions and too much external stimulation. So for someone who’s very busy usually and really likes to be on the go all the time, I think it’s probably catalyzed my development as a person, but I think it’s also been a genuinely healthy and meaningful experience to reflect on the fact or so that at its core, travel is not an entitlement, it is a privilege. Lots of deep thoughts and introspection. I think that’s a good thing at the end of the day.

[00:12:25] BS1: Yeah. I had this discussion on a previous podcast, which is not out yet as we speak, but it will be next week, it’s Episode 11 with Karen Munna, and she actually owns a yoga retreat in Costa Rica. I went there a couple of years ago. We talked a lot about introspection during that episode and this is just kind of that year of self-inquiry. And in many ways, we needed it. We were all moving so fast, we had so many distractions, we still have distractions. Obviously, we were talking about that before we started recording this call. It’s just a constant battle with the media and what the distractions that we’re dealing with today.

But travel, I have a lot of nomadic friends. I don’t travel quite as much as they do and you do, but I have traveled a lot. Something you said earlier about humans all really being the same and wanting the same thing. There’s a really great documentary, I don’t know if you ever seen it. It’s called Happy and it came out like nine years ago or something. It’s a really cool documentary that talks about what really makes people happy all over the world. It was just the same thing for everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are, what your background is, where you are in the world, everybody wants to be happy. And that happiness is really quite a simple life and being with the people that you love.

[00:13:53] BS2: Yeah, beautifully said and we can all attest to that on some level right now. I think that’s the quietness and the reflection particularly over the last few months, it just strips away everything else. And ultimately you realize, if you are surrounded by loved ones and if you’re healthy as are they, then you can’t really ask for too much more. Everything else is a bonus.

[00:14:22] BS1: Absolutely. Well, I do want to talk a little bit about productivity because of what you do for work. I can absolutely relate because I am a fellow content strategist and both of us actually have kind of similar roles in what we do professionally. What zaps your productivity and how do you bounce back?

[00:14:45] BS2: I would say that biggest thing that zaps my productivity is feeling pressured and constrained by deadlines and too much feedback, which is something that is quite difficult to really control too much in a larger organization in particular, I think. I think when you’re self-employed or maybe work for a start-up, then things tend to be a little bit more agile and you almost make the rules a little bit more. But when I have a boss over me, he has a boss, they have a boss, et cetera, there are just sometimes a lot of deadlines, and guidelines and processes. Honestly, the number one thing I have to do is give myself creative space to not think about them too much and not worry about them too much, because I really find that I do my best work when I feel free. And when I do feel free and creatively inspired, and excited and engaged, then I’m at my most productive. So it’s kind of as simple as, theoretically, calming the headspace to be creative and that to me equates with being productive.

It’s really being vocal in terms of what I’m looking for and asking for. I’m saying that this day is a no meeting day, or I’m pushing back or I’m saying, “This is how I’m going to do my best work. I’ll get back to you with this, but I need the afternoon to think it through and to not have anyone else bothering me.” Yeah, it’s been a bit of a realization as someone who sees themselves as extroverted and has a very big social circle. But actually, I think that’s irrelevant because you still need to figure as a professional and as a worker what is right for you. For me, it’s just been really proactive about asking for what I need and hopefully carving out a space.

[00:17:06] BS1: I love the no meeting tip. I have been practicing that one more and specifically, and actually just block out your calendar, so that way — especially myself, I like to always share like a scheduling link instead of having a bunch of back-and-forth emails with people. So I’ve gotten better about blocking out whether it’s an afternoon or entire day. I learned about this once, I forgot who it was. They talked about monk mode and you kind of just block out this time and it’s like your monk mode time and you can actually focus on some shit.

[00:17:40] BS2: I love that, yeah. It’s so important.

[00:17:43] BS1: Definitely. You talked about creative space and needing to build that time into your schedule, which I totally understand. Was travel creative space for you before or was that kind of a separate way that you felt inspired?

[00:18:01] BS2: Yeah. I think that a really nice way of putting it. I would say that travel always felt like a creative space before and I can almost pin down a really specific set of revelations and decisions that I made. The really important ones did tent to really specific excessive revelations and decisions that I may even the really important ones did tend to always be made in transit, which I think is interesting. For instance, I absolutely love long plane journeys. I cannot get enough of them and I don’t watch movies on them. I always just take the time to myself to have really as few distractions as possible. It always in those journeys, when there’s no Wi-Fi and there’s nothing else going on, that I kind of decide on personal goals, and professional goals and have those small little epiphanies almost.

I actually never knew that I wanted to really work in the travel industry. It didn’t seem like a goal that was really within reach. It sounded too much fun almost than it was when I was actually doing an internship in Shanghai for two months. That I just felt so energized by being in this massive Chinese metropolis that that was actually when I decided to originally create a travel blog and I wrote some guest posts for another blog. I thought, you know what, I’m so happy in my element right now, exploring the, I need to make this a more regular part of my life. So whether it’s on a plane journey in returning abroad or a more of an adventurous vacation I suppose, yeah, that’s historically been creative space. It just means that now, it’s figuring out what creative space looks like a little bit closer to home, and when you’re probably not going to jump on the long flight, how do you get outside of your regular headspace list that is. I’m still working out, but I think that long walks and yoga is a pretty good part of that.

[00:20:18] BS1: Yeah. I’m relating how dependent I was on travel for that creative space that you’re talking about. And same deal for me on the plane, it was always just my favorite time. Because you’re just trapped in a way with yourself and you just finally have that headspace that you don’t have when you’re in the day-to-day. I’m working on all of that too, because that was always my strategy, that was always my escape and I know travel is for a lot of people, so it’s been interesting trying to figure out some other ways to build a creative space without being so dependent on travel.

[00:20:59] BS2: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more and I guess it’s really just taking the mindset of what is it that I love about travel and how can I make that a larger part of my everyday life. It’s difficult because it’s easy to feel free somewhere that you don’t have the reminders of work and responsibilities. It’s always going to be easier to feel free on a beach, or an international bar or jungle path or whatever it may be. It’s definitely figuring out how you can feel smaller levels of freedom and excitement even when you’re closer to home.

[00:21:42] BS1: Do you find that because you have this more introspection going on? Are you figuring some things out in your life that maybe you didn’t have time for before? Are you switching any paths or feeling more confident about a path that you are already on?

[00:21:58] BS2: Yeah. I think I am and I think I’m very much not alone in that. I can confirm that a lot of people in the travel industry and beyond seem like they have really strong realizations and I truly believe it’s catalyzed a lot of people’s sort of development recently. Yeah, I mean speaking more personally, I think it probably, the last few months has made me realize that just the pace at which I was living my life was probably not sustainable. I really mean sustainable for both myself and my mental health, but also for the planet. And speaking more widely, I think now about almost how many trips I did last year and how many experiences I had, I actually feel really proud, but also tired.

I was in Hong Kong for a wedding. I took a quick solo trip to Japan. I spent a month living in New York. I pop to Iceland for a conference. I went home to the UK. Another handful of things that happened, and I do think, what was I able to the enjoy and immerse myself in each of them or because they were so fleeting and I was planning the next one before I was even finished with the last one. Did I make the most of them essentially, or was I a little bit over excited about taking off another place and having another trip and almost having that adrenaline buzz of it all?

I probably more feel more thoughtful now with my regards to exploration more generally and hopefully kind of more present because of it. I also feel kind of clearer in terms of purpose and advocacy space. It’s really crystallized that I want to feel good in my gut about the work that I’m putting out into the universe. Although I’ve — I suppose always on some level wanted to have a higher purpose. I just want to really hone in on that, and I suppose because of that realization, if climate justice relates to social justice and all of these things that are kind of interconnected, it’s really made me realize just about the level of proactivity that I suppose that I need. I feel pretty good that I’m educating myself more, and I’m doing climate leadership training, and ethical storytelling training and things that I’m passionate about that I feel like a become more concrete now, as almost core values. It’s good, you know. All part of growing and evolving as a human, but probably fast track.

[00:25:06] BS1: Yes, and I can relate to what you’re saying. I had a huge travel like a couple of years ago for me anyways. Where I traveled too much in a way, because I was all excited and it was my goal. I’m like, “I’m going to go more places this year.” Then a lot of those experiences really just blurred together and I tried not to have that happen, but it just did, because of it just being a little bit too much.

[00:25:36] BS2: Yeah. I think that’s the thing essentially, that if you try and cram too much into a trip or you try and cram too much into a life, you almost forget that it is more about the people, than the places at the end of the day. And to an extent, it doesn’t really matter where you are, provided you’re connecting with the right people, whether new or old. So when people look back at their favorite travel memories and experiences, it doesn’t tend to be a waterfall that merges into another, or even icons like Petra or Machu Picchu, like it’s far more commonly is actually the friendships created on the road and the enlightening conversations with a local and those sorts of things. But I think people get so wound up, myself included in trying to cram as many bucket list sites into their lives as possible, that you actually forget or can do the joy of human connection is really just that. It isn’t about places and the end of the day. I think it’s been a really nice reminder for a lot of people.

[00:26:53] BS1: Bex, how did your childish curiosities eventually turn into the travel enthusiasm you have today?

[00:27:03] BS2: I think, again, upbringing defines so much of you consciously or subconsciously. I was very, very lucky that my parents almost had a little bit of a laissez-faire approach to parenting. They were very much the opposite of helicopter parents I suppose. They were also quite contrarian, which is a trait that I definitely adapted. We would always go to incredibly not well-known parts of Europe or the Americas when we did travel and did almost felt like they were being the original hipsters and we would be the only people speaking English in a very small Italian town. And we would literally just be having these bizarre circumstances that you don’t reassociate with family holidays.

I think I grew almost thinking that that style of travel was really normal and I think it’s well — when you speak about childish curiosity, I feel very lucky that I felt like my upbringing as well really wasn’t gendered particularly. There were no expectations of me going into a particular type of career. I think it felt really very organic. I always loved writing, I always loved traveling, I always loved social good on some level that’s why I studied international politics because it was very much the worlds that I cared about and the people in it. I think it was really that freedom and that upbringing that I think did translate into the career and the passions that I have today.

[00:28:54] BS1: Well, I didn’t know that you studied international politics. I majored in international studies, which was kind of a mixture, I think. It was politics, history but also anthropology. We have that in common as well. I’m laughing a little bit because you mentioned helicopter parent earlier. That’s the second time I’ve heard that this week. The first time was earlier this week. My husband, Hugh actually called me that because of how I act with our cats and it’s a new term.

[00:29:24] BS2: That’s so funny.

[00:29:25] BS1: And it’s a new term, I haven’t heard it until this week and he called me that and then you just said it today, so I think that’s a really funny term.

[00:29:31] BS2: I really like it. I think it’s one of those terms that describes exactly what you’re trying to get across and you just imagine the helicopter having absolutely no chill and it’s like, “Okay. Leave me alone. Stop honing in on me.” How funny.

[00:29:48] BS1: Yeah. That’s my cat mom parenting style apparently. I’m helicopter cat mom.

[00:29:54] BS2: Don’t worry. I have no chill when it comes to cats either.

[00:29:59] BS1: All right. Let’s talk about progress, and I think this will be a good conversation, especially with all of the things that you’re passionate about across-the-board with travel. What is your definition of progress in the travel space?

[00:30:16] BS2: I love that question, as I think it speaks to the very correct sentiment of progress over perfection. I think when you look at the environmental movement and the zero waste movements and things like that, people are scared in holding themselves to account probably too much and being better, it’s not being the best that you can be all the time, because that’s going to set yourself up for failure. For me, I’d say that progress in the travel space is really being more mindful about the decisions that you make and the money you spend, and really looking for culturally immersive experiences the are transformative from both you and the communities. It’s the case of thinking and maybe it’s not as clear cut as this, but if you’re going to go to a resort, or you’re going to go to Disneyland, very much not inherently bad decisions completely each to their own.

But it’s still the case of thinking, where is this money going? Is it going into the hands of someone who is already a millionaire or a billionaire to make someone in the corporate space richer when they don’t really need it? Or is it a way that you can both learn about yourself by getting outside of your comfort zone, but also ensure that by prioritizing locally owned accommodation, local transports, authentic experiences on the grounds, that you’ve had a more meaningful, impactful experience but you feel good in your gut, that you have channeled your money into an avenue that feels like it is empowering around the world?

I think it’s really lucky for me that there’s such a clear value alignment with my employer. I mean, I haven’t mentioned Intrepid Travel, but I do feel very lucky to work for such a sustainable forward-thinking travel. It’s just about bringing those values of empowerment and authenticity, kind of into the travel space and into the mainstream. So that a travel industry, which does account for one in ten jobs worldwide is really making the world a better place.

[00:32:59] BS1: I also think of you as an educator as well as the creator and explorer as we talked about before this meeting today. I love to hear a little bit more about how you empower the content creators that you work with. I’ve worked with you before, I think you’re amazing to work with and I’m really, really picky because I am very far along at this point in the content game. So I’ve always been very picky about who I work with. Let’s talk about feedback because I’ve actually been on both sides of this and I’m sure you have as well, as a writer but also as a strategist who is working with other content creators. If feedback is not getting through to a content creator you work with, how do you approach the situation differently?

[00:33:51] BS2: The first step is almost trying to ensure that you are not in that position in the first place, which is sometimes easier said than done. But I do you think if there is a fairly comprehensive commissioning process or you can link a content creator to similar examples, or kind of really strong tone of voice type documents or anything visual that shows what is trying to be got across and that is positive. I think as well, I use the term value alignment far too often but it just console so many things if you believe that the creator’s alignment is close to the brand’s alignment. Because I think you likely won’t have too many problems in the first place.

But I think a feedback really isn’t getting through. It’s probably a case of stepping back from the professional and trying to be more human, which is really important because you can really hurt people with negative feedback. And writing in the creative process or all the process of creating social contenting or whatever type of content is very personal. People put a lot of themselves into it, so you do need to be really careful to be honest when giving feedback and that’s something that’s really important for me. Because as someone who has been described as British, and blonde and bossy on occasion, it actually is kind of for me toning down those things a little bit. Because I know that if I receive negative feedback, it can really stick with me.

It’s being emotionally intelligent I think to the other person’s needs, and wants from a very basic perspective, it’s ensuring that if you do give constructive feedback, let’s not say negative feedback, that you’re always giving that positive feedback simultaneously, whether it’s before or after. Because people need to feel empowered by and an engaged in a wide mission, I think. If they feel like their work is being torn to shreds, and they kind of don’t see lights at the end of the tunnel when they don’t see the point in why am I even doing this. Then you lose people and you lose their enthusiasm. But if you can really take them on that journey with you and they’re proud to distribute the work at the end of the day, they feel good about the company’s mission, they feel like they’re putting out important working in the universe and you’ve helped them by feeding more positive and engaged. Then I think that review is classical.

[00:36:47] BS1: Yeah. It’s interesting because of how content just completely exploded like over the last five to seven years, I would say. I was at the beginning of that myself, I was a content manager at a marketing agency many years ago and people were like, “What is that? What’s a content manager?” I mean, it was a brand-new title at the time. I think what’s interesting about how content has exploded is how all the businesses started creating content, and then forgetting that the people who are creating content, writers aren’t artists. They are creators, they are sensitive beings. Writers are very observant, they’re more sensitive than say other types of people. So all the things he said are so true. Writers can have their feelings hurt very easily. I admit that I am one of those people, so you do have to be careful about.

[00:37:49] BS2: Yeah. I think that’s beautiful though. It’s very easy to see sensitivity as a negative trait, especially in today’s world, where productivity and almost being brushed sometimes is seen as quite valuable. But to me, the sensitivity is really important for the storytelling, because the most impactful stories always speak to transformation and to have level of honesty and vulnerability. You really do need depth, and you really do need, and you do need to be very engaged with your emotions and the journey. So it is as well as not making people feel engaged and excited, it’s making them feel comfortable to open up and letting them know that the audience will be receptive and the audience cares.

Some of the pieces that I’m most proud of publishing and working with creators on have really been more related to human interests. You find that at the end of the day, it isn’t actually about travel in terms of the destination. It’s in terms of the journey, the personal journey. It’s beautiful though, sensitivity when it can be harnessed in the right way.

[00:39:13] BS1: Some of the best feedback I ever got as a writer was not to tone it down, because the reason why this particular CEO had hired me to do some writing was because of letting my personality shine through. But I got nervous and was trying to tone it down and try to write the way that I thought it needed to sound, instead of just sounding like myself, so I thought that was really really great feedback and I have kept that with me ever since. Where I will curse and I will do all of these things because that’s who I am. I going to drop an F bomb or say shit and I’m going to say that. Then if you need to tone it down in the editing process, then it’s a lot easier to do, rather than trying to infuse a personality later.

[00:40:09] BS2: One hundred percent, because also, we’re talking about the creative process, but this also applies to life. The second that you’re stifling who you really are, and who you really think in your story, that’s when you get resentment. That’s when you’re not being true to yourself and it’s always very clear when that’s the case. The second your being someone who you’re not, whether it’s through typing, putting pen to paper or any action you take, it’s really evident. So harnessing that authenticity is just so important to better end your product and all.

[00:40:51] BS1: Bex, during the highs and lows, which we’ve all experienced a few of this this year, what is your one constant that keeps you balanced?

[00:41:05] BS2: One constant that keeps me balanced is family. How can it not be? I think that if you do have a family that you’re close to, everything else kind of forms a way. You can have work stresses, you can have relationship stresses, but if you have that solid core of people who have your back no matter what, then you are just going to be more grounded. That’s actually why I decided to move away from Toronto where I spent the last three years to move back to Vancouver more recently. I just knew that there were going to be a lot of ups and downs, particularly because of working in the travel industry, which isn’t really meaningfully going to rebound anytime soon. And I wanted to be around people who made me laugh, and it’s been really beautiful to spend more time with my family the last few months. I’m sure it’s made me more British, like I’m drinking tea three times a day and it’s just sarcastic dry humor. It’s very un-Canadian and I’m very here for it.

I feel very much very much myself and I think it’s really being grounded so I’ll have the mental space to have more revelations and to put mor of myself into work and sort of higher purpose, really. Apologies for the fact that was very traditional one I suppose but it is that for a reason.

[00:42:41] BS1: Well, that’s totally cool. I mean, we are in Portland for six years and we moved back to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where my husband, Hugh’s family is from in March when the pandemic is really taken off. It’s kind of interesting how many people thought that we moved because of COVID, when that was like the worst possible time to move of course and it was really scary actually. But we had had that plan for months, because it was kind of strange in a way and I don’t want to get woo-woo or anything and say, we started making steps towards this situation that we’re in today, but we kind of did. I’m so happy that we ended up moving back to Milwaukee, where we had lived for five years before we went to Portland rather than going somewhere new, because we were going to move somewhere new. We looked all over the map of the United States and I can’t imagine not being close to our family while all this is going on.

[00:43:44] BS2: Yeah, couldn’t agree more. There’s something so grounding about familiarity and people you love and that’s human nature at the end of the day, isn’t it?

[00:43:54] BS1: It is. I love tea as well. My husband lovingly calls me Britt the Brit, and I had to ask you, what is your favorite tea to drink?

[00:44:05] BS2: Honestly, you cannot go wrong with a classic English breakfast tea. There’s no herbal tea or fancy tea, although I do like Oolong, that is going to detract from the greatness of a nice English breakfast tea with a splash of milk and no sugar, because to me that pollutes it. What do you need to do and this is speaking to North Americans because you need to buy biscuits not cookies. You need a nice, plain biscuit to dunk in your tea and in doing so, you’ll reach true enlightenment and happiness.

[00:44:44] BS1: All right. Well, I love Earl Grey. That is my favorite tea. I love all herbal teas as well and you should see my tea collection, it’s kind of weird, but Earl Grey is something I have to have almost every day.

[00:44:56] BS2: Wow! I mean, very perfumed but very delicious.

[00:45:00] BS1: So delicious. All right. We’re going to talk about negative experiences next now that I warmed you up with a tea conversation. So Bex, how did you turn your most challenging external negative experience into a growth opportunity?

[00:45:21] BS2: That’s a very good question. Maybe I’m living through right now my most challenging external negative experience. Because I suppose, it has been a massive realization that the last few months just because something feels like it’s set in stone and the world feels so connected and travel feels like something so easy to do with a few clicks on sky scanner and Airbnb. Actually, none of that is guarantees and obviously, the realization that you can’t look externally feel happiness and you can’t really run away from things is really important. I can speak to smaller anecdotes and smaller negative experiences, but they all kind of feel really insignificant compared with what’s happening right now. To be honest, I think the only way that you can turn it into a growth opportunity is by really sitting with that discomfort, and that sadness and allowing yourself to feel emotions. I am really trying to detract and get rid of stigma right now as to being emotional.

I think particularly for women, there is such a stigma around being emotional and as someone who fairly sensitive myself. And I really care and I’m very passionate. I can be brought to tears pretty easily, like on a work call. I think that’s fine, I really do. So I’ve been trying to just be a lot more on honest with the emotions that I’m going through. Because if you don’t give something a name and if you don’t call out something for what it is, then there’s no meaningful way to really process it and move on. I’ve really, particularly the last few months try to kind of identify and flag when I’ve been feeling anxious, when I’ve been feeling demoralized. I think it has been really useful to open up to my boss to talk about things like depression at the dinner table with my parents and to really talk about things that a few months ago, I probably wouldn’t have been so open about, because I probably would have been more conscious of maintaining a little bit more of a professional or put together facades that doesn’t do anyone any favors and doesn’t reduce any stigmas.

Probably a little bit of a deep answer, but I’m just really trying to be honest about the lows as well as the highs right now and I just hope that in being true to myself and in being vocal, that other people also feel like they can. And that we don’t all walk around pretending to be something we’re not and pretending to be happy and okay if we’re not.

[00:48:34] BS1: Beautifully said and I couldn’t agree more. I think that we — I don’t want to say that we’ve leveled the playing field, that sounds horrible. I want to say that we really just — there’s no point in trying to like keep up with appearances anymore I guess for everyone, and that was such a thing, especially in our society and then professionally where we — by the way, I was always the girl who cried out at work. Always. Even like if like something great was happening. Even worse, like somebody’s getting married or having a baby, all of it.

[00:49:16] BS2: I love it. I love that I feel emotion and I think that’s calibrated, but I definitely feel you.

[00:49:23] BS1: Yeah. It always stirs people to laugh when the find out I’m a big crybaby. They’re like, “Really?” I’m like, “Oh, hell, yeah.” But anyways, the whole point is, is that such an interesting time. I don’t know what else to say, but at least I think the barriers have come down for so many of us, and we can see it as a growth opportunity and we can see it as a time to address some of those internal things that we’ve been stifling and also to be more open with other people about how we really feel about what’s going on. And to share those experiences and to connect with people on a deeper level.

[00:50:05] BS2: Could not agree more.

[00:50:07] BS1: Last but not least as we wrap up our conversation, Ms. Bex. If you met a travel enthusiast who wanted to do more good in the world, what would you say to them?

[00:50:21] BS2: You can do more good in the world by really taking a step back and taking a moment to have to think about what sort of person you want to be, both when you’re abroad and in your everyday life, really. I don’t think there’s a real difference between how people tend to act when they’re traveling and how people tend to act when they’re in their everyday lives. I think what I’m seeing more and more is, there’s no point in talking about responsible travel in a vacuum. There’s no point about talking things like injecting money into local economies and supporting livelihoods, and forcing Black homes business, and amplifying the voices of those who are marginalized.

There’s no point in talking about them just when it actually relates to travel, because if you’re traveling for a few weeks to a year and you’re doing those things but you’re not doing those things the other 50 weeks of the year, then you’re actually not having a ton of impact. I think it’s changing your mindset before you change your actions at the end of the day. I could talk the talk about using reusable water bottles when you’re traveling, and looking for the responsible tour operators like Intrepid, and looking for authentic experiences that are empowering locals, and looking for locally owned accommodation, and restaurants and bars. All of those things are really important. But I would say, if someone wants to do more good in the world and they’re a travel enthusiasts, do good in the world when you’re traveling but do good in the world when you’re home as well. Because you’re home more than you’re abroad probably.

[00:52:27] BS1: Especially this year.

[00:52:30] BS2: Yes.

[00:52:31] BS1: Can you tell the listeners how they can stay in touch with you, connect on social and find more info about you in general?

[00:52:39] BS2: Yeah, sure. Very easy. I’m extremely active on social media, particularly Twitter and Instagram where I have the same handle on both of them, very simple, and it’s literally @bexshapiro. Honestly, that’s the best way of reaching me. You can Google me, you can look up Intrepid Travel, you can stalk me on LinkedIn or Facebook if you so want to, but Twitter or Instagram is going to be what’s best. I love connecting with anyone who’s like-minded, anyone who’s adventurous, anyone who wants to put out meaningful creative work into the world, then please do.

[00:53:25] BS1: Yay! Bex, thank you so much. I loved our time together today. Thanks for being on the show.

[00:53:32] BS2: Thank you so much for having me. I really likes the thought-provoking questions that you asked, and I think that you’re speaking to such amazing people and doing amazing work.

[00:53:42] BS1: Thank you Bex.


[00:53:44] BS: Before you take off, I am looking for amazing new guest o be on this show. Specifically, I am looking for amazing women, as women tend to underrepresented in the podcasting space. If that’s you, someone you know or someone you want to nominate, reach out to me through the contact form on the website, which is loveyourenthusiasm.com/contact.

Thank you for supporting the show by subscribing, reviewing and of course sharing your favorite episodes on social. I’ll see you next week.


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