From: Leila Lavaee

Here is the link to the story I recently published on Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/pulse/keeping-spirit-travel-alive-during-covid-19-leila-lavaee

This past weekend, I took a long, hard look at the plans I’d laid out for myself and my business in 2020. I gave myself permission to sit down and sentimentally re-read my post from January, and I was really struck by these words:

“My business has grown and evolved in ways I’m proud of since launching it just over one year ago today, and I’m looking forward to what 2020 has in store.”

Oh, boy. Who could have anticipated what 2020 had in store — not just for small business owners, not just for the travel insurance industry — but the entire world? None of us could have predicted a global pandemic that would change life as we know it in so many ways

If you had told me then that flights would be temporarily grounded, countries would close their borders to tourists, and travel plans cancelled worldwide, I would never have believed you. But, here we are…

How COVID-19 impacted me — both personally and professionally

It probably won’t come as a surprise that my small travel business took a huge financial hit. Still, I’m trying my best to focus on the positive. Entrepreneurs are known for throwing themselves into their work 24/7… so what do we do when we suddenly have a whole lot of extra time on our hands?

In my case, I started prioritizing things like self-care, exercise, online learning, and mastering those parts of my business that had previously eluded me — I’m looking at you, Automated Systems! — to help me run my business more smoothly. (After all, in my past life as an Engineer, I was responsible for building solutions that transformed the old ways of doing things. I saw the lockdown as a great time to do this for my own business.)

The most encouraging (and exciting!) part of all this was how quickly I was able to pivot with the goal of keeping the spirit of travel alive. I’m still doing what I love (educating and inspiring travel lovers) while building my brand and letting people know “I’m here” when they’re ready to start travelling again.

When you can’t just hop on a plane…

It may not be virtual reality, but my new Virtual Travel Series might just be the next best way to appease our inner travel bug. See, after a few days of sitting with what I understood would be the indefinite ‘new normal,” it hit me: We may not be able to physically hop on a plane right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all be “armchair travellers” — satisfying our cultural curiosities by taking in stunning visuals, learning little-known facts, and gathering tips from local travel experts.

So on March 18th (literally the first week of lockdown), I ran the very first episode of my Virtual Travel Series, giving those who joined the chance to experience the wonders of Peru from the comfort of their couch. The series was an instant success, and since then, people from all over the world have joined me as I explore awesome spots like Morocco, South Africa, Antarctica, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Spain, and Italy. We’ve gone on virtual safaris and wine tasting tours. We’ve heard from sommeliers and travel photographers. And most recently, we visited Colombia and learned about Colombian coffee. traveldesignbyleila.com/virtual-travel

Learn a little, laugh a lot

For me, it’s important that these sessions are both exciting and educational. So I’m always sure to let my passion for travel shine through while sharing gems of information from the 50+ countries I’ve visited over the years. But to provide even more depth, I’m also partnering with travel experts that have operated in these regions of the world for decades.

And because I want to empower and support other entrepreneurs, I’m collaborating with small business owners to highlight relevant services they provide in different episodes. I’ve been joined by a Fashion Travel Designer who spoke about must-have pieces to take with you to Egypt, and a Photographer / Graphic Designer who shared tips on how to take the best possible photo with your smartphone.

The best part? You don’t have to book 10 days off work to enjoy this type of “trip” — you only need to commit 1-1.5 hours of your time, max. And, if you missed the boat, recordings are available for FREE.

Ready to take your next big trip… from the comfort of your couch? We’ll be sipping on coffee and heading to Colombia next. Register for FREE right here. Or browse past episodes.

Bon voyage,

Leila

P.S. Have a travel lover in your life? My travel series is a truly unique and thoughtful gift that can be enjoyed from a (social) distance. ;) Or, try organizing a weekly watch party with all your travel buddies!

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