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Business Traveler Interview: Sheila Scarborough

This is part of a new series here at WhyGo Business Travel featuring brief interviews with people who travel for work, asking them about what they do and some of their favorite travel tips. This way, if you’re looking for a career that will require travel, you’ll get to read about people doing some of the jobs you might consider – and you’ll also learn a few great travel tips from the travel pros!

This week, we’re talking with Sheila Scarborough. Sheila’s got a long and interesting resume that includes writing about both travel and drag car racing, and more recently she’s the co-founder of Tourism Currents, a company that’s geared toward teaching the travel industry about social media. She’s based in Round Rock, Texas.

What do you do?
I’m a writer, speaker and destination marketing consultant. At Tourism Currents, we help tourism and hospitality pros make sense of social media. I’m also a Navy veteran and NHRA drag racing fan, and I’m working on a book titled “The Elastic Waist Entrepreneur,” about online entrepreneurship for women over 40.

What kind of travel do you get to do for work? Do you get to choose where you go?
I travel to a lot of conferences, either as a speaker or an attendee. Some trips are in support of my travel blogging as well. I get to choose where I want to go.

How often do you get to travel for work?
It’s rather seasonal. Fall is very busy with conferences, winter is usually shorter trips in my immediate area, spring has lots of meetings and summer is back to more personal travel (although this year I do have a big conference to attend in July.)

Did you choose your job at least in part because you love to travel? Would you make the same job choice again, knowing what you know now?
When I retired from the Navy, I knew that I was going to combine my love of both writing and travel. My very first blog was on BootsnAll, actually, and I blogged about family travel for Boots until just this past December. I found that I much preferred online work to print work, so I learned a lot about blogging and online publishing, and then again connected travel and social media to work with the tourism industry, when we launched Tourism Currents.

I would do everything all over again, but I’d launch something like Tourism Currents a lot earlier! It’s a natural fit for my interests.

What are some of your favorite travel tips that you’ve picked up?
Do some research before you travel, to find cool local places to investigate while you’re in town. Never waste a trip; try to get something interesting or useful out of each one. Travel without a baby or young child is a piece of cake, so quit complaining and enjoy the solitude – and help that overwhelmed parent when you can, even if it’s just to pick up a dropped sippy cup. Walk everywhere, whenever possible. I rarely check luggage – why pay the airlines to lose my luggage? Pack fewer shoes (especially you women) and get it all into a carryon. You can get awesome hotel deals on Sunday nights, even at high-end places; the leisure travelers are gone and the business travelers haven’t arrived yet. Never pay rack rate; there is always a discount, so ask. I’ve never found anything that consistently gives better travel-related discounts than my AAA membership. Running shoes scream “Tourist!” when you travel; get some Rockports or something, so you can both walk and look decent.

What advice do you have for someone who’s interested in doing what you do?
There has never been much money in travel writing, and there’s even less in travel blogging, but I don’t do it for the money. I like having complete control over my work, and a direct connection with my audience. As a multi-media online publisher, I have a skill set that the average print writer does not, and I like teaching those skills to tourism people, so that they can tell their stories to visitors in a way that’s much more personal and compelling than a brochure. As for launching a business like Tourism Currents – find the intersections where you and you alone can bring special value, and fill a niche. Mine is social media, tourism and travel. I have a very clear view of my customers and my market, and now all I have to do is work my tail off!

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photo by Korey Howell