It’s no surprise Kristen Meckem chose a career in travel. At six years old, her parents packed up the family in a Volkswagen pop-top camper and drove from Minnesota through Central America to Argentina and Brazil. Since then she has explored the world, swimming with sharks in Tahiti, exploring the ruins of Machu Picchu, and traveling through Europe for a year with her husband and children. After a successful career in design, Kristen decided to shift gears and make travel her full-time job. Learn about her journey to becoming a luxury travel advisor, a few of her travel tips, and more below.
How did you find Brownell?
Why did you choose Brownell as your host agency?
I chose Brownell to be my host agency because I wanted to learn from the best. I watched every single video on the Brownell website (multiple times), and I talked to other Brownell Advisors. It felt very right, and it felt like it would be a very good fit for me. Once I started the interview process, I had an instant connection with Miss Rebecca Willson, and I knew I had found my travel family.
What aspect of Brownell is most important?
I could talk for hours about this! For one, it is the instant recognition that I receive from suppliers. It takes a while to form relationships with suppliers, but with Brownell, the brand recognition, respect, and admiration are there immediately. It’s the basis for all of my relationships with suppliers, and then I build from there. Another thing that I get excited about is the Hosting Team’s ability to recognize and deliver services to enhance our businesses. They want us to succeed, and they see where we have needs that they can offer services to help us grow. We work so closely together, and they are very dear to me. I also love my Marketing Team. Not only do they deliver fantastic service and products, they also enhance my life. It’s FUN to work with our Marketing Team.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to join the travel industry?
Do your research. (If you don’t enjoy research, you won’t enjoy the industry.) Read host agencies’ websites and talk to as many people as you can who are already in the industry. This is a very giving and joyful industry, and you will be happily received if you reach out to talk. Ask a million questions, and see how you feel. Stemming from a place of wanting to help others is better than wanting free travel. It’s transparent when it’s more about you than about your future clients, and the most successful Advisors seem to have one thing in common: they love to enhance their clients’ lives through travel.
What is your favorite aspect of your career as a luxury travel advisor?
The people! Imagine establishing a relationship with a supplier over the phone and email, but the first time you meet him in person is in Cape Town! It’s a joyful and giving industry with a huge emphasis on relationships.
7 Questions with…
Oh gosh, that is a hard one! I would have to say Brae in picturesque Victoria, Australia, off the Great Ocean Road. Upscale but not stuffy, Brae offers local courses from their 30-acre organic farm. You can see the chefs walking, with their baskets, through the fruit orchards and the vegetable plots. They pick tomatoes off the vine, and then you’re eating them. It’s beautiful food.
2. What popular destination lives up to the hype?
Italy! Italy has it all: the ocean, the views, mountains, lakes, food, the countryside, gorgeous properties, culture, lovely locals, everything. It’s terrific for first time travelers because they will not be too far out of their comfort zone. And for the traveler who has been to the must-sees, there is plenty more to explore.
3. What is the up and coming destination right now?
Paris, London, Rome, Venice, and Tuscany are always in vogue, and with good reason. Morocco and Iceland are still hip places to go. Safari, Galápagos, and Antarctica are bucket-list favorites. River cruising is a huge trend right now; how else can you see five countries while unpacking only once?
4. What is your favorite destination?
Europe, Africa, and Australia. That’s pretty broad, but each of those holds dear memories for me. Having been a guest and explorer in 67 countries, it’s difficult to choose. But I would say that Alberobello is one of the destinations I will fondly remember forever. And cooking school with my dad in Rome.
5. What is the best travel advice you’ve ever received?
It’s okay to leave something to go back for. If you stuff too much in, there’s less chance for the magical moments to unfold.
6. What is your travel motto?
Collect moments and memories, not things!
7. What is your dream trip?
The last time I was in the Galápagos was 1974 with my parents and my brother. My dream trip would be to take my husband, daughter, son, and son-in-law there. I also would love a French river barge with my friends.
So what’s next for Kristen?
This is the Year of Europe for me. I’ve recently returned from a river cruise to Switzerland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, & The Netherlands. In July, our daughter will be married on Lake Como, and we will also visit the Riviera & the Dolomites. October is a river cruise to Paris & Normandy. And December is Paris for the Dorchester Collection & Cannes for luxury travel’s global event. Next year I have one thing on my radar so far: Newfoundland and the Fogo Island Inn!