Meet Brownell Independent Advisor and adventure junkie, Sarah Groen. After a career in finance, Sarah decided to turn her insatiable passion for travel into a full-time career. She graduated from Brownell’s Mentoring Program and kick started her business, Bell & Bly Travel. Sarah leverages her background in finance and her personal travel experiences to curate enriching trips that are fine tuned down to the smallest detail. Whether she is sending clients off-the-beaten-path or back to an old favorite, Sarah loves knowing she plays an integral role in creating enriching experiences for their time away.
How did you find Brownell?
To be honest, by mistake! I started Bell & Bly Travel as a side business, I was really enjoying it, but didn’t know anything about the industry or even what a host agency was. Brownell has an AWESOME marketing team and great content online, so I found them one day while trying to learn more about turning my side hustle into a full-time hustle.
Why did you choose Brownell as your host agency?
Prior to starting Bell & Bly Travel, I was an investor and had worked in tech and finance. If I was going to jump into travel with both feet – I wanted to do it right. I also really value quality, so I decided I would either go with the best or not do it at all. Luckily, Brownell chose me too!
What aspect of Brownell is most exciting?
I like the look in my partners’ eyes when I tell them I went to Brownell. It’s the same “wow” type of response I get when I tell people I went to Stanford GSB. It’s exciting to feel you’re learning from the best and helping to uphold such a great reputation.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to join the travel industry?
Think long and hard about it and talk to as many people as possible to make sure it’s right for you. Be honest with yourself on what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. To be successful here you need to be great at sales, picture perfect on the details (or hire someone who is!), and laser focused on customer happiness. I’d also recommend that people work in other professional careers first and build a powerful network before jumping into travel.
Why is working in the travel industry a rewarding/enjoyable career?
Personally I love growing a business from scratch, having flexibility (not short hours.. just MY hours), and challenging myself to constantly move to the next level. While I’m doing all that, I find fulfillment in helping my clients see the world. I get to be part of expanding their hearts and minds, and creating special memories for them with their family and friends.
7 Questions with sarah
What was the best meal you’ve ever had while traveling?
The first meal that comes to mind is special because it’s virtually impossible to replicate anywhere else – falafel sandwich with the best hot sauce and Israeli hummus in Tel Aviv. With the thousands of Mediterranean restaurants we have in the US, you’d think you could find something close to as good – but it’s impossible. I’ve tried for 5 years, so I guess I’ll just have to go back!
What is the up and coming destination right now?
I think Portugal is the “next Iceland” in that it is all of a sudden a boomtown for tourism. It deserves the hype too! From quirky and beautiful Lisbon, to Alentejo and the Douro Valley, the entire country is beautiful, friendly, and tasty.
However, I wish Oman was more up and coming. It’s a hidden jewel in the Middle East with gorgeous wadis, spectacular mountains, luxury hotels, off the beaten path camping opportunities, sand desert, and lots of untouched traditional villages. I’m going for the 2nd time in 2 years next April!
What is your favorite destination?
My favorite country to recommend is probably Botswana. Just thinking about it makes me smile! The amount and breadth of wildlife, the huge variation of landscapes, the GORGEOUS luxury safari lodges, and the people all make this country very special.
My personal favorite destination has been Antarctica. It was just so wild and unexpected; it completely blew me away. Here’s a blog post I wrote awhile back on why Antarctica was my all-time favorite trip.
The destination I keep going back to is Turks & Caicos. The beaches are some of the best in the world and I love my friends at all the local beach bars. I go every year and just booked a villa for a two week stay in May!
What has been the most inspirational destination you’ve visited?
I think every destination touches you and leaves you with something valuable to takeaway. Some are beautiful and serendipitous and joyful (like Italy), and some cause you to re-think your own mindset. Personally, I find the big mindset shifting destinations to be the most inspirational. The ones that stick out the most for me are Iran (digging into history and learning the other side of the story), Guatemala (understanding what happened in Central America with the Banana Republic), and Antarctica (visibly seeing the affects of climate change).
What is your dream trip?
Going to space of course! Back here on earth, I am really excited to go back and explore the wine regions of France in depth with my husband, find off the beaten path nooks of Italy, experience the vast plains of Mongolia, see polar bears, and go on a tornado chasing tour!
What 3 items do you always have with you when you travel?
Well… I’m a travel advisor so… my laptop and charger are the most important items. My phone and camera too! Other than that – I focus on the things I can’t buy while I’m away from home (i.e. extra contacts). Everything else is replaceable!