help me help Ukraine

Last week I started a series of emails about the hotel travel agent programs that I am part of. We started with the Marriott brand, and my plan was to follow up each week detailing an additional program until I had given you all the pertinent details about each program and highlighted some of that brand’s best hotels. I love covering these types of services I am able to offer my clients. These programs illustrate the value I am able to bring to those looking to elevate their travel experience. The timing of the email sequence was perfect, ending right before my Rhine River cruise at the end of the month. I love a good plan, but sometimes plans need to change …

Today, I am going back to my roots. For me, travel is not just about elevated experiences, it is about authentic experiences. This is what I love most about travel; this is why I do what I do. Learning about other people and cultures has always been fascinating for me (which is why I honestly can not believe I do not speak another language). As much as I like a good beach vacation, I love to travel to new destinations and exploring. I think my exposure to so many types of people over my lifetime as I have crisscrossed the globe has turned me into the empathetic person I am today.

em·pa·thy/ˈempəTHē/ noun – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another

Please don’t read that as me giving myself a pat on the back. Sometimes, I am empathetic to a fault. Just ask my husband how many times I shed tears for the injustice in this world or even a story line on the TV – all I have to do is put myself in the shoes of someone else and the tears fall. You absolutely do not have to travel the world to be empathetic, but I do think it is a byproduct of being exposed to different cultures – and travel is a beautiful way of doing that for those who are able to do so. One of my long term goals of Explore More is to bring cultural experiences to those in my community that do not involve travel.

Before starting Explore More, I volunteered at a refugee center in Charlotte. I volunteered for their children’s program. This was when the boys were in pre-school, so they were able to join me many times at the refugee center. I thought it was important for them to interact with children who were different than them and understand that not everybody has it as easy as we do.

Refugees have always pulled at my heartstrings. The thought of having to leave your home and loved ones behind to save yourself and your family is upsetting enough, but the fact that they often must risk their lives by traveling unsafely is absolutely gut wrenching. As I watch yet another conflict unfold and hundreds of thousands of people fleeing their homeland of Ukraine, my heart aches.

Why am I telling you all of this today? Some may think that a travel advisor’s role seems somewhat frivolous, but I think that creating experiences that allow us to appreciate the beautiful differences in our world is important. I know that I can not solve the world’s problems through travel, but I also think I can make a small difference and if enough of us make a small difference, that adds up.

Whether you receive this email because you are a client, a potential client, or you just like following our travels, you are part of a small but growing community of travel lovers. We are approaching 700 subscribers with an astounding open rate average around 50% (the average marketing email open rate is 18% ). That means that an estimated 350 of you are reading this email. If all 350 of you would take the time to donate $10 to the non-profits helping the people of Ukraine, that adds up quickly. We have the power to donate $3500 to help, and I have added a donation of $500 from Explore More which gets us up to $4000! Let’s do this!

Ukraine donation options

I have spent some time this morning researching which links to include for you to consider donating to. I used the site Charity Navigator to ensure I was providing you with options that give a large percentage of our donations to the actual cause. The last option Foundation Tabletochki is not reviewed by Charity Navigator since it is based in Ukraine (please note that donations to this charity are in Ukrainian currency UAH, which is roughly .033 USD$ = 1 UAH.

Next week, this crisis will still be going on, and I will still be concerned. However, I will be back to sending the type of email you expect from me next week. Thank you for allowing me the space to write about this crisis today, and a special thank you to those of you who choose to donate.