Adventures Around the World: Life as a Travel Club Organizer

My trip to Hawaii. Steve is in the orange shirt.

My trip to Hawaii. Steve is in the center (orange shirt)

This is part four in a series of interviews I’ll be doing for a new segment on Budget and the Beach called Cool Careers. You always hear how you should follow your passion and do what you love. I happen to know a few people who I think are doing just that. Maybe you’ll get some inspiration for your own career.

Just about two years ago I was feeling really burned out with life. I really needed a vacation, even though my budget told me otherwise.

I started looking around Living Social, and a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii caught my eye.

I love Hawaii, and had been to Oahu twice already and Maui once. Every time I go I feel so relaxed and rejuvenated. I love the floral scent of plumeria, and the tropical island breezes.

The group trip was organized by PhotoFly Travel Club and its organizer, Steve Juba. In my conversations with Steve via email before the trip, I pictured him being older, so imagine my surprise when we first met and I’m shaking hands with a fresh-faced 20-something (actually that’s just my guess!).

My worry was that the trip would be somehow disorganized because of this, but nothing could be further from the truth. It was absolutely incredible and probably one of the best organized, and most fun trips I’ve ever been on. And Steve was like the fun little brother I never had. We had some great times singing 90′s grunge music in the car at the top of our lungs, which probably annoyed my younger group travel mates who seemed to prefer Rihanna.

Steve, originally from Boston, now travels the world…and I mean ALL year long, running several travel clubs. I would love to do another trip as soon as my budget allows, especially with his group. So I thought Steve would be a great person to feature in my fourth segment of Cool Careers. Luckily I caught him between trips, as he was packing and nearly out the door for a trip to Southeast Asia.

Taj MahalWhat is your job title?

I am the owner, CAO (Chief Adventure Officer), & Travel Club Organizer of PhotoFly Travel ClubDestination Earth.

What led you to this career path? 

I was in technology sales and account management for about 5 years.  The corporate work structure wore me down quick, and so I started our travel groups and never looked back. The skills I obtained as a communications major, and more importantly in sales, have all been integral to our success as a travel company.

What is the toughest thing about what you do?

Managing time. Being a small business with no full time employees, you end up wearing a thousand hats. Prioritizing tasks and managing time is by far the hardest thing for me.

What is the best thing?

Everything else. Traveling, meeting people, exploring cultures, photography, working from home, being my own boss, and so on.

Mekong paddle cruiseWhat is the best place you’ve traveled to so far?

That is like choosing your favorite child. Just can’t do it. I particularly love the cultures & countries of Australia, Hawaii (not a country but close enough), East Africa, & Southeast Asia.

Since I have a lot of readers on a tight budget, what advice can you give them about how to travel on a budget, or more frugally?

Traveling with a group can save time and money, but it can be cheaper to plan a trip solo (takes up way more of your time though). Traveling on a budget is quite easy if you are willing to stay in hostels and eat cheap food. Many local adventures are totally free or very cheap, and the ones that are more pricey you will probably know about before the trip, so you can budget for it.

Have you ever had any scary/dangerous travel experiences (other than hearing me sing)?

Hearing you sing was music to my ears. And to answer your question: No. None that were significant enough worth noting. EXCEPT, walking across live lava flows on the Big Island (not with my guests haha) is pretty dangerous…

What exciting plans do you have for your business? 

We have some incredible new group adventures coming up this year. Our club is, and always will be free to join (just sign up and pay for the trips you want to join).

Hawaii lava flowOur travel club is excellent for those on a budget hoping to save money and still travel the world! We often pair members up to share rooms and avoid the costly single supplements. We also fight hard to get great single supplement rates for those that do prefer to have their own room when traveling alone. My other company, Destination Earth, is very innovative and exciting as well. We create these amazing experiences that combine a higher end vacation with some unforgettable meaning built in. Our mission statement says it all:

“We pledge to enlist our guests in an exciting, transformative experience through unique cultural immersion while enriching the lives of the people we encounter.”

We strive to engulf, immerse, and intrigue our guests while sharing the gift of giving back to the world!

Tonya

Tonya is a video editor and writer living in Los Angeles who enjoys beach volleyball and running. To get the latest updates, be sure to subscribe. Check out her sister site Healthy, Fit, and Frugal.
  • http://momanddadmoney.com/ Matt @ momanddadmoney

    Love those Boston roots! Sounds like a really awesome gig, and it’s pretty cool that he seems to have pretty much just made it all up on his own. I’ve never traveled with a group before but definitely sounds like something to check out.

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      I’ve done it twice and both times I think they were my most memorable vacations. One to Hawaii and one to New Zealand.

  • http://www.mymoneydesign.com/ MyMoneyDesign

    Nice redesign of the site using Genesis!

    What a cool idea for traveling and getting to meet other people. If I was single I would totally participate in something like this. Steve’s company is just another example of an innovative idea that breaks the traditional boundaries of business and is fun to be a part of.

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      Thanks MMD!

  • http://www.youngadultmoney.com/ DC @ Young Adult Money

    Just noticed the redesign, looks great! I am meeting with a designer Saturday morning to go over things and finalize our contract. Sounds like an awesome career. Probably not for an introvert with me, but awesome nonetheless. I’d rather write about travel from home and go on trips with friends/family/my wife versus lead groups : )

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      Thanks DC! Good luck with the redesign! I would have trouble with that kind of career too. I like travel but mostly I crave routine.

  • http://luke1428.com/ Brian @ Luke1428

    This sounds like a really fun career but I could see how it would be tough managing time. Love that picture of the lava flow! That was one of the most spectacular sites I have ever seen on a vacation.

  • Kali @ Common Sense Millennial

    Um, do you need a new hire anytime soon?! I’ll be first in line to join the team! This sounds like an amazing job – though I can definitely see where it would be so difficult to keep organized and prioritize your tasks and time. ..so I think you need an assistant, right? ;) Thanks for bringing us another great and interesting interview, Tonya!

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      You’re welcome Kali!

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    Wow, what a career!!!! Good for you, Steve, for chasing your dream career and giving up the 9-5. Hawaii sounds so gorgeous – we’d love to take the kids there some day.

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      I freaking love Hawaii! But I’ve usually always had free places to stay…that helps a LOT!

  • Travis Pizel

    Traveling, seeing cool places…AND having it be your job? Sounds awesome! Do you ever feel like you want to just “stay put” for awhile though?

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      I think I’d feel that way Travis. I’m too much of a homebody. I need my routine.

  • Holly Johnson

    That sounds like an awesome career. I’m totally jealous!!!

  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    Very cool career! I can relate to the wearing 1,000 hats when running a business as we do it with ours, but I couldn’t imagine doing it with something the scale of a travel business. If you’re ever looking for someone to join the team, I’d love to join the team. ;)

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      ha ha! I know about wearing many hats too! But at least mine can be worn from one location. I can’t imagine doing it all over the world!

  • Christine@TheChickvestor

    I love how you took an experience you enjoyed and turned it into a great blog post. Thanks for sharing this! I hope you are feeling less burnt out these days! :)

  • http://deardebt.com/ Dear Debt

    Wow, that is so cool! Sounds like a ton of work to run, but the rewards are nice. Thanks for sharing the story of your business and career. So inspiring!

  • Mackenzie

    Thanks for sharing your story! So awesome :)

  • http://www.makingsenseofcents.com/ Michelle

    Wow this sounds like an awesome career!

  • Liz

    This sounds like such a thrilling career. I would love to be paid to travel. too fun!

  • http://theheavypurse.com/ Shannon Ryan

    What a fabulous business/job! Travel is probably my second passion after finance. We love exploring new cultures and I love (maybe even a bit envious!) that Steve is living his passion. Love this new series, Tonya!

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      Thanks Shannon! I’ve personally had travel on the back burner the last couple years, so I’m trying to make it more of a priority this year!

  • http://www.debtandthegirl.com/ Debt and the Girl

    That sounds so interesting. I would love to travel more often. It really broadens your horizons…not to sound cheesy

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      Not cheesy at all!

  • alwayshungry4

    Lol at the ‘favorite child’ comment… What a cool business! I signed up just in case there were any South American adventures :) Thanks for the great interview, Tonya!

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      You’re welcome Anna! Hope you find something!

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar

    Why did I not know this was a career? What an amazing way to travel and get paid for it. Thanks for sharing.

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      I think it’s something I would have enjoyed in my 20′s, but I’m too much of a homebody now personally.

  • http://rootofgood.com/ Justin @ RootofGood

    Sounds like an amazing career. Maybe I should consider un-retiring just to work as a travel club organizer!

  • http://www.makemoneyyourway.com/ Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way

    I’m proud that he also included Southeast Asia as one of the best place he traveled. Definitely it’s a cool job to travel different country while working!

  • Fit is the New Poor

    I would love to get in to this! When I was in college, I had a friend who was recruited to be a travel guide for Rick Steve’s travel company. I was always so jealous of her!

  • http://www.budgetbloggess.com/ Michelle

    Wow! What a fantastic job to have! I love traveling and photographing almost every moment of it….I have to find a way to make that a career. The Big Island is so beautiful, I adore Hawaii. Every year I go, I never want to come back but the good is that I’m super relaxed and revived when I do get back. I really enjoyed this post, keep em’ coming :)

  • Student Debt Survivor

    I love to travel, but I’m definitely stuck in my routines and habits and after a couple weeks I’d probably want to regroup at home. I also wouldn’t want to leave Eric for extended periods of time, unless he could come with and then this whole gig sounds pretty amazing.

  • http://brokemillennial.com/ BrokeMillennial

    Ummm….I think I just found my career switch! When I used to day dream about having a job like this and even looked into being a professional tour guide for a year. Now, I just want to get back into the expat gig ASAP. Well, this time as the professional and not the tag-along child.

  • Done by Forty

    Great career, and timely post, too! We’re heading to the big island in February. Any recommendations?

  • Charles@Gettingarichlife

    Tonya,
    What island do you iike the most? Is it Maui because I know you like Lahaina? I travel a lot for work so when I’m off I like to relax. Although I do like overseas travel.

  • http://thebrokeandbeautifullife.com/ Stefanie @ brokeandbeau

    I love the “cool jobs” series. I can imagine how stressful it gets. As much as I ADORE traveling, all the preparation is exhausting.

  • http://reachfinancialindependence.com/ Pauline @RFIndependence

    That sounds like a cool job, but it can be exhausting when you have to be tending to people the whole day, go to sleep when the last one feels like sleeping and still be up the next morning for the early risers. I like that you change destinations, most tour guides here in Guatemala are bored doing the same tour over and over again, looks like you have more flexibility, which is awesome.

  • http://debtblag.com/ Debt BLAG

    I have known people who do this. Getting paid to party seems like just about the best thing you could do for a living :)

  • debtfreeoneday

    This sounds like a pretty cool job to me. For anyone who loves traveling and doesn’t have too many commitments, this could be a very satisfying career!

  • http://practicalcents.com/ Raquel@PracticalCents

    Fun career. It’s so important to find a tour group that is professional and organized. I travelled on a group tour once and would love to do it again. I’m signing up.

  • jefferson @seedebtrun

    The travel involved in this career is the big appeal.. and that is one heck of a perk. I could never pull it off with so many kids, but I think it would be amazing.