Winter Travel Essentials

Desktop-001

Few people get a chance to get out and about the globe as often as our Travel Writer and Contributor, Robin Chase.

With a job nestled in a cozy cranny of Training with UK-based travel firm STA Travel, this on the go Sagittarius knows the essentials for each season of Walkabout.

1. Gloves — Must be fashionable, warm and allow me to access technology with gloves on.

2. Hat – LL Bean Ultrawarm Bomber Hat

3. Lonely Planet Guide: I know it’s a bit old fashioned to tote around a physical book,  but I’ve got enough electronics to charge at night with my camera equipment,  music, cell phone & batteries. Lonely Planet do have e-book versions of all their travel guides for those interested, but I like to write in the margins, circle the places I’ve been on the maps and stuff ticket stubs or random notes in the folds of the book as thoughtful remembrances to look back on. The guide books have helped me out on many occasions: finding a restaurant, a place to stay, and giving me a bit of history to read through on long bus journeys.

4. Base Layer — Merino Wool Top + Long Johns: sexy merino wool spun like silk gives you a solid layer to keep on trekking. This is a SOLID!

5. Pants – for being active (I LOVE this company… based in the UK so costs a bit more, but they package nicely and use wonderful materials).

6. Second layer – Lightweight fleece: Affordable and with the high neck, Colombia nails the trekkers needs.

7. Merino wool scarf (love the orange!)

8. Outer layer – Snow, Rain & Wind Jacket: North Face gets 5 stars from everyone with this shell.

9. Moleskin journals: I like the small little pocket Moleskine notebooks to jot down random thoughts, sketches, and to remember important details of my jaunts.

10. OSPREY DAYLITE PACK: It must be waterproof, have ample space for my camera equipment & accessories, ‘overhead space’ to stuff my miscellany for any given day (wind jacket, Lonely Planet guide, iPod,notebook, pens, etc) and needs an external side pocket that holds a large bottle of water. I’m still on the hunt for the perfect bag that will also hold my tripod and have an ‘easy access’ camera pocket on the side so I don’t have to take off the backpack in order to reach for my camera. I also typically need a laptop pocket if I’m traveling for work as well.

11. Boots – Keen Wilma Lace : Hit the slopes or trek the streets, Keen knows both with this–fun to boot.

Along with these essentials, I bring the following to be cautious and proactive.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

TUMS: Yep, it’s almost a guarantee that I will get in trouble at some point as I’m willing to try {almost} anything. Travel for me is as much about the exotic foods and drinks as it is the scenery, history and culture. Best to be prepared for my gastronomic adventures.

Eye Mask & Ear Plugs: Okay these are not very stirring items either, however, from a practical perspective they really come in handy pretty much anywhere I might try to get some shuteye: Airplane, train, backpackers hostel, camping in some unknown wilderness, or hotels in noisy city streets.

iPod: Music is always a necessity. A soundtrack for my rambling exploits will always bring those moments back to mind years down the road: the score to the epic theater of my happy memories abroad.

And of course my CAMERA GEAR!

One final note, and this one is gratis. It sounds cliché, but the last thing is something you cannot buy: a smile and an open mind. Part of the adventure in traveling is letting whatever comes what may become part of your itinerary. There will always be flight and luggage delays, a tummy ache, a lost object or moments of complete befuddlement while abroad… whatever it may be, the best thing you can do is let these things roll of your shoulder, keep smiling, and embrace the unintentional.

Fall WEEKENDER | a Romantic Moto Journey to Poteau’s Balloon Festival

Weekender-Ginger-webFall weather is amongst us, and it’s time to layer up, pack a bag, and hit the road for the first Weekender trip of the season. We’re heading out to the Poteau Balloon Fest to float around in wicker baskets fueled by industrial looking blow torches and hot air, hob knob with some iron horse enthusiasts at the Bike Show, eat some Smoky Barbeque and spend the night out under the stars with new friends and old. Oh, and we’re doing it all in Style. Check our list of essentials for this moto-Weekender that will take you from standard tourist to stylish tastemaker and, potentially, Mayor of Poteau by weekends end…so throw down the Pendleton, pop the Dom, and recharge with the magic of colors in the sky.

1.Rag & bone The Print Scarf

2. Cambria Handmade Black Deerskin Hobo

3. Belstaff Jacket

4. Kiki de Montparnasee Garter tank

5. Le Labo Santal – womens fragrance

6. Rocker Vegan Leather Skinny Free People

7. Billy Reid Randolph Riding Boot – Brown Black

8. Polaroid SX-70 // for Film Impossible Project

9. Moonshine Cologne

10. Pendleton Blanket Buell Manufacturing Co. Tribute #2

11. Vintage Boy Scout Backpack

12. Custom by Classified Moto CM185T

13. Dom Perginon

14. Heren Denim by Petrol

15. Gypset Travel book by Assouline

16. Speed by Base London

17. Louis Vuitton Monogram Champagne Trunk

18. E701: save your ass by Einstok

LIVING LOCAL: With a romantic picnic inspired palette, we chose to pair some edgy rustic fashions with a few entertaining picks to create an artfully fabulous weekend experience. For a more authentic picnic, stop by your local Forward Foods for some fromage,  fancy fig spread and crackers to enhance your Champs indulgence. The Spirit Shop in Norman offers unmatched service in recommending a bubbly if the Dom is on reserve for another milestone. Stash in Norman or The Pendleton store in Utica Square will warm you up with the wooly weaves of Pendleton offerings, and On a Whim in Classen Curve has a diverse selection of musts on the sophisticate’s reading lists, and also carries the Gypset Travel book.

This Fall Weekender was artfully curated by the tastemaker Design Ambassadors (Ginger Roddick + David Kittredge) behind the IDEA COLLECTIVE.

Chasing Opportunity

Meet Robin Chase, a Native Okie-girl, National Training Manager US Division/STA Travel, Globetrotter and Photographer. 

I met Robin years ago when I was working in a corporate cubicle in the Oklahoma City Metro. I was working on a project to which she had been introduced and learned we had many a friend in common. She had just returned from studying in France, and was entering the local job market, which at the time,  was not robust in its offerings of enticing, stimulating positions to foreign exchange students returning to home soil in search of fashionable opportunity….I remember the day she came to tour the corporation where I worked. I popped up like a groundhog from my cubicle and gave a wave, only to witness her sweet face, seemingly overwhelmed, as if the French character, Amelie had been transported to the Land of Cubicle Robots. Needless to say, she didnt resurface into next training class, and I was not surprised. A chapter or so down the road Facebook reunited and I was stoked to discover Robin had been living her dream amidst the world of travel. Upon our social reintroduction, I noticed she had made a couple of fun videos, mentioning the company with whom she worked (see close of the piece for video inserts). The videos were strikingly avant garde, and I remember, I found it super refreshing to see she was working for a company that encouraged creativity amongst its team members. This was HUGE to witness, the freedom, the flexibility, and the support! It was also inspiring to see how Robin had created an opportunity for growth in her personal career via utilizing her creative abilities to serve and inspire.  In recent discussions with Robin on all things travel related, she shared with me that she creates Inspiration postcards from her own personal photographs she has taken from around the world, and shares them company-wide daily. I decided then, we needed to highlight this cool OKIE girl. Robin takes moments of her day to gather words and positive dialogue artfully blending them with the intent to inspire, encourage and engage those in her network.  Share in as Robin talks about how she grew her opportunity into a Dream position and what STA Travel (UK based) does differently than many other companies in making the most of their Human Resource Investment and Social Responsibility priorities.

How long have you worked for STA Travel?
I started working for STA in April 2005, so a few months shy of 8 years.

What is your title and duties/job desciption?
My position is National Training Manager. I have one other team member on the training team who works out of Arizona, so between the two of us, we essentially lead all of the needed training sessions for the company. New hire training consists of learning systems, product, GDS language and use, geography/destinations and daily office duties. Manager training consists of leadership skills, hiring / interviewing, performance management, coaching, motivation, marketing, delegation, etc. Then there are selling skills, customer service skills, and general cheerleading. We hold centralized training classes, one on one in branch trainings, webinars, create learning modules, and participate in various ad-hoc groups to help keep the company moving forward. Kristina, the other trainer, participates in a customer service working group that looks at ways to keep the customer at the forefront, solicit feedback, make improvements from customer suggestions, and help our staff improve their service levels. And I oversee a group called the Support Initiative Working Group, which basically takes a representative from each support department and sales (so finance, product, marketing, ecommerce, operations / IT, human resources and retail + me) and we assure that any new products, initiatives, launches, systems, changes… all are approved before they are implemented and that every one can offer an opinion on the usefulness and potential of any given project. And, hmmm…. outside of that, I’m researching and writing the training sessions and putting together the Daily News Articles, working through various projects, have monthly calls with STA trainers around the globe, weekly calls with the UK about said various projects (a lot of initiatives come from our global headquarters based in London), and supporting staff in any way I can basically.

This seems like an awesome position….what previous jobs and skills do you feel helped shape you for this role?
It is most definitely an incredible position.  I feel quite fortunate… it’s truly the dream: to find work that you love, inspiring people to work with, and the opportunity to explore the distant reaches of the earth.

From a company perspective, I feel that starting out as a travel expert and then further as a store manager gave me the necessary experience to relate to the staff that I work with.  It’s also been beneficial for the various departments I work with at our head office in Dallas to gain a greater understanding of how things operate in the stores.  I will admit, though, it’s been a while now since I’ve sat in one of our stores to simply help customers: this is one of my goals within the next few months.  To reconnect with that experience so I can continue to help and advise from a grass roots level.  Honestly, I feel that anyone within a company who has the opportunity to trade in a different position for even a few days, if not a week, should jump at the chance.  This is why our “In Your Shoes” program has been so successful.  It’s far too easy to criticize or overlook a person you interact with only via email or on the phone… but if you sit with them for a day and really get to know their challenges, you can then start to see the bigger picture.  A lot of solutions, efficiencies and inter-company camaraderie are created from such interactions as well.

I have a degree in Elementary Education – and while training adults on technical systems or leadership skills is a far cry from a 4th grade classroom – my experiences in public schools and my university education around learning development has given a spine to my current methods of training.  And then too, observing other trainers that I work with or have previously worked with, has not only precipitated further influence toward my practices, but has also helped me to find a rather happy balance between adult instruction and childhood education… obviously a very different audience, but the simple principles behind pedagogy work well for all.

Having worked for a traditionally modeled American corporation, I can tell your job offers a lot of freedom and flexibility…..from your personal opinion, how can American companies benefit more from their human resource investment?
Ah, well… I think freedom and flexibility take a lot of time and hard work to evolve in any position.  That said, STA as a company works hard to keep all of our staff engaged and excited to continue to work for us.  It’s challenging for any company to dig out the roots of how an individual retains the motivation to continue to do their job at 100%, to maintain engagement and incentivize to do better or to change with the times. And the Tourism industry has definitely taken a heavy hit as a result of the recession, however we are fortunate to have a niche in the student and youth market and to have an impassioned workforce with a sexy product to sell. Travel will always be hot.

For American companies in general, however, I think the key is to develop a company culture centered around people, as well as progress and social responsibility. Then to do everything in their power to act on this identity. People are key. When I hold training sessions in Dallas, the Managing Director will take the class out to dinner when he’s in town – or hold an early morning breakfast – and answer questions and ask questions of his own.  He and the Vice Presidents of our company travel out to the stores and to our call center frequently to sit with staff as well. They want to know the staff. They want to hear their suggestions and see what they deal with day to day.  Further to that, they will implement suggestions where it’s feasible to do so. We also have a forum on our shared intranet called “My Two Cents” which is essentially an electronic suggestion box that goes directly to senior management.  All of this combined, I feel, makes a world of difference.

People know that their input is valued.

I feel progress is integral to the people solution as well for the sake of trying out new things and adapting to the swings of our economy, staying up to date on current trends and the way people want to experience the world.

Finally, social responsibility is a given, alongside the ability to participate in this too. To be able to give back to society by digging your hands in the earth and planting trees, or helping to educate others, build hospitals and shelters, give meals to the hungry and clothe those who are without. When a company stands behind these principles, you will reach a large appeal of people who want to contribute. As mentioned before, we have various projects we sponsor and raise money for each year through auctions, games, even bake sales. And then too, we have volunteer programs around the world that anyone can apply for. So, working with Lions in Zambia, teaching children in Vietnam, helping rebuild Tsunami-wrecked Thailand.  Everyone – whether a travel expert, an accountant or a graphic designer – is encouraged to apply. If accepted the project is paid for and we also allot a certain amount money to assist with flights and lodging. The requirement of the staff is to blog about their experience, share it with as many people as they can. And then we also have a day of Volunteering that is given to staff – any volunteering project they want to help with – and it’s a paid day off work to do so. This is the kind of stuff companies should be doing: encouraging their staff to speak their mind, offer suggestions, and go out into the world to do some good.

Where were you when you decided to start sending the quotes out?
I started adding a ‘quote of the day’ to our Daily News communication a while back without imagery, but one day stumbled on a quote in jpeg format – I think I was browsing “inspiring quotes” in google images. There was no imagery behind it, just bright red font and capital letters that said: “The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do.” And the next day, having liked this so much, I looked for something new. This was coming out of a meeting where I had to discuss things that were uncomfortable to me… my quote of the day is often a reflection for my thoughts and mood at the time I am putting it together… and I found the perfect piece: A photo of a small older home, like you would find in small town Oklahoma, shingles coming off the roof, windows boarded, drain pipe dangling on its last grip to the eaves and the brown winter weeds, shrub and grass commanding the yard and growing toward the top of the roof. It was bleak and feeble. And on the side of the house, written with black spray paint in decisive font, were the words: “speak the truth, even if your voice shakes”. Such powerful words to accompany this crumbling image of what once was a home, a shelter and perhaps continued to be a dwelling place for someone really spoke to me.

People sent me emails and commented on it, stating that they liked it. So the following day, a Friday, I decided to try it with one of my own photos. I selected an image of the monks in Luang Prabang proceeding through the town for the Tak Bat – the daily alms-giving ceremony. It captures them only from the waist down, in their bright orange robes, from behind as they step forward, with bare feet, the soles black with soot and dirt, and this quote by St. Ignatius: “Go forth and set the world on fire.”

I knew it was powerful the minute I went on Facebook and found my image posted on the walls of STA employees. And so that weekend, I went to work collecting travel related quotes and finding images that seemed to fit. And I’ve continued to do since. The goal now is to create a 365 day / quote of the day / book. My company sponsors different projects throughout the world (this year it’s a pediatric ward in Kenya that we’re helping to build) and we often have fundraisers within the company and external fundraisers as well. I’ve previously auctioned off several framed photos from my travels and hope the book will bring in money for the project and also a bit of inspiration for those who peruse the pages.

What feedback have you received for the quotable insights you share?
So, feedback from my quotes? Lots of posts on Facebook, emails from staff, emails from upper management, thank you’s for the inspiration and reminders of why we do what we do… most everyone who works for the company loves to travel and it’s easy to loose sight of this in the stress of any given day or even monotony of a job. I’ve been told from people that they look forward to this everyday, scrolling to the bottom of the news just to see the quote, to get their daily dose of mojo if you will.

Check out the videos Robin made in her early years with STA Travel. And we hope you find yourself inspired to lend your creative voice to assisting making something bigger and better outside of yourself, what ever the artistic medium. Music in the videos below scored by Allan Vest.

 

Aimee Tietze Adams is Editor in Chief of OM Media and Magazine.

You can find more information on STA Travel here.

And Allan Vest musical services here.

 

STA Travel Blue

Phonetic Alphabet