I’m not too sure about this guest post business other than I hope by being called a guest post that Lindsey will be excused for the bad grammar and punctuation! I don’t claim to be an English expert by any stretch of the imagination but at the same time I hate for Lindsey (self-proclaimed English professor) to edit or change anything I write so please don’t hold her accountable from here on. In all seriousness she knows I am just messing with her because that’s just what I do and part of what makes our marriage work but she DOES love to critique my writing! For those of you who know me very well you also know that I’m never wrong about anything, in my own mind, hence the reason I don’t like to be corrected even if I need to be.
Now on to the reason I not only agreed to do a post for our adoption blog, but suggested it myself. I feel I needed to put a disclaimer out to everyone who reads and follows our journey so closely about the amount of travel we have been doing this summer and how that may be perceived along side of the fact we are doing fundraisers and getting a lot of financial help from others. If you have read previous post from Linds I know you are aware of the huge step I have taken personally to admit we need help getting our little girl and more than that being willing to accept the help we have gotten and continue to get. We have been blessed beyond measure to this point receiving a little over 9k dollars of the estimated 30k we will need to adopt our little girl without asking for a cent. I can’t even begin to explain the emotions and amount of love, humility, and undeservingness(yep that’s a made up word) I have felt and continue to feel in this area. I won’t get into how it all got started or what has transpired since because Linds already has or will.
What I need to relay here is, for those that do not know I am a travel agent #1 and a used car dealer #2(so new, profit isn’t in the conversation right now). I started Wiregrass Travel over 3.5 years ago now from scratch and have been building up my clientele gradually ever since. I love my job and wouldn’t trade it for the world but my favorite saying is “the perks are awesome but the pay stinks!” That’s mostly the truth but not 100%…obviously I feel and I know it can and will be very profitable over time but it’s a very slow grow. I survive on repeat and referral clients almost 100% of the time. The positive side of that is I have a very loyal client base and the referred potential clients come to me already comfortable with me, trusting I will do what I say and take care of them. That makes it much easier for me to earn their trust and start a business relationship. The negative is, like I said before, it’s a slow grow! Please do not misinterpret this as me saying we are dirt poor and barely surviving. What I am trying to relay without getting too personal is that we pay our bills every month living in a modest house and a modest lifestyle but we do not have much at all left over for extra curricular activities or toys (boats, extra cars, 4-wheelers, etc.). Sure sometimes we have a couple hundred bucks extra at the end of the month but we never count on it and usually don’t know when it’s coming. The Lord honestly just takes care of us financially and I get amazed (even though at this point I shouldn’t) at how and what He uses to do it. That being said there is no way, in our current situation, we can/could afford the “extra” 30k needed to adopt BUT to the unknowing eye that sees these great vacation pictures, some may be scratching their heads wondering what gives?
As a travel agent one of the 1st things I learned in training was that the best way to build business was to become a group leader for my own travel group. A lot of people are very leery to travel alone, especially for the 1st time and especially a big trip like a cruise or tour outside the U.S., but if a preplanned group trip is offered it really makes the decision much easier to make. When the travel agent is leading the group themselves it adds even a deeper level of comfort and security. Then after these newer travelers get more comfortable they will usually start traveling more on their own, referring their friends and family to me, and still travel with the group because they enjoy it so much! As you see, it’s a great thing for me because I build my client base and get to travel myself. My goal with each group, for that trip itself, is to take enough people with me to pay for our (me and Linds) trip in commissions earned from that group….just trying to break even building for the future. So far so good! In addition to me being able to use commissions earned to pay for us there are also almost always group leader incentives available that the different resorts, tour companies, and cruise lines offer to anyone willing to take the group leader role on. I won’t get into specifics other than to say if you think you have what it takes to get together a really large group (20 or more) and like being a leader, call me and you may can travel for free too! So when you see those awesome Alaska pics from June and wonder why I’m smiling so big it’s because it didn’t cost me anything AND I have some new awesome clients.
Now for the perks, like with any sales type job there are always incentives for those who meet certain volume requirements and stay educated on their particular product. Today I will talk Sandals, an all-inclusive resort company because theirs is one of the best and I do well with their properties. To try to shorten this already long post let me say this: I do enough volume with Sandals each year to go for over two weeks for free if I had the time and air fare money. We have only been able to take advantage twice because of the latter. I wait until I have accrued enough AMEX reward points on my business card to pay for both of our airline tickets so the free trip is really free. The good news is the more my business grows the more both the free days add up and the reward points pile up so you may see us in the Caribbean more and more each year. Yes, Sandals charges me a $25/night service fee and I do have to drive to Atlanta and pay parking. I figured it up and our trip in April to Sandals Negril cost me less than $300 real money for a 6-night vacation….can’t even spend a weekend in good ole PCB for that. SOOOO now when you see us in an exotic setting with a fruity drink in hand with a big ole smile you know why.
We do not have tons of money like it may appear and we very much need help with funds for our adoption and I felt we may be sending mixed signals to those friends and fans who follow us on Facebook , blogs, or other means of communication. I know without a doubt that Jeremy Lee, not knowing the facts, would look at the Lees and say “Really? They are having fundraisers to adopt but this week they are in Jamaica and next week they are headed to Alaska!”
We have a long way to go and one thing I made Lindsey promise from the outset was that neither her nor myself would ask anyone for one dollar. I believe that if the Lord sees fit for us to adopt He will provide and He certainly has and I know He will going forward. Thanks to my dear friend, Alison Sanders, who acts more like my mother sometimes than a friend I have loosened up a little (OK a lot) about sharing a need and being willing to accept gifts from those that are led to do so. She told me at the very beginning “Jeremy Lee, I have just one thing to say to you. Don’t block the blessing!” I said yes ma’am and have been trying to put my pride away ever since. Thank you all so much for reading this and caring about our story.