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"I'm passionate about helping everyone travel."
Michelle Rawls loves to travel, but she didn't realize just how much travel advisors do to make the trips we take so enjoyable and memorable. She found out when she enrolled in Wake Tech's Path to Becoming a Travel Advisor program, where she says she built a solid foundation for future learning.
Shortly after earning her certificate in May, Rawls went to work with Road to Relaxation Travel. She says she was thankful for what she'd learned at Wake Tech, which served as a springboard to further education and specialization.
Rawls was especially interested in helping families with neurodiverse needs, as her oldest son has autism and is intellectually disabled. She took the Certified Autism Travel Professional course offered by IBCCES (International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards) University, which provides training and certification for educators, therapists and others working with people with cognitive disorders.
"Helping this group of people holds a special place in my heart," she says.
Rawls also wants to serve caregivers, helping them find travel opportunities that will offer a much-needed break and help them return to their families rejuvenated.
Since starting her job just six months ago, she has created travel packages for a family reunion and two family cruises – one for first-time cruisers. She's currently at work on an itinerary for a client who plans to sail the Hawaiian Islands on Pride of America. "I'm passionate about helping everyone travel," she says, "because it opens so many doors to learning."
The world of travel and travel advising has opened other doors for her, too. She's had opportunities to learn about Africa and about "a different side of social media." She's met local colleagues and joined the local chapter of ASTA, the American Society of Travel Advisors, the largest travel advisor group in the world. She says it's been extremely beneficial, and she loves being part of a helpful team that wants everyone to succeed. Rawls has also started a coffee meetup for parents of special needs children to keep abreast of local resources and services and to build community. And, she says, she's looking for other ways to volunteer.
Rawls' advice to others is to do a lot of listening and reading about what interests you and become involved with groups that can help you continue to learn new things. Most of all, she says, "Enjoy what you're learning and know that it is just the beginning."
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