So much of our joy in life stems from who we spend our time with. I was reminded of this on a personal and professional level yesterday. A one-day jaunt down to Silicon Valley unveiled a deeper fondness for my roots (a Syracuse University grad from upstate New York!) and my current status (an elite travel planner/hotel matchmaker based in the Bay Area!).
I’ve spent much of the past eight months getting grounded and used to my new home base in Marin, CA just north of San Francisco. I love it here. However, I have been challenged to accept invites that require driving to areas I’m unfamiliar with, especially after dark. It was a no brainer though when an invite came from my alma mater to attend an event headlined by football legend Donovan McNabb. My dad — who grew up in Syracuse and met my mom on a blind date her freshman year there — was a HUGE fan of SU football especially McNabb, so of course, I had to go. I packed up the pups and booked a room at Rosewood Sand Hill, a fantastic property and close to the SU event venue.
I was EXCITED, instead of nervous about leaving my comfort zone for a change. This post-pandemic return to socializing, especially on day 705 of not drinking booze, hasn’t been the easiest. We all got a bit used to staying home and watching movies and playing with our dogs and zoom’ing, but it’s time to level up. Meeting new people allows us to reset who we want to hang out with and gives us permission to do life differently.
I walked out of that event last night feeling motivated and inspired to stay connected to my university, not just because our football team is 6–0 this year (!) but because my first job which led to my entire career started there.
One of the speakers mentioned that “we all have that one person who gave us the motivation we needed or helped us with a connection that led us down our current path.”
And, true dat! My favorite Newhouse school professor, John Keats, not only guided me to shift my major to MAGAZINE journalism instead of tv or newspaper, but he threw me a copy of Caribbean Travel & Life magazine during our “what are you doing after graduation?” chat. He told me that a former student of his worked there, and since I was moving down to DC to “wait tables and see how things went before moving to NYC for a publishing job”, I should give her a call.
A few months later, I made the call and I got the job. All I had to do was mention to the fellow alum that my SU professor had given me her name/number, and I was hired as an editorial intern, for $5/hour, starting the next day. I’ve never questioned why my career path has looked the way it does, filled with plot twists and moves across the country and travels around the world.
New beginnings, closing chapters, all part of the bigger picture that reminds me of my SU-connected starter story and how it led to my current status as a Spiritual CEO/travelpreneur. I don’t have a business degree from the Maxwell School at SU but my Newhouse journalism degree got me the job that sparked my interest in sharing what I learned out there in the world while traveling. And now, I do the same…but in a different format. I sell life-changing travel experiences to a curated portfolio of fascinating people.
Staying at a luxurious, beautiful hotel like Rosewood Sand Hill, surrounded by other travelers, businesspeople, meeting attendees, employees and managers (including the GM, pictured, who I met years ago in Vancouver when I needed his help taking care of a high-profile client), is something I never take for granted. We didn’t stay in fancy hotels when I was growing up. And I had no idea it would turn out this way, but as a travel journalist-turned-CEO it’s now something that’s part of my chosen career path.
Believing that I am 100% where I am supposed to be, and calling on my own spiritual guidance and intuition, is how I know that starting my career straight out of Syracuse and being where I am right now is aligned.
And that’s what it’s all truly about, feeling aligned and loving what it is…even if you end up on a path you never saw coming.
xo Stacy Hope Small