Driving Disruption: Sahara Rose De Vore of The Travel Coach Network On The Innovative Approaches They Are Taking To Disrupt Their Industries

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Certifying Travel Coaches: The Travel Coach Network is the only organization that is certifying travel coaches around the globe through our first and only International Coach Federation certification program.

In an age where industries evolve at lightning speed, there exists a special breed of C-suite executives who are not just navigating the changes, but driving them. These are the pioneers who think outside the box, championing novel strategies that shatter the status quo and set new industry standards. Their approach fosters innovation, spurs growth, and leads to disruptive change that redefines their sectors. In this interview series, we are talking to disruptive C-suite executives to share their experiences, insights, and the secrets behind the innovative approaches they are taking to disrupt their industries. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Sahara Rose De Vore.

Sahara Rose De Vore is a Wellness Travel Coach and the Founder and CEO of The Travel Coach Network, a global community of travel coaches. Sahara went from broke college student to traveling to 84 countries solo to trailblazing a new path in the travel industry. She believes that there is more to a travel career than just blogging and booking trips and that the travel planning process is more than just a transaction. This led her to creating the world’s first and only ICF accredited certification program for travel coaches. Sahara is a published author, global speaker, TEDx speaker, and has been in over 200 media outlets for her travel and business expertise including Forbes, Travel Weekly, Conde Nast Traveler, and CNN Travel. Sahara was also named one of 2023’s Most Influential Women in Travel by TravelPulse and will be appearing on Season 8 of Project Pitch It.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about disruption, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

When I graduated with a degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management in 2010, I was underwhelmed by the lack of diverse career options in the travel industry that I had learned and heard about. I knew that I didn’t want to be a travel agent, work in hotels, be a flight attendant, book trips for people, or anything else that the industry said were my only options.

At that time in my life, I was also struggling with bouts of depression and anxiety and I knew that sitting in an office and having someone tell me when I could and couldn’t take a vacation wasn’t going to make me happy. That’s when I decided to take an unconventional route. I bought a one-way ticket to Ireland, packed a backpack, and set off on my very first solo trip.

My intention was to travel throughout Western Europe for a month and a half and then return home and do what I felt that I was supposed to do which was to find a good paying job, climb the corporate ladder, and settle down. I had fallen in love with what travel as doing for me and how it was making me feel that I continued my journey.

I spent the next 10 years traveling to 84 countries solo. During my decade-long journey, I gained a really unique perspective on the travel industry. I saw a rise in travel tech, social media, and digital nomadism. I was in the midst of trends like people quitting their 9–5 job to travel the world. It became almost like a tagline. I was having tens of thousands of conversations with other travelers on why they were traveling and what travel was doing for them on a deeper and more personal level. I learned what travel tools and destinations people liked, what they didn’t like, and what they wanted.

While being engulfed in the world of the traveler, I also was aware of the world of tourism marketing and how travel was talked about, planned, and booked. That’s when I realized that there was a disconnect between what was marketed and why people actually traveled.

While the travel industry said that if you have an interest in working in tourism “here is your list of career options”, I still felt that none of those suited the impact that I knew travel could have on people when done with intention and purpose. I believed that travel experts could use their knowledge, passion, and expertise in travel to make a bigger impact in the lives of others in a very specific way.

That’s when I founded The Travel Coach Network (TCN). It was born out of the fact that people understand the transformative and healing power of that travel can have on us and that travel can be used as a vessel for transformation, change, healing, personal development, professional growth, and other specific needs and desires. Travel coaching combines travel expertise with the act of coaching which brings intention, purpose, and meaning to travel experiences.

The TCN is paving the path for travel coaches around the globe through our world’s first and only International Coach Federation certification program and our online global community.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The Travel Coach Network is doing something that no one else in the industry is doing. We aren’t travel agents like all of the other traditional travel businesses out there who help people travel and instead, travel coaches focus on helping people set intentions for their trips and use travel as a source of reaching certain personal or professional goals. Unlike travel agents who solely focus on the itinerary planning and booking phases of a trip and aim to increase their commissions and sell expensive trips, travel coaches help people get to the root of why they want to travel so that they can make better travel decisions like where to go, what type of experiences they need to have, who to travel with, and how long to travel for. For example, we have travel coaches who help women gain clarity during a career or life transition or travel coaches who help go on a travel journey to help them cope with and heal from grief. The Travel Coach Network goes against the grain when it comes to travel marketing by touching on the emotional and personal aspect of travel. We are helping travel experts reprogram how travel is used, planned, booked, and marketed.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I believe that being a business owner isn’t for everyone. It’s not easy. A few character traits of mine that I think help me in creating the business and life that I have are being driven, being independent, and also being organized. I have always had a drive to live a life of fulfillment, happiness, and a sense of freedom. I have a vision for what I am creating and that keeps me motivated and driven to see it through. My go-getter attitude definitely helps because I seize opportunities when they come my way. As an only child, I have always been used to being on my own. That helped when it came to making the decision to go on my first solo trip. I didn’t feel the need to wait for someone else to agree to go with me. The same goes for business. Too many people wait for someone else to start a business with or for someone to give them the green light on an idea or proof by someone else doing it first. That’s not me. I am not afraid to take on a challenge myself, to go against the grain, and to do things on my own. Lastly, you need to be organized if you have a business (or find someone who can organize it for you) so thankfully I have always been a really organized person. My brain is always going a million miles a minute and I tend to juggle many things at once so if I wasn’t able to keep organized, my business would be hurt.

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader? I’m curious to understand how these challenges have shaped your leadership.

I give a lot of myself to the members in my business through the value that I provide them with. As a business leader, there’s a fine line between giving too much of yourself and giving just enough and having boundaries. This is something that I’ve had to face and learn over the years. It’s important for me to make my members feel understood, heard, acceptable, and acknowledged so I constantly give them personal attention when needed. This also goes for people who reach out to me and want to pick my brain or connect so that they can gain from my audience. It’s not easy putting up boundaries and letting me know that you just don’t hop on calls all day long (something that I did early on in my business) with no real purpose or benefit for the TCN behind it.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. In the context of a business, what exactly is “Disruption”?

The term “disruption” to me means companies that are completely changing the game in their field. For example, Uber completely disrupted and changed the game when it comes to the taxi industry and the same for Doordash with food delivery.

How do you perceive the role of ‘disruption’ within your industry, and how have you personally embraced it? Is it a necessity, a strategy, or something else entirely in your view?

The travel industry is highly saturated with companies, especially travel tech companies, talking about how they are innovating and disrupting a segment of the industry but in my opinion, they aren’t disrupting it enough. Why I say that is because many times they are doing what someone else already doing or their disruption still fails to go the depth on how personal and emotional the travel industry is. I believe that disruption is essential to the travel industry because it is an industry that has been set in its old ways for a really long time. The entire concept behind travel coaching and our vision for The Travel Coach Network embraces disruption in the travel industry.

What lessons have you learned from challenging conventional wisdom, and how have those lessons shaped your leadership style?

I am a heart-driven person and that’s how I build my business with the change that we strive to make in the travel industry. You should learn from your experiences and that is exactly what traveling the world solo did for me. I am a big believer in figuring things out on your own and having a mission that you truly believe in. These lessons have helped me stand out even more in the travel industry and to create a business that is truly disrupting.

Disruptive ideas often meet resistance. Could you describe a time when you faced significant pushback for a disruptive idea? How did you navigate the opposition, and what advice would you give to others in a similar situation?

Travel coaching is still a new concept in the travel industry so there is still quite a bit of pushback on the idea of it as a whole. This is also the case for integrating travel coaching into the travel agent industry. Most big travel agencies don’t see a difference or a need it for, for now. My attitude around this is just to keep on going. The travel industry is evolving in a direction of more purpose and meaning through topics like transformative travel, mindful travel, wellness travel, intentional travel, slow travel, sustainable travel, and more, which is shows the understanding and importance for a more emotional and personal approach. That is what travel coaching is all about. Therefore, change takes time and all you can do as an entrepreneur is stay consistent and keep on going.

What are your “Five Innovative Approaches We Are Using To Disrupt Our Industry”?

1 . Adding Emotion to Tourism Marketing

For centuries, the way that travel has been marketed has been the same. It’s the typical “book now” or “visit here” types of ads with white sandy beaches with palm trees, luxury shopping, water activities, hotel amenities, or exciting nightlife. When destinations share the same types of attributes, activities, and amenities, then what’s there to differentiate them? The traditional travel experience has always been at a surface level by focusing on interests like beaches, nightlife, shopping, activities, and dining. Why people travel has a lot more depth and meaning behind it so why isn’t the marketing touching on this emotional side of travel? Why is someone drawn to relaxing on a beach and what can the beach do for them mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or physically? Why is someone drawn to immersing into local culture and what can that experience do for them socially or intellectually? The Travel Coach Network and its travel coaches lead with the emotional appeal to travel to inspire, educate, and help travelers have travel experiences that truly transform or make an impact on them.

2 . Adding Coaching to the Planning and Booking Phase

The Travel Coach Network embodies adding coaching to the planning and booking phases of a traveler’s journey. We do that by teaching our travel coaches how to incorporate the foundation of coaching into helping people have more meaningful travel experiences by doing things like asking powerful and effective questions, tapping into their own story around travel, leading with the emotional appeal to travel, and sculpting niches that are unique to them, to name a few. When you can get to the root of why someone wants to travel and help them become aware of what they are truly looking for out of an overall travel experience, then they can make better travel planning and booking decisions.

3 . Certifying Travel Coaches

The Travel Coach Network is the only organization that is certifying travel coaches around the globe through our first and only International Coach Federation certification program.

4 . Experiences First, Then the Destination

Instead of promoting a destination based off of its beautiful beaches, outdoor activities, five-star restaurants, fancy hotels, museums, nightlife, or excursions, what if the overall experience that a person can have from a trip was forward-facing in tourism marketing? That is what we do in travel coaching. We believe that the transformation, feeling, healing, outcomes, and change that travel can bring to our life, relationships, self-development, professional growth, and wellbeing is what “sells” travel more than a cookie-cutter travel ad. Once an experience that the traveler is looking for is recognized then the destination that aligns with and satisfies it should be suggested.

5 . More than Just Blogging or Booking Trips

The initial reason for becoming a travel coach myself and then founding The Travel Coach Network is because I always believed that there was more to a travel career than just blogging about travel or booking trips as a travel agent or travel manager, Of course there are other travel and hospitality related careers out there but they have been the same ones for centuries. With travel ever-evolving, I believed that there had to be a way that passionate travelers could use their travel expertise, interest, knowledge, and love for travel to make an even bigger and more meaningful impact on the lives of others. This is exactly what travel coaching represents.

Looking back at your career, in what ways has being disruptive defined or redefined your path? What surprises have you encountered along the way?

What I am building with The Travel Coach Network has disruption at its roots. It’s what we are based on. Our overall mission is to reshape how travel is talked about, planned, booked, and marketed as a whole. What has surprised me the most is actually the amount of people in the industry who just get it. When they hear what travel coaching is all about, they understand the need for it. It always surprised me just how many travel experts out there who were looking for the concept of travel coaching to come along and are happy that The Travel Coach Network is paving this path.

Beyond professional accomplishments, how has embracing disruption affected you on a personal level?

On a personal level, embracing disruption gives me a sense of fulfillment because I am doing something that is making a difference in an industry that I fell in love with over a decade ago. My solo travel journey around the world was something that I did to help me find my purpose and happiness in life. I didn’t think that it would lead me to creating something that causes disruption. I’ve always been someone who wanted to stand out among the crowd and go my own path so it’s not a surprise that I’m embracing disruption professionally as well.

In your role as a C-suite leader, driving innovation and embracing disruption, what thoughts or concerns keep you awake at night? How do these reflections guide your decisions and leadership?

I am always thinking of ways to scale and be bigger so I am constantly trying to figure out how to grow my team, what tasks I can delegate, and how The Travel Coach Network can make an even bigger splash in the travel industry. These thoughts reflect in my actions of growing my team, working with mentors, and taking action on creating our new products.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

A part of my mission is to grow a movement in my Thrive Through Travel Initiative. This movement is about the acknowledgment that travel has a powerful impact to improve the mind, body, soul, and work-life. My goal for this movement is to inspire people to share how travel has impacted their lives and why they turn to travel for their own unique reasons as well as encourage companies to take travel off of the back burner and move it to the forefront for thriving in wellness and in the workplace

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Website: https://thetravelcoachnetwork.com/

website: https://sahararosetravels.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sahararosethetravelcoach/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thetravelcoachnetwork/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sahara-rose-de-vore-4b8bb394/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SaharaRoseTheTravelCoach/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theTravelCoachNetwork/

Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@sahararosethetravelcoach

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@thetravelcoachnetwork

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.