This month I decided to do something a little different for an interview piece. In the past I have interviewed expats, mainly those studying or doing part-time work abroad, this month I wanted to interview someone who doesn’t permanently live abroad, but travels frequently for work. I met Kelsey when I traveled to Boston in March for the Women in Travel Summit. We hit it off on Facebook and Kelsey showed me around her city. Kelsey has a career based in Boston for a travel company that gives her several opportunities to travel (I know, dream job, right?!). Read what she shared about her job, what she does, and must-do things in Stockholm, Sweden, where she has been living for this summer on a work trip.
Where do you work?
I work for a European destination management company called Tumlare. It is a global company that has sales offices all over the world that focus on selling specialized programs into Europe. Within Europe, my company has over 20 offices located in 18 different countries. We focus on the design and operational implementation of programs since we have extensive local knowledge, expertise and resources available to us. We have a wide range of specialties and divisions including a performance tours, educational MBA programs and exchanges, MICE (Meetings, Incentive, Conventions and Expo), cruise shore excursions, and high end VIP groups. Groups love working with destination management companies like Tumlare because we have the local knowledge that many other suppliers don’t.
What is your position there?
My official title is Sales and Operations Coordinator. I work in a sales office in Boston for Tumlare. On a daily basis, I interact with my clients and develop new programs with them. It can be anything from developing a new shore excursion idea with a cruise line to creating a Game of Thrones set tour with fans of the television show. It is never the same each day, which is nice. I love that my job is in the travel industry so I am constantly learning new and exciting things about destinations in Europe. I also work very closely with all of my colleagues based in Europe who help execute these programs once we design and sell them to our clients.
Why are you living in Sweden this summer?
My area of expertise within Europe is Scandinavia. I would say 80% of my business focuses on travels within Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The best way to be to help my clients is to be able to speak from experience. Since most of my business is based here, it is in my best interest to know as much as I can about these destinations. Also, while I am in Stockholm, I am learning more about the operations side of the business. Such as what happens once the program is sold and booking the program logistics comes into play. It is a completely different world than sales, so it is very eye opening to see the whole process of creating and selling the program in the sales world to see it play out.
Where in Stockholm are you living?
I am living in Södermalm. It is such a great artsy neighborhood filled with outdoor cafes, Swedish design shops, farmers markets and a bustling nightlife. It is great since it is just a bit outside of downtown so a lot of locals live in this area. There is always something to do which is nice and there is very easy access to downtown Stockholm. Everyone who lives here are very laid back and extremely friendly. The best part is that Söder, as the locals affectionately refer to it as, which offers the most stunning views of the city of Stockholm and its sunsets.
What is a day-in-the-life look like for you while working in Sweden?
It really all depends. Some days I am in the office answering emails (so boring) but then other days completely make up for it. Many vendors here love having people from sales offices visit so they can try out their new products and recommend them to their clients. There are days that I am out looking at new hotels and restaurants that could work with my American clients and other days where I am visiting museums. I try and get out and experience as much as possible in the city as you never know what a client will ask and there is always a niche market for everything!
Another big aspect is how to pair Stockholm with other cities/countries in the surrounding area. It is not common that someone will fly over from the USA just to visit one country. I was recently in Norway doing an inspection that focused on activities in the fjords. So I got to go bike riding in the Flaam valley then take a rib boat out and explore the lands that inspired the Disney movie Frozen! It was truly life changing.
How often do you get to travel for work?
It really all depends. We aim for at least 2 to 3 trips to Europe per year and even more often we travel within the USA to see clients face-to-face as that is always more productive than emailing. It can also depend on the needs of your clients as well. Many times, if it is a big project you have been working on for a long time, the client will ask you to be present for it. This is my first extended trip within Europe for work and I am here for 10 weeks. There are always informational conferences that are put on by the various counties tourism boards that we attend as well. In our office, whenever anyone travels to a destination, they give a presentation and pass along everything that they learned to the rest of the staff so it is really a collaborative effort.
If I only had 1 week or shorter to spend in Stockholm, what would you suggest I do?
Well in total, I have spent about 6 weeks in Stockholm and I still feel like I haven’t seen it all! When visiting Stockholm I would say you would need at least three full days. Two absolute musts when visiting the city are touring the iconic Vasa Museum and walking around Gamla Stand (Old Town). I am not big into museums but this one is fascinating. It memorializes a 17th century war ship that was too top heavy and didn’t even make it out of the bay before immediately sinking in Stockholm’s harbor. It quickly became covered in mud when it sank and that served as a preserving item until it was rediscovered in the harbor in the 1950’s. The museum is the most visited attraction in all of Sweden so get there early to avoid the lines. Gamla Stan is the historical old town in Stockholm with its cobblestone streets and large market squares. It has been fairly well preserved since the 13th century!
Since Stockholm is a city designed on 14 different islands, getting out on the water to see the city gives you a different appreciation of its beauty. They have all sorts of canal tours varying in length from 30 minutes to 3 hours that give you a tour around the city from its waterways. Stockholmers love being outside all summer especially since the sun sets at 10:30pm and then rises again at 3:15am. So there are plenty of daylight hours for activities. My favorite place to watch the sunset is in Södermalm on Slussen. It provides the most stunning 180 view of the sun setting behind the picturesque City Hall and Gamla Stan. A popular thing to do here is to pack a picnic and head to one of the many parks overlooking the water and watch the sun set! I highly recommend doing this on a visit here!
Finally, Stockholm is a city of many extremes. It is a very old city yet extremely modern when it comes to technology and social practices. The city is a bustling capital metropolis yet if you travel just 20 minutes outside the city to the archipelago you will feel like you are in a completely different world. It is an outdoor lovers paradise with forests, hiking, camping and all of the nature you could ever wish for. There is a crazy statistic that says there is 1 boat for every 3 residents of Stockholm! Many will head out to the archipelago for the weekends on their boats to enjoy nature. I love hopping on a quick ferry and ending up in Vaxholm or Sandhamn. It’s a great way to distress and enjoy being in nature yet still be so close to the city. A perfect combination!