GoAbroad Interview

Emily Meehan - Sales Director

Emily Meehan

Emily graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a degree in anthropology and history and a minor in underwater archaeology, and she is currently pursuing a master's in international sustainable tourism at the University of North Texas and CATIE in Costa Rica. She is an avid diver and loves being in the water, which makes her even more passionate about Las Olas Travel.

How did you get connected with Las Olas Travel?

I was fortunate enough to meet Rachel Wilson, the CEO, and co-founder of Las Olas Travel, in September of 2016. Rachel and I had both enrolled in the Masters of International Sustainable Tourism program at the University of North Texas. Once Rachel told me a little about the organization I knew it would be a great fit for me.

Visiting the Grand Canyon
Me at the Grand Canyon during my time as a tour guide

What attracted you to the sustainable travel industry?

I kind of stumbled upon the sustainable travel industry during what I like to call, “my quarter life crisis.” I graduated with my undergraduate degrees in anthropology and history, with a minor in underwater archeology; I choose these degrees for the very specific reason of wanting to pursue my masters in underwater archaeology once I had completed my undergraduate.

During the winter break of my senior year, I decided to try my hand at underwater archaeology and enrolled in a field school. Bags packed and heart full of excitement for the start of my new adult life, I headed down to Bermuda to begin what I was sure was going to be an illustrious career that culminated in my finding of the lost city of Atlantis. Fate had other plans, however, and shortly after arriving I came to the stark realization that I actually HATED doing underwater archeology, and was not very good at it either.

Volunteer feeding baby lambs in New Zealand
Feeding baby lambs while in New Zealand

Upon returning home, I was completely lost, and it was too late to change my degree. I only had one semester left, so I was about to be thrown into the real world with NO PLAN! I was able to do a little soul-searching and came to the conclusion that all I really knew about what I wanted to do was that I LOVED to travel and wanted to make a positive impact on the world around me. So, I started scouring the internet for jobs that would pay me to travel and I was able to find just that. I was quickly hired as a tour guide for North America by a sustainable tourism company. I then spent two absolutely amazing and life changing seasons working for that company. From that point onward, I knew I had found my place in the sustainable travel industry.

From studying anthropology and history to pursuing a master’s in international sustainable tourism, how does your academic background help you in your current role?

I was admittedly a bit bitter about “wasting” my undergraduate studies on degrees I never thought I would utilize, but as time went on I grew to understand how much of a blessing my history and anthro degrees were. Anthropology taught me a new way to think about things and gave me a deeper understanding of people's base motivations, while history taught the important lesson of learning from one's mistakes. As the saying goes, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

What does a typical day of work look like for you?

One of the things I love most about working with Las Olas is that my days rarely are the same. Because we are a smaller start up, my duties have a wide range; I may be making calls to prospective clients and partners one day, but the next I’ll be creating a new marketing plan for one of our trips or attempting to target a new demographic of people that would be great for our program. The only real consistency would be my interactions with people. Our company is very hands on and that allows me to really create relationships with not only our clients, but our staff and vendors as well.

Scuba Diver in the Great Barrier Reef
Making new friends while diving the Great Barrier Reef

Since you are the sales director for Las Olas Travel, tell us what you think the most “sellable” feature Las Olas Travel programs is?

Our organization is unique because we offer sustainable vacations that not only rejuvenate a person’s body, but also their soul. We aim to provide programs that are especially aligned with and respect local lifestyles, stimulate the local economy, and promote environmental education and conservation.

Our volunteers not only get to enjoy a thrilling vacation, but are able to simultaneously make a positive impact on the world around them.

Our company was built on the desire and passion to make a difference in the world around us, so that core belief goes into everything we do, and I think people can really feel that. My job is made easier because what we’re selling in not a gimmick, because it will last long after your tan has subsided. We’re selling the opportunity to make a positive impact on the world around you, and gaining a deeper understanding of what it truly means to be a part of a global community.  

Tourist with cultural performers in Mexico
Had the chance to meet some really great cultural performers while in México

Do you have any insider tips for prospective participants?

My advice for prospective participants would be to just do it! It can be scary embarking on a new journey, but very few people ever regret doing it, and with Las Olas, we really are your personal cheerleaders. We will help participants in every possible way to ensure they have the chance to join our wave of change.

Why do you believe in the Las Olas Travel mission?

I wholeheartedly believe in our mission because it permeates everything we do and who we are as individuals.

What do you love about working for Las Olas Travel?

I love that I get to have such a positive impact on people’s lives, whether it be through our volunteer work abroad or just getting the opportunity to enrich someone’s life through travel and volunteer work.