By Kristy Tolley
After raising her two children and managing a busy family life, Vicki Balk decided it was time to pursue a career change. “I thought about what I’d really like to do and found my dream job,” says the AAA Travel Agent in Raleigh, North Carolina. “I’ve been a travel agent for three-and-a-half years — all with AAA!”
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
I really enjoy meeting people and ﬁnding out where they want to travel. I also lo hearing about where they’ve been. There are so many stories! It’s especially nice talking with people when they return from their trips, too. Their experience is fresh in the minds, and they get to recall their journey.
WHAT TYPES OF TRIPS DO YOU BOOK THE MOST?
River and ocean cruises are very popular. I also book a lot of Alaska, Ireland an d European tours.
WHAT’S THE MOST MEMORABLE VACATION YOU’VE EVER HAD?
I loved Banﬀ. The scenery was stunning. Probably my most memorable vacation, though, was my trip to Morocco last year. The riads (guesthouses), the Sahara Desert, Atlas Mountains, a camel ride and the medinas (walled cities) — it was all so diﬀerent! Traveling is so valuable for experiencing other cultures and appreciating how they live, what they wear, where they shop and what they eat. Now when I travel, I also pay more attention to what my clients will experience. I notice the airports, transfer options, ﬁnding ports if they’re going early and the quality of hotels. As a travel agent I pay more attention to those details than I did before. It really helps me provide my clients a better experience.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU’VE FACED AS A TRAVEL AGENT?
It’s gotten a lot easier, but initially I wasn’t familiar with our various products and suppliers and how they diﬀer. Because I wanted to give my clients their best trip I had some anxiety. Now I know what AAA has to oﬀer! I ask my clients more questions about their travel style, expectations and must-sees. We often get emails from suppliers about new oﬀers or options, so I truly do learn something new every day!
WHEN YOU AREN’T AT WORK, WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO?
I enjoy hiking, yoga and (of course) traveling!
WHERE’S YOUR NEXT TRIP?
My next trip is to Petra, Jordan with Club Adventures. It’s a short trip prior to a long itinerary in Egypt with Insight Vacations. We’ll spend a few days exploring the wonders of the structures carved out of stone. It’s incredible to me that it was only just discovered in the 1800s by a Swiss hiker, yet built over 2,700 years ago! The Nabateans built Petra as the capital and were quite sophisticated. They even had radiant heated ﬂoors and thermal b carved on top of some of the rocks. In Egypt I look forward to seeing the pyramids and the Sphinx, as well as the new Egyptian Museum. I’ll also cruise the Nile. I’m excited to b to see more temples along the banks, as well as watch the ﬁshermen.