A few years ago, a couple from the U.S. contacted me for some information regarding their vacation plans in Italy. They were traveling with three other couples and wanted to navigate on their own, without a tour or set itinerary. However, they did want to verify that the plans they’d laid out were workable and would pay me to spend an hour to look over their itinerary and consult with them.
I read through their proposed plan and gasped out loud. They’d organized for one of their days to arrive in Venice—send their luggage on ahead to their hotel—and then take the train to Milan for some sightseeing, then on to Florence for more sightseeing, and arrive later that evening in Rome, where their luggage would be waiting.
Whatever I was going to charge them to re-do, re-align, and re-think their plans would be a tenth of the cost and exasperation they would otherwise incur. That much I knew for sure.
I had lived in Florence, Italy for about five years at this point and had created a tour business. My scheduled tour days were pre-planned, handpicked experiences that left little to chance (think train strikes). This request tickled my mind in a new way.
Travelers spend precious money and vacation time to visit other countries, and can’t help but bring the preconceived concepts of their own country with them as they carve out travel itineraries. For someone from the western part of the U.S., the distances between Venice, Milan, Florence, and Rome may look doable in a day. But as someone who lives in Italy, I know they are not.
After this request for assistance, I added an additional service to my business. I now write custom itineraries for travelers throughout Italy. I charge by the hour and can offer as much or as little assistance as each client needs.
Some clients desire advice on only what is essential to see in a particular city or town and how much time to spend there; they want transportation options or guide suggestions. Others have me book every detail of their trip—from airfare to dinner reservations, hotel rooms, tours and drivers, and everything in between.
Regardless of where you live, whether abroad or in the U.S., you have skills and expertise that a traveler would find valuable. There is a plethora of avenues in which you could organically start to share your knowledge and, ultimately, expand into a business opportunity.
Much like my week-long and day-long tours of Florence, my customers find me by referral or after having read my book or articles. There is a level of trust that is established early in our communication and I sense they know I genuinely desire to create their perfect Italian experience.
Like most elements of my life in Italy, the serendipity of discovering a business and new aspects of that business surprise and delight me.
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