Career Check-in with Laura Molnar

Laura Molnar | Senior Manager of Brand Marketing, Travelocity in Dallas, Texas

What does your typical workday look like?

My day is filled with diverse activities, from conducting customer research, planning marketing campaigns with cross-functional partners, and working on marketing strategies in support of new product launches.

What have you enjoyed most about working at Expedia Group?

Balance! We work hard but also ensure that we live balanced lives. By encouraging balance, Travelocity employees are fulfilled and able to contribute even more to their jobs.

What makes your team unique?

I love my team! We have so much fun at work. Every day is filled with laughter. At Travelocity, we bring our full self to work. We celebrate our differences because we know that diversity of opinion makes us better. We genuinely care that each and every person is successful in their business and personal lives.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

At times we have to come up with unique and cost-effective ways to solve problems. Customer research can come with a hefty price tag when you are working with outside vendors. In an effort to spend time more efficiently, I took all of our research in-house. Due to the savings in time and spend, several other brands in the portfolio adopted our approach. It was exciting to see Travelocity spearhead the way!

Who has influenced you the most?

It’s almost impossible to answer this question because I’m continually learning from those around me. I’d have to say, from a work standpoint, it’s probably my team – we are close-knit and work seamlessly together. We’re all passionate about our brand and our roles, and it’s great to be around that kind of energy and enthusiasm every day!

How and where do you find inspiration?

To inspire creativity and new ideas in my job, I make sure I read as much as I can. From marketing publications, brand marketing books, and the Wall Street Journal, I try to learn as much as I can from other brands in the marketplace.

How did you learn to embrace failure?

I am always learning to embrace failure. A book that has been influential in accepting failure is Failing Forward. You can’t learn and grow if you fear failing.

What is your favorite piece of career advice?

Be here now. This phrase is two-fold. First, when you are at work and in meetings, it is important not to multi-task. Keep focused on the current task at hand. Phones and computers can be distracting, as we do everything on them. Even though it is not as easy for me, I choose to take notes in a book rather than on my computer so that people know that I am there with them and clued into the discussion.

The second part of the phrase is more long-term. Work is not always perfect and at times, we wonder why we are where we are. The important thing to remember is that every step encompasses learning that will benefit you in the future. So, when a day gets monotonous, just remember that there is a reason and soak up as much learning as you can.

Tell us about your favorite vacation?

I took my mom to Turkey for her 70th birthday. We rented a car and drove over 2k miles throughout the country. One of her bucket list items was to take a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia. It was the most fantastic experience, as hundreds of hot air balloons rose in unison with the sun across the landscape.

What is your favorite weekend getaway?

I am originally from Laguna Beach, CA. So, anytime I can go home to visit my family, I will. When I am home I hike, eat my weight in sushi, surf, run on the beach, and enjoy watching the sunset over the ocean.

Interviewing – Top 6 Tips for Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Laura Wilson | Recruiter, Egencia in Bellevue, Washington

The old saying of “throw your name in the hat” is just not going to cut it in today’s job market. Especially if you are seeking to work for an industry leader and/or highly sought-after company. The competition for job seekers is tough so you need to do what you can to stand out among the crowd.

Being a Recruiter for Egencia, when it comes to job searching, you name it and I have seen it. I have directly seen what works and what doesn’t. Below are some tips, and although they will not guarantee you a job offer, it will get you going in the right direction and help to best prepare you for when that right opportunity presents itself and ensure you are not overlooked.

Tip 1 – Tailor your resume

Don’t assume that Recruiters and/or Hiring Managers will just “know” that you have the experience. If a job description is asking for specific skills and experience, then make sure that is clearly spelled out in your resume.

Take some time to research the company, their culture, and what they value. Give insights on your resume on how you will not only be a great skills match but overall a great fit for the company as well. If you are doing it right, your resumes will probably be slightly different for every job and every company that you apply for.

Tip 2 – Be responsive and meticulous in your communications

If you are in the job market, get in the habit of checking your email multiple times a day and start answering your phone. If you receive any communication with the company, you should follow up in no more than 24 hours (although within 1-3 hours is preferable). This will show the company that you are serious and excited about the position and will also ensure you do not miss out on an opportunity because of timing (sometimes things can move fast!).

You also want to make sure your communications are professional. Ensure there are no spelling errors, avoid slang language, avoid over punctuation (!!!!!), do not use shorthand or aberrations, and lastly, always use a salutation (Hi, Hello, Greetings…) and a complimentary close (Thanks, All the best, Cheers…).

Tip 3 – Know what you want/need to make a move

Before you even start your job search you should sit down and make a list of all your must-haves to even consider making a move. Make sure you communicate these needs and wants so you can have an open dialog with the company about if these needs and wants can be met. This will keep you efficient in your job search and ensure you are investing time in the right opportunities and not just interviewing to interview.

Think about this as if you were buying shoes and you find two pairs of shoes you like. Pair A lists the size and price and is an exact match for your size and budget. Pair B gives you no information. Even though you may like pair B better, you are probably more likely to go with pair A given there are no uncertainties.

Tip 4 – Ask insightful questions

At some point in your interview, someone is going to ask, “Do you have any Questions for me?” While this is a time for you to learn more about the company and position so you can make an informed decision, this is still part of your interview and you are still being judged as a candidate. Come prepared with insightful questions that show you have done research on the company, industry, and overall showcase your business acumen.

Tip 5 – Send “Thank You” follow-ups

The “Thank You” card is still very much alive! It may be a little different from the days when you could send a hand-written card via snail mail but the “Thank You” follow up is still a critical part of the interview process.

  • Include a personal touch which should be something that you and the interviewer related to on a personal level. People want to work with other people they can relate to and this will just remind them that you are that person.
  • Share some ideas or thoughts you have about getting into the role. This will show initiative that you are already picturing yourself in the role and shed some light on what to expect if you were hired.
  • Share some specifics on why you are interested in the role by recalling some points in your conversation that really got you excited for the opportunity.

A smart, thoughtful “Thank You” note is an extension of your interview and will keep you top of mind with the hiring team.

Tip 6 – Practice! Practice! Practice!

Interviewing is a skill and you want to make sure you brush up on those skills before it matters. Find someone that you feel comfortable with and take the time to sit down with them and have them ask you questions. You can look up common interview questions or even create a list of questions on your own that you anticipate being asked. Having someone else ask these questions will give you the practice of saying your answers out loud and telling a story. It will also encourage dialog with your responses which is more typical of an interview situation then just answering questions and moving on to the next.

Although you will probably not get asked the exact questions you practiced, you will at least be in the right mindset and will have already talked through similar responses, so you will feel more relaxed and will come off more confident during your interview.

Overall, go into the interview and be genuine to yourself and your experience.

No one knows you better than you. Don’t go into an interview looking to say what you think the interviewer wants you to say. If you prepare and set yourself up for success as well as being true to yourself, you will find that right opportunity with the right company!

Following these tips will take more time but if you do follow them and stay honest and true to yourself, trust me…it will be worth it when you see a higher rate of responses to your applications and start having more successful interviews!

Your Journey Begins Here

To Jump the Fence

Sarah Ray | Market Manager, Expedia Group in Queenstown

Feeling bored with the same old routine, unchallenged, unmotivated and tired of expectations being met but not exceeded, I knew I needed a change in career. Having worked in hotels for 15+ years it was all I knew. I had lived and breathed hotel life for my entire career, but at 31, there was still plenty of time for a change.

Photo from a General Managers dinner hosted by Expedia at The Rees Hotel and Apartments.

I live in Queenstown and as a Revenue Manager of a hotel chain, I had always had a strong relationship with my local Expedia Market Manager. The opportunity arose to ‘jump the fence’ and move into Online Travel Agency (OTA) life. Unsure at the time of what this really meant I accepted the challenge and jumped. Everything that I had begun to dislike about my old position was replaced with positive, fast-paced transparent global movements, that constantly strive for better.

I work in a remote office, and 1.5 years in, I can honestly say that the #expedialife is not for everyone. You need to be ready to take charge, keep up and adapt to the constant change. If you’re bored, like I was working for a company that was ok with average, then joining Expedia Group is just what you need. From the day to day that is never the same, partners that offer continuous diversity from personalities through to business challenges.

Colleges that seem to be constantly charged with this buzz for achievement, improvement, and sharing to create and mold one team that grows together.

A company who is so transparent that it makes you feel included and important in achieving the results and goals outlined. The direction of the company communicated in such a way that you know your place, what you can do and how we are going to get there.

And in the center of it all technology that is at the forefront, continuously being improved and developed to ensure internally and externally we are the leader in online travel technology.

So, I guess some would say now I am an Expedian. If that means someone who loves their job and loves who they work for, then I will hold my hand high and confirm. I love having the trust of an employer that lets me manage my market in my own way, who gives me the room to be myself – while providing me with the tools to be my best self. I am grateful every day for the new career – and I know I am only just starting.

In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.

Bhala Dalvi | VP of Technology, Expedia Group in Bellevue, Washington

As I was reflecting on my affinity to chaos, I was reminded of this quote.  It’s been around a while – Sun Tzu wrote it in his military treatise, The Art of War, between 771 and 476 BC.

While I’m not into the whole war thing, I do agree with Sun Tzu on this point.

We all experience chaos at least occasionally in our day-to-day lives. Many of us experience it daily. Most people don’t love it and often struggle with chaos when it shows up.

Let’s face it, we live in a chaotic world.  I realized this early on when, as a teenager, I worked on my family’s farm.  It was a microcosm of life on earth, chaos and all. There was always something going on with the farm and as I got older, I saw opportunities everywhere for automation.  I instinctively knew that automation would help reduce the chaos.  I loved finding ways to automate because it compensated for the heavy work and allowed me to focus on nurturing the plants for our customers.

Because of this upbringing, I grew up unafraid of chaos.  Being comfortable with, even preferring chaos, is at the core of who I am.

Fast forward a few years.  I’ve been a steelmaker, a software developer and, now, I am a technology leader.  Chaos has followed me along the way which has enabled me to learn how to work with it, how to eke out its gifts.

It would be nice if leading a family, a team or a company was predictable, slow-paced and packed with easy decisions, but it’s not.  Many people struggle when things are in disarray – so to be a good leader, I’ve learned that I must lead through chaos.  I hope to share with you some ideas that can help you better cope with or lead when things are in turmoil.

In times of uncertainty, we may be tempted to create structure and order, because it feels safe and predictable.  It will help our teams be less stressed, calmer and more productive, right?  Well, it’s also at these times that companies need to spur innovation.  Innovation is all about disruption, change, the new.  Innovation needs some chaos.  Operationalizing it isn’t going to help us innovate and, I’d argue, isn’t what our people really need.

Embrace it.

I think back to my time on the farm.  If we didn’t work every day, the farm would instantly start deteriorating. The land wanted to go back to its natural state, rather than maintain the structures we put in place.  Our planet is always innovating.

Just like the Earth, every growing organization experiences chaos. Anytime we’re doing or experiencing something new – rolling out a new vision, inventing something, transitioning leaders – there will be chaotic moments.  We outgrow systems, processes, and even people, which can cause chaotic moments.  It’s natural. Embrace it.

Chill out.

This may sound counter-intuitive but just because a situation is chaotic doesn’t mean you need to be chaotic.  In fact, leaders must demonstrate through our own behaviors that chaos is not the enemy.  Don’t panic when chaos rears its scary head.  Focus on the root of the chaos, not the fruit.

It’s easy to overreact when faced with what seems like utter confusion. And we can spend a lot of time and energy trying to address the “fruit.” Or we can let the “fruit” reveal the root cause of the chaos so that we can address it and lead our organizations into a new season of growth and prosperity.

Slow down.

Chaos is uncomfortable for many people and when something is uncomfortable, we tend to want to avoid it or get through it as fast as possible.  If leaders aren’t careful they can make hasty decisions that jeopardize the long-term health of the organization.

One of the things that makes this hard is the pace of change in business.  Change frequently causes chaos and, as they say, change is the only constant.  So how do we slow down in this environment?

The way I do it is by giving myself time to deal with issues as they come up.  Think of a doctor’s office and how they reserve time each day for patients who need same-day attention.  If I don’t need the time I’ve reserved to embrace some chaos, I can repurpose it for strategic or other work.

The point is: we need to give ourselves enough time to make sure we don’t make knee-jerk reactions that could ultimately harm the business.

So, if you want to find the opportunity in chaos:

  • Embrace it. Remember there’s opportunity in it.
  • Chill out. Don’t let organizational chaos push you into chaos yourself.
  • Slow down. Take your time to avoid knee-jerk decisions.

If we do these three things, chaos will become less of a challenge and more of an opportunity.

Career Check-In with Bruce Horner

Bruce Horner | Director of Marketing, Travelocity in Dallas, Texas

What does your typical workday look like?

One of the reasons I love my job is there is no ‘typical’. I am fortunate that I am involved in a range of projects and initiatives with a variety of teams and people. It is really hard to predict what my day will look like and that is exciting.

What have you enjoyed most about working at Expedia Group?

The people. Expedia Group is a large company and I am fortunate to engage and learn from interesting, smart, and creative people from around the world.

What makes your team unique?

The Travelocity Brand Team is unique in that we all wear a lot of hates and are involved in a variety of initiatives. No one is caught up in a ‘not my job mentality’. We work hard and we have a lot of fun doing it and fortunately, no one takes themselves too seriously.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I am very proud of our unique and effective branded integrations model. We have built a multi-channel program that is the envy of other brands and is a visible tool to showcase our brand and the Travelocity Roaming Gnome in a powerful and relevant way.

Who has influenced you the most?

My father taught me the value of hard work, honesty, and integrity early on. I have continuously held a job since I was 10 years-old mowing neighborhood lawns. I credit my father for honing my focus and work ethic.

How and where do you find inspiration?

I am continuously inspired by other brands that do smart, unique, and impactful things. You have to be willing to take risks to stand out.

How did you learn to embrace failure?

Your life and career can change once you learn to embrace failure. There is no achievement without failure. The best hitters in baseball fail 3 out of 5 times. Once you adopt this perspective, you become free to take risks in your career and ultimately become a better contributor.

What is your favorite piece of career advice?

Learn from your co-workers. Emulate those you admire and adopt the qualities they possess. Exercise humility and restraint in all you do.

Tell us about your favorite vacation?

I have a passion for travel and have been fortunate to have visited and experienced over 40 countries. My favorite trip was a 10-day swing through Italy that included a lot of great pasta, amazing wines, and inspiring culture and art.

What is your favorite weekend getaway?

I enjoy frequent and short visits to Northern Michigan. It is beautiful, peaceful and largely off the grid.

Deciphering Product Roles

Amanda McArthur | Talent Advisor, Expedia Group in Bellevue, WA

Product, Technical Product, and Program Management. If you are in the product world, you know the struggle is real. Companies (and sometimes even teams) have different definitions for each. It can be difficult to understand what roles are a strong fit given your background and personal career goals.

My goal here is to help you maneuver Expedia Group and find exciting opportunities with us that are more in-line with your experience or career goals.

First, the Program Manager:

In several large tech companies, this is a title predominantly used to describe someone who is closely aligned with Engineering. Generally speaking, within Expedia Group, the Program Manager is more focused on business process and programs. With one exception; the title Technical Program Manager is used in a few divisions and the responsibilities are similar to a Technical Product Manager.

This role is great for someone who excels at surveying the ‘big picture’. You enjoy finding and fixing inefficiencies. You build business processes and programs that scale, are streamlined and cross-functional. Like most other Product or Program roles, you are also an excellent communicator who is able to build consensus through influencing without authority.

While searching, I would consider areas of expertise as well and use keywords as part of your search to narrow your results. Maybe your area of specialty is talent acquisition, business operations, finance, or marketing. If you do have a functional area that you are focused within, do include it in your search.

https://lifeatexpedia.com/jobs/?keyword=Program%20Manager

Technical Product Manager:

Within the Expedia product ecosystem, we have both a Technical Product Manager (TPM) and a Product Manager. As a TPM, you are more closely partnered with Engineering teams.

All of our teams follow the Agile methodology, which means you can expect to attend (if not lead) daily standups. You will likely build user stories and participate in sprint planning. The lengths of our sprint cycles vary by team. Some could be as short as a week, others are a few weeks. We have a ‘Test and Learn’ culture and a bias toward action – giving our teams the ability to move faster with less red tape.

While most roles don’t require a background in software development, it does help in most cases. I’ve seen a lot of Engineers make a successful transition from development to TPM. It’s a natural progression for those wanting to take on broader responsibilities over product creation. You’ll partner cross-functionally with several teams. You act as a liaison and help your less technical counterparts understand technology constraints and possibilities. You’ll also help to communicate timing for execution, helping to prioritize feature work within the roadmap.

Keep in mind if you’re looking to move into Technical Product Management, there are some TPM roles that definitely need someone who comes from a hands-on development background. While this isn’t the norm, I have seen roles where the TPM would continue to own some code as part of their broader responsibilities.

https://lifeatexpedia.com/jobs/?keyword=technical%20product%20manager

Product Manager:

This is purely my opinion, but I believe finding the right Product role is pretty tricky. The level of technical aptitude needed to be successful is different for each team and depends heavily on the product space. Because most of our Product teams are dealing with digital products, the level of technical knowledge needed tends to be on the higher end of the spectrum.

That said, there are definitely Product Management roles that are more focused on stakeholder management, strategy, or user journey and UX. As the Product Manager, you own the roadmap planning, feature release cycles, backlog prioritization, varied levels of reporting, and product related problem-solving.

In general, all of our Product Management teams are going to be looking for someone who is comfortable working in a highly matrixed organization. Because a lot of products span multiple brands, you may have several stakeholders and they could be located all over the world. That means that not only will you work cross-collaboratively with UX, Engineering, Marketing, etc. you may also have the added complexity of working across brands. For someone who’s looking for more complexity, this may be perfect for you.

https://lifeatexpedia.com/jobs/?keyword=product%20manager

A few things to keep in mind:

Our teams are truly Global. I know, on the surface this doesn’t sound very different from other large tech companies. I’ll explain. I’ve worked with some companies that have a large global footprint; however, in a lot of cases, the product work was dispersed by location. London had their part, Sweden had another, and both were part of a larger body of work. In those cases, they had regular check-ins but the interdependencies were fewer which required less coordination. In our case, your immediate team may have a global footprint. It’s possible that you’ll be managing close dependencies where you’re coordinating with immediate team members located on the other side of the globe.

Your Search:

First and foremost, don’t be discouraged if one position isn’t the right fit. If you are a Product veteran you probably already know how unique each position is. Maybe you don’t have enough experience with complex information architecture, but nail the customer experience and user journey. Everyone has different professional experience and those are the things that will make you a unique fit for the right team.

Customer Centricity – Delivering a two sided lodging platform through Market Management

Allyvia Oberman | Market Manager, Expedia Group in Brisbane, Australia

In my 6 years at Expedia Group, I’ve talked a lot.

Each day is an exciting and new conversation with my team, the office, and our hotel partners. I’ve spoken in meetings, on the phone, and even in front of 500+ crowds. I’ve delivered strategies, solved problems, and learnt many new skills – all through talking.

What the biggest and most important skill I’ve learned throughout this time, however, may surprise you.

While presentation training was important, effective data analysis has helped me deliver outcomes and time management skills allow me to best support my hotel partners – nothing could be more valuable than understanding how to put yourself in the shoes of the customer and the hotel.

Understanding the needs of our guests seemed simple at first – after all, they would book whatever was on our website, right? They needed to be in the city and our websites are where they would come to find their room.

Convinced, I continued to only talk strategically with my hotel partners on how their business could have the best experience on our websites, how their revenue could increase if they tried XYZ strategy, and how they could become the hotel our customers wanted to book. It was simple!

Later into my Market Management journey, I was introduced to Customer Centricity and in particular – Expedia Group’s two-sided lodging platform which was created to service lodging partners and customers. We’re the platform that brings the two together, with teams working around the globe to understand and optimize both of their journeys. Then it clicked:

My conversations, my presentations, my phone calls – all this talking – to only service and understand one half of our business. Not only was I not delivering customers with the best shopping experience – I wasn’t helping my hotel partners reach their full potential.

I immediately took action to change my approach to account management. It was my role as the Market Manager to advocate for the customer to our hotel partners and within my own team. Just because account managers aren’t talking directly to the customers, it doesn’t mean we can’t talk about the strategies, solutions, and results that benefit them.

By putting the customer as the core focus in our conversations, the outcome can be drastically different. For example, featuring a hotel deal in a sale campaign seems simple – but what is the hotel doing to provide further value for our Members? Our loyal customers are twice more likely to return to their hotel. So, without considering this customer profile and their needs – not only will our Member not receive an incentive for their loyalty – but the hotel will also miss the potential to earn a repeat customer. Consistently striving for a better customer experience is imperative to not only our company – but the lodging partners too.

Expedia Group is continuing to lead change and revolutionize account management. Today, I proudly talk about this successful approach with my hotel partners and continue to advocate for much more than just a revenue gaining result and rather for a customer-centric win.

Relentlessly strive for BETTER every day

Stephanie Cady | Operations Manager II, Expedia Group in Bellevue, WA

I joined Expedia Group (EG) two and a half years ago and one of the Guiding Principles I live by is Relentlessly Striving for Better. I am reminded every day on how Expedia Group focuses on soliciting employee perspectives at all levels of the organization.

At Expedia Group, we enjoy challenging the status quo and leaning into our diverse strengths across disciplines to relentlessly strive for BETTER every day. With a strong commitment to gender balance at the highest levels, our leadership culture models our guiding principles – enabling new and better initiatives to gain traction as we evolve as a whole.

This approach has allowed me to freely develop people-centric programs fostering such changes as the deconstruction of historical silos, as well as, a people-centric communications strategy. This strategy reinvigorated our employee’s interest in developing their future career paths within EG. In addition, I was fully empowered to put in place a reward and recognition program for our B2B organization based on our peoples and the business’s changing needs. All of this was possible by challenging myself and pushing myself to be better every day.

It’s inspiring to be a leader at EG where you can learn, challenge, and improve what and how we contribute with urgency.

Join us and you too can be part of relentlessly building BETTER!

 

You Can’t Spell ‘Wander’ Without AR

DJ Harman | App Engagement Lead, Expedia Group in Dallas, Texas

Have you ever wanted to travel with a celebrity? How about seeing snowfall on the beach? Build a sandcastle indoors? Add Wander Wisely™ branded frames to your photos?

(It was that last one that sold you, wasn’t it?)

Well, you can do all that and more with the Travelocity app! We’re very excited to announce the release of Expedia Group’s first augmented reality (AR) experience featuring the wisest wanderer of them all, The Roaming Gnome™!

Below is a preview but you should really download/open the Travelocity app (featured live on both Android and iOS) to have the full experience for yourself.

WARNING: more fun/addicting than you might expect…

This seems cool and all, but why Augmented Reality?

AR is an emerging technology that Apple’s Tim Cook calls “potentially as important as the iPhone.” It’s expected to have over 1 billion users by next year – and already, 60% to 70% of consumers see clear benefits in using AR in their daily life and at work. It’s a greenfield of opportunity endemic to both mobile and travel.

What better home for it than our apps, and what better way to smoke test our customers’ interest than by bringing our beloved Roaming Gnome to life with it? If this proof of concept yields high engagement, then it justifies further investment and development of more utilitarian AR features for Expedia Group apps.

As Krista McDougal (GM, Travelocity) puts it, experimenting with AR is “a way to engage and inspire travelers beyond our points of sale. The Travelocity AR camera allows our customers to have fun with the brand throughout their travel journey, and we look forward to seeing how travelers engage with the experience and share it with friends and family.”

From Geysers to Charades on $30

Emil Riccardi | Senior Director for Technology, LPS in Bellevue, WA

“Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit.” Frank Burman, American Astronaut

I grew up on an island.  Living on an island sounds romantic, and it certainly can be, especially when you’re watching a rainbow sherbet sunset melt into a tranquil blue sea.  But it can also be congested with people and traffic.  It can be difficult to get on and off an island.  All that closeness fosters community but it can also foster a sense that everyone knows your business.

Maybe because of the need to escape the closeness on the island, I have a need to travel. Or maybe it’s because I’m the grandchild of immigrants who took the leap in the early 20th century to move from Italy and raise 10 kids in NYC. I do know that the desire to travel took root in the back of a Pontiac Bonneville station wagon; facing rearward not knowing where you were going and only seeing where you’ve been. What an adventure!

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” Paul Theroux

For whatever reason, I love to travel.  So much so, that I lead an engineering organization at Expedia Group, where I get to help travelers go where they want to go and have amazing experiences around the world. My life centers around travel and travelers and, yet, it can be difficult to take a vacation.

If it were just me, travel would be a bit easier.  But I have two daughters in their teens, not to mention my lovely wife.  As you can imagine, it can be challenging to wrangle them to leave the proximity of their friends or agree on a location for a trip.  I’m also “thrifty,” so it’s hard to consider spending thousands of dollars on a trip that my family isn’t super excited to take.

One day, when I was at my local Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new driver’s license, the lady behind the counter asked me if I wanted an all-access pass to every Washington State Park.  The Discover Pass, as it’s called, would enable me and my entire family to explore our state for $30 a year.  I signed up.

Travel is an opportunity to experience different cultures, different personalities, food, and environs.  It makes the world smaller, and us more empathetic.  I believe that if more people were to travel to places outside their comfort zone, the world would be a better place.  I grow when I travel, so I was excited to tour around the state with my family.  Did I say it was only $30?

I set out to get the most out of the Discover Pass.  We started by taking day trips – first in King County, then Pierce, then Snohomish.  One of our first adventures was to visit the Auburn Flaming Geiser State Park.  The park is named for a flame which burned through a concrete basin, fueled by methane gas pocket 1,000 feet below the surface, which just keeps burning.  We had no idea such a thing existed in Washington – which got us interested in more adventures.

Everyone loved it, so we graduated to camping.  We visited Cape Disappointment and Waikiki Beach, where Lewis + Clark ended their journey on the southern-most tip of the state.  We enjoyed the beauty and history of the area with its lighthouses, old forts, windswept cliffs and sea smells that co-exist at the point where the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean meet.

I noticed that, as we traveled around the state, we got back to our roots as a family.  We were talking to each other rather than ogling our devices.  We slowed down. We played charades next to the campfire as we cooked smores.  We poured over the Washington state map to figure out our next adventure as we enjoyed the current one. We got closer as we got further away from home.

There are so many ways to experience the world without spending a ton of money or time.  Exploring your backyard, your town or your state is a great place to start.