Debra Harris had just retired from a 27-year career in federal law enforcement and was preparing to embark on a second career as a travel consultant when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 51.
Harris, a Type A personality at its core, said a 2013 cancer diagnosis stopped her. “It was like hitting a brick wall. I had all the questions that anyone who has ever been diagnosed with cancer asks: Why me? What I’ve done? What is the universe trying to tell me?
Harris was enrolled in a travel professional certification course and was deciding how to structure her unborn business, Life’s Journey Travel, LLC, when she was forced to hit the pause button. For about a year, she put her business dreams on hold to focus on her health.
After recovering from the necessary surgeries, Harris moved from Greater Washington, D.C. to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Then she summed up. “I said okay, I got it. Now, how can I share this journey, this journey, with others?”
Awakening to your mission
The cancer has changed Harris a lot, including opening up her former “fact-only ma’am researcher” to her more creative side. “That was my awakening,” she said.
It also changed her plans for the tourism business. “This whole story with cancer was like a long dream. When I woke up, I had a better idea of what I wanted to do.”
“The cancer journey told me that I really need to find people who need it. Some of them are baby boomers, and some of them are those top-of-the-line people who are very, very busy, who just tick off when they travel. But life is not about ticking the box, and it’s not about traveling.
“I feel like my mission is to help people slow down and enjoy life. Use all your senses. Recognize what’s important. Take advantage of the moment. Breathe.”
Harris’ favorite place is immersive travel in a small group. “I enjoy food, wine, exciting experiences. Learning and an insatiable curiosity is what drives me when I travel, and those individual experiences, the little things you get when you work with me or travel with me.
“I get calls from people who want to travel 10 countries in 10 days. This is not my traveler. I want to work with travelers who are interested in staying longer, diving a little deeper and getting a feel for the place.”
Joy now serves as Harris’ guide to travel planning decisions for a client. “I need to enjoy the trip you are going on and send you where I know you will enjoy.”
Finding her clientele
She has been successful in attracting new clients through participation in local groups that cater to her personal interests. She is a member of two wine clubs, a gastronomy club and a gardening club, all of which perfectly match her favorite travel style.
She also collaborates with a genealogy researcher who made her…