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Community Highlights: Meet Sheryl Baker of Your Passport To Travel

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sheryl Baker. 

Hi Sheryl, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I never intended to become a travel agent or own my own travel agency! I was a traveler who turned travel agent! I was blessed to be able to travel the world and I had a networking partner who heard me talk about my trips for over 2 years and she always said “I would love for you to work for me”. But I was finishing a 23-year career as a Director of Sales for a book company and was already selling skincare with a good friend as I transitioned into retirement. In March 2015, I called this acquaintance and asked her to book a trip for my husband and me. She promptly said “No” and I was stopped in my tracks. Instead, she said, “Go to work for me and book it yourself”! So, after talking to my husband, I agreed to try it. Within 3 months I was in love with the travel business. I worked 3 jobs until the end of 2015 and then I quit the other 2 and started full-time in travel. I was so happy and again, I had no plans to start my own agency. That changed in 2018 when the company I worked with decided to change their way of doing business which in my opinion wasn’t beneficial to our clients. So, I left and started my own company, Your Passport To Travel. Our motto is Dream, Dare, Discover and I believe in creating the most amazing adventures for everyone. My passion is helping people discover our amazing world. With over 75 countries under my belt, I feel that my travel experiences set me apart from other travel agents. I am truly a traveler turned travel agent! 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
No, it has not been smooth but it has been worth it! My first full year was 2019 and it was going well until my husband was diagnosed with Dementia and had already had 2 heart attacks. We were living on a 40-acre ranch in Texas and had a beautiful 3 story house an hour away from medical help. So, in the middle of starting a new career, I had to put the ranch on the market, find a home closer to relatives in Florida, buy and totally renovate the place in Florida, and sell and move all of our possessions so we could fit 5000 sq. ft. of stuff into 900 sq. ft! Then, came getting all new Drs. for my husband and settling into our new lives. But we made it through that, and in January 2020 I had my best month ever as a travel agent! Then the bottom dropped out for many people in March as COVID took over the world. Travel was nonexistent and I had to cancel all of the amazing sales I made in January and my business tanked. I literally made less than $5,000.00 in 2019. But I never gave up and I continued to network even though I had nothing to sell. It’s hard trying to tell people about amazing trips when we were all stuck at home. 2021 brought hope to many when vaccines became available and people started planning again. I actually had record sales in 2021 and my 2022 looks very promising. Many travel agencies did not make it through 2020 or 2021 and I feel blessed that I did and I look forward to helping people for many years to come. 

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
You wouldn’t hire a lawyer who didn’t practice law so why would you hire a travel agent who didn’t travel? I take pride in the fact that I have traveled to many of the places I send my clients so I can share personal tips and tricks for those places. When I am talking to prospective clients, they all remark about how passionate I am about my career and I am glad that passion comes across because I love what I do. I specialize in 2 areas; Romance Travel & Bucket List Travel. Romance travel includes honeymoons, anniversary trips, and vow renewals. Bucket List travel can be anything that a client has always wanted to do and I love helping them make those dreams come true. One of the areas I love the most is Africa and African Safaris and I take a small group on safari every September. I have been to Africa 8 times and have visited Botswana, South Africa, Egypt, Morrocco, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Zimbabwe so far. I have been on 100’s of game drives (everyone is different), tracked mountain gorillas, walked with lions, played with golden monkeys, and spent time with chimpanzees in the forest. Each experience is unique and life-changing. I want my clients to experience those things too! 

What I would like people to know is that your trip is your trip. It isn’t mine. So, I custom design an adventure that is just for you, or I find the perfect tour that is exactly what you want. I also work with every budget and I stay within your budget! I think that is important. Travel is more affordable than most people think and contrary to popular beliefs, travel agents still exist! 

We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up?
I was blessed to have parents who believed experiences were more important than material things. We loaded up the pop-up camper and we explored the U.S. We didn’t have a lot of money but we didn’t know it because my parents made things fun no matter where we were. One fun memory is picking pine cones in the forests around Seattle where my dad was stationed in the Navy. There were 5 of us kids and our parents would make a game out of seeing who could fill the gunny sacks up with pine cones first. We didn’t know we were collecting them to sell to Weirhauser to collect the seeds to plant more trees and to make money for “extras” for the family. We just knew it was fun to be in the woods and competing with each other. Once the bags were weighed and the money collected, each kid got “paid” a couple of coins and we got to buy candy of our choice. Of course, that’s when you could buy candy for pennies instead of dollars! I still love being outdoors! 

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