Scilly Cay, Anguilla

2021: A Focus on Growth

2020 was a year. I sat down as 2020 was coming to an end to reflect on what we faced over the past 12 months (9 – 10 months, really) and the many challenges that came with it. I’ve struggled with competing emotions – feeling trapped, uncertain and concerned, while simultaneously feeling so fortunate for what we were able to experience (the Great Migration and August in Greece, both sans crowds!) and the huge blessing of being based on Anguilla, a Caribbean island with zero community transmission of COVID. Our experience was incredibly unique and we were far more fortunate than most given our surroundings and a tight-knit community. Everyone tried to recap 2020 in their own way: for some, it was downright devastating personally or professionally (or often both), for some it was isolating, and for some, it brought opportunities, successes, and a burst of creativity. There’s one thing that we can arguably all agree on though: 2020 was uncomfortable. It was a year that challenged all of us in some way and made many of us think a bit more critically about our lives and our direction. We’ve all been made acutely aware of the facts that we’ve always known: life is short, and we should never put dreams and aspirations off for a tomorrow that’s not guaranteed.

Real talk: Prioritizing yourself is incredibly tough. I’ve long struggled with being a Type A personality with a tendency to overcommit. Those out there like me will probably resonate with this: when you’re juggling a million tasks and have dozens of competing priorities, you tend to prioritize yourself last. There’s only so much time in a day after all and when you have to make a choice between competing priorities it’s easier to apologize to yourself than to ask for help or let someone else down. Towards the end of 2020, I felt that cycle continuing and I chose to work towards making 2021 a year of personal growth and of prioritizing my own goals and objectives. Committing to and investing in yourself can be a really tough thing to do, but is there a better investment than in personal development?

It was that head-on discussion with myself paired with our beyond-inspirational trip to Tanzania that finally provided the push that I needed to take the next steps in launching Compass & Vine, a boutique travel design company focused on crafting bespoke itineraries for immersive and inspiring escapes. The trips and experiences we’ve had around the world have shaped my perspectives on the world and provided the best education on earth, and that’s something I’ve always been passionate about sharing. In recent years, I’ve toyed with the idea of going back to school to pursue a Ph.D. potentially with a focus on tourism for development, marrying my Masters in Social Policy and Development with my life in the travel and hospitality space. In our travels to developing nations, it was universally easy to see how powerful tourism can be (when done right!) in boosting livelihoods, providing critical funds for conservation, and providing opportunities for social development around the globe. Outwardly, I used to view travel talk as a domain of luxury, but seeing the impacts of tourism dollars as a hotelier and as a traveler, I know that thoughtfully crafted journeys are about so much more than a pretty photo and a list to tick off. Tourism is a critical component in conversations about economic development, plus it’s an integral component in reframing perspectives and creating a more empathetic world of critical thinkers.

The Wanderlust Effect has been – and will continue to be – my space for sharing inspirational adventures from around the globe but I knew I wanted to expand on that. That Type-A planner personality? It lends itself well to planning travel and getting down to the nitty-gritty with logistics and details. Beyond that, I simply found that I derived a huge amount of joy from helping people plan incredible adventures; even more so when those travels help make a positive impact in destinations around the world. Before taking the plunge and building Compass & Vine as a business, I bounced the idea off of fellow female entrepreneurs which helped hugely with providing direction and inspiration. I think it’s common to feel uncertain about your value, a piece of the puzzle which perhaps is one of the biggest impediments to launching a business with confidence and putting yourself out there for the world to see and critique. A good friend put it this way: we all have talents and gifts that we take for granted. There are things that come naturally to us; areas where we thrive and excel whether or not we recognize it (my Gifted Travel Network mentorship team would call this our ‘brilliance’). Often times it’s difficult to recognize those strengths in ourselves because really, do they even feel like ‘talents’ if they’re just natural inclinations? If we take the time to hone in on the nexus of what brings us the most joy and where our natural talents are, it can help us point to long-term happiness building a business or finding a career in areas that allow us to really thrive.

So, cheers to 2021, a year of growth. I’m sure there will be some growing pains but I’m excited for a year focused on laying the foundation for years to come! Whatever your goals are for 2021, here’s to you and cheers to a much better year ahead filled with hope, happiness, and health!

Shannon Kircher, The Wanderlust Effect

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. Additionally, Shannon is the founder of Compass & Vine, a luxury boutique travel design firm, and is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort. Shannon holds an MSc in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics and is a current candidate for WSET Level 3 in Wines & Spirits.