The founder of boutique travel agency Spain Less Traveled, which offers consulting services and handcrafted itineraries for people looking to visit the laid-back European country, is happy to report that her business is thriving again. After losing all her clients during the pandemic in 2020 and part of 2021, Karen Rosenblum is now booked “several weeks in advance,” she says.
Rosenblum has been an entrepreneur since 2017, when she quit her job at Airbnb and moved to Madrid. When lockdowns went into effect, she decided to hop to Andalucía, where she is closer to picturesque beaches that remind her of home in San Francisco.
We asked Rosenblum how she works now.
Are you currently remote or in-person or hybrid?
Remote — but I’ve been remote since 2011, so this is nothing new.
What has changed the most about how you work since the pandemic?
Advising all of my clients about the current Covid and ever-changing Covid protocols. It keeps me on my toes!
Would you ever go back to an office or in-person setting?
No. Working remotely is a no-brainer for me. I can work uninterrupted and be super productive in a shorter amount of time. Of course, self-employment and solopreneurship can get lonely at times, so thankfully I have an amazing women’s business network group that hosts online coworking four days a week.
Do you have a signature work outfit or accessory?
When I have client-facing meetings on Zoom, I throw on a shawl or scarf and a bit of lipstick. Thankfully, travel has always been a casual industry, so I can just stick to my own style even when I have clients.
What time do you get up?
Usually by 9 or 9:30 am on weekdays, but I ease into my day. Since I work with a US-based clientele (and many on the West Coast) from Spain, I am often talking to clients until 9 or 10 pm and working quite late into the evening.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
Review my calendar and decide how I am going to structure my day. Is the weather nice so I can go for a bike ride? When do I have a big enough gap in my day? Is there a co-working session or other meeting I am attending? What time do I need to be back at my desk to prepare for my first client? What non-client-facing tasks such as follow-up notes, itinerary building, website/marketing stuff, managing my online community, etc., do I need to accomplish today? Once I have a plan, I get my day going with coffee and a green smoothie.
What app do you check the most?
Facebook. In addition to running my business, I founded an active Spain travel community on that platform. We currently have over 17,000 members, and moderating it and creating content for it are no small tasks.
What’s your Zoom background – and (bonus points!) what’s the one thing we don’t see hidden right outside of your Zoom frame?
My apartment is sunny and Spanish. Since my clients will be traveling to Spain, they get a glimpse of that. My bicycle is always in the background, too.
What’s your favorite WFH procrastination activity?
Laundry is a big one! Or just arranging things at home.
The best thing that the pandemic has done for the workplace is…
Made others understand the value of remote work. I’ve been remote for over 10 years now, as my last corporate job was fully remote. When I first started working remotely, my family thought I was unemployed and my friends and boyfriend (at the time) thought I’d have unlimited time to do whatever I wanted all day. No one really understood remote work and its benefits. Now that so many companies are staying remote, seeing how productive and happy their employees were with this setup, the idea of working remotely is much more valued and understood. I could have told you that years ago!
What’s the latest skill you’ve acquired?
I’ve really perfected my coffee-making skills.
What do you miss the most from the “Before Times”?
Not having to deal with Covid questions, measures and confusing travel restrictions with so many variables. And just the ease of travel in general. We probably all took it for granted, honestly. The good news is that travelers are rediscovering the value of travel advisors, planners and agents.
How do you de-stress?
I have a road bike, and I try to go for a ride at some point every day. It gets me out of my house/office, away from my phone and computer, and gives me space to think — all while having a fun adventure.
Where did you go on your most recent vacation?
This is going to sound crazy considering I work in travel, but it’s been a long time. When I travel domestically (in Spain), although it is enjoyable, it’s not vacation. It’s work. I spent a month in California in November visiting friends and family, but I was working with clients and hosting events for my business, too. I think this means I need a vacation soon.
These have been trying times. What are you the most hopeful about?
It can be really hard to ignore the happenings around the world right now, but on a personal level, I am hopeful (and confident) that I am weathering the storm with my little boutique travel company. And that my dream of being self-employed in the travel industry is still happening and thriving.
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