Editor's note: This is the latest installment in a new series on some of the most unusual and amazing jobs in the travel industry. Lexie Carter is a product development manager for EF Ultimate Break, a leading provider of group tours for anyone age 18 to 29. She describes her job as being "a movie location scout, travel agent and food critic rolled up into one."
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On my last trip to Italy, I had what some would call a dreamlike Italian experience. After a week of meeting, eating and visiting with colleagues in Rome, I spent a day touring wineries in the Tuscan hills. This was followed by a day of more winery wandering on the back of a Vespa in and around Florence. Believe it or not, this kind of amazing stuff happens to me every month or so … and I must stop and think, "Oh my god, this is my job?!"
That’s just one example from the long list of travel experiences I’ve had as a product development manager for EF Ultimate Break, a leading provider of group tours for anyone age 18-29. Because I’m developing travel experiences for people 18 to 29, I have to think about creating trips that appeal to a wide range of interests and ages, not just myself. I’ve become an expert at envisioning the ultimate vacation for an entire generation, my generation -- the millennials? And, don’t forget GenZ. Thank goodness I’m 26 and up-to-date on the latest memes, right?
While it is awesome and fun, it’s a big job to create experiences that allow my generation to achieve our dreams. EF Ultimate Break strives to break the mold on group travel, offering so much more than what most young people expect. People have called the trips eye-opening, restful, social, career-enhancing and good for the soul. It's my job to make those things happen, while also making international travel effortless and stress-free. My personal goal to make sure our travelers leave with life changing experiences and relationships that evolve along with the way they look at the world.
This is no small feat, of course. As a product development manager, I want to get my boots on the ground in each region and destination we consider for a tour. I’m like a movie location scout, travel agent and food critic rolled up into one. I explore local neighborhoods, cities and countries, and then I seek out, experience and evaluate the best adventures each destination has to offer to build a mind-blowing itinerary.
Not to throw around the term "dream job" lightly, but I’ve amassed an amazing collection of stories and memories throughout my time in product development that have forever changed my life. Whether it’s sledding down the Swiss Alps, exploring an old Romanian fortress or ringing in the New Year in London with 200 EF Ultimate Break travelers, I strive to re-create these experiences for our future customers.
There are a few episodes I try not to replicate: getting stuck under a raft (in white water) in Uganda or flying 30 hours to Fiji only to have a typhoon roll in and force me to fly back after only a few hours. They can’t all be perfect, but I still wouldn’t take back any of these moments.
I've been able to fine-tune my ability to build trips and experiences that are authentic, fun and safe. The good and bad moments have also taught me how to create experiences that encourage a strong sense of camaraderie and bring a group of individuals together. That’s the beauty of group travel, after all: with over 60 percent of our customers signing up as solo travelers, almost all of them leave with new lifelong friends, and even more will come back on a second, third or fourth trip with us and their newfound travel-mates.
My peers ask how I got this incredible job at the intersection of travel and lifestyle. I studied Economics at Bates College in Maine. My perspective was forever changed when I went abroad to Nepal my junior year. There, I was introduced to a completely different culture and way of life; my experience there changed the trajectory of how I wanted to spend my life and direct my career. If my job with EF Ultimate Break has taught me anything, it’s that life experiences, a sense for adventure, and a willingness to try (almost!) anything can beat out the traditional resume.
My advice to other young people trying to build a career in travel: Don’t underestimate your life skills and personal experiences. For me, they far outweigh any lectures or exams I had in economics. Just don’t tell my econ professors that, my five-year reunion is coming up after all.