Having lived in a cold, gloomy climate for the past eight years, I've acquired an annual tradition: each February, I throw a lack-of-sunshine temper tantrum. Said tantrum ends with a dead-serious proclamation: "Next year, I'm going on a tropical winter vacation. Never again am I staying here through the winter!" Then next year rolls around and... repeat.
But luckily for all those in my proximity, this year I melted down ahead of schedule, way back in December! And out slipped the ultimatum: "I am going on our (belated) honeymoon soon. With or without you."
And that, my friends, is how you get yourself a winter vacation ;)
So, just six days after we moved back to the US, we braved snow piles along the sidewalks in Boston, to get to the airport for our flight to Costa Rica. Although one of our hesitations was timing and logistics during a time of many unknowns, it was absolutely the right call.
I took a 12 day phone fast and replaced technology with headspace, sunshine, and romance. I read five books, listened to my intuition, did yoga, and made an effort to have meaningful interactions with my husband and strangers.
While traveling, I often think about working in hospitality. We vacationers have high expectations of what someone else should be doing to make our real world escape delightful. One amiss interaction can trigger a complaint or withholding of tip. That's a lot of pressure on someone who's just doing his job. I mean, I try to be outgoing and positive in my work; but I, like every other human, have the occasional "don't talk to me" days. However, for those whose careers are in hospitality, "don't talk to me today" is no option.
To get the biggest variety of Costa Rica experiences, we stayed in four different locations. Across them all, I noticed three habits that our hospitality hosts practiced. They're simple, but they made a huge difference in our experience:
- They learned our names and called us by name regularly. Even when our first host Danny picked us up for our whitewater rafting excursion on day 1 at 6am, he knew who we were (I mean, I barely know my own name at 6a). He and others continued to say "Hi, Julie" when they'd see me walking around the lodge grounds throughout the week. Being known by name made me feel at home and more open to chatting with those around me.
- They set expectations. Personally, I was on vacation and cared less about the schedule. But I have to remember that not everyone is like me, and this probably saves many a panic attack for visitors who are outside their element. Each excursion started with a detailed explanation of the timing, our precise destination, and when we'd break for food. (Okay, I loved point 3).
- When we said "Gracias," they replied, "Con gusto" (with pleasure). This was a subtle but impactful one. I used to have a boss who would reply with a similar "It's a pleasure" when I thanked her for something. It's a little thing but makes an ordinary interaction warmer, more eager, and more sincere-feeling.
The common theme was that these are all small acts that take effort on behalf of the employee, but the effect is big. The customer feels welcomed, woven into the environment, and infected by the employee's enthusiasm.
I'm curious... what are subtle things you do in your work interactions to make others feel welcomed and enthusiastic about what you're offering?