Travel insights from Jennifer Dugan, chief family officer for Dugan’s Travels


When I started out in the travel industry more than 20 years ago, I did it to earn a paycheck.  When I began to help others get into the travel industry, that’s when my passion was born. I found that I loved helping newer travel agents find their direction and come up with fresh ideas on how to grow and expand their businesses. I quickly learned that guiding and empowering others to become successful in their business is what filled my proverbial cup and nourished my soul. With time, I built my business into something that I was very proud of and felt like I had achieved what I set out to do--I had built a successful business that was focused on service and nurturing new agents in their growth. 

It was around that time I had twin babies and found myself wanting to focus my time on enjoying being a mom again. Having twins is an all-consuming job in itself!  I needed the time to focus on being the mom I wanted to be, and I felt called to simply focus on nurturing their growth.  I put my business on auto-pilot--allowing others to run things on my behalf--and gave myself permission to focus on motherhood.

I enjoyed being a mom and that became my passion. During this time, I was pulled through seasons of deep grief and sorrow when I lost one of my twins when she was just shy of two years old, followed by seasons of joy when I eventually welcomed three more children. For a while, raising my kids was all that mattered in my life and my attention and energy was poured into my motherhood and holding space for everything I had endured.

For years, I had put my business on the back burner to enjoy what mattered most to me. But as time went on, I felt compelled to shift my focus back into my business and decide what direction it should go.  I thought about selling it; part of me was enjoying being a mom and wondered if I could even find passion for my business again. Though I was feeling torn between my small children and running my business, I ultimately decided that selling wasn’t the answer for me.

For some time, I had forgotten the reason I started. During the span of time when I had prioritized my family life over my business, the culture of the business had strayed far from where it had been when I started it. Instead of upholding our core values: fun, family first and caring about and developing promising new agents, this new culture I found myself working in was more about keeping up with other agencies and modeling ourselves after everyone else. We had lost the identity and integrity I had previously been so proud of.

When I stepped back into it, I tried to go along with the ideas and direction we were taking, but I ultimately just couldn’t live with what it had become. It was difficult and a major power struggle to steer the ship back in the right direction, but I just had to put my foot down and realign with my initial vision. Everyone who didn’t agree with this vision fell away, leaving me with a small but dedicated team who all share the desire to uphold the core values that made my business something to be passionate about in the first place.

I finally feel like I am back to where I was long before I lost my way, with a lot more strength and wisdom under my belt.  I realize that at times we need to lose our way so we can find ourselves again. We need to veer off the beaten path sometimes, if only for the sake of becoming reacquainted with our inner compass--that still small voice that knows which direction we should be going and how to get there. Sometimes being lost is the very thing that we need in order to find our direction and confidently walk forward again.

About the Author

Jennifer Dugan

Jennifer Dugan founded Dugan’s Travels in 1997 with the goal to have a career while being at home with her growing family. Since that time, Jennifer and her team have created a family-friendly host agency where hundreds of agents work to realize the dream of owning a successful home-based travel business. Dugan’s Travels, now a recognized top host agency in the United States, offers comprehensive education and development programs to help agents gain knowledge, establish industry relationships, and build the confidence needed to succeed. When not working tirelessly to put her agents first, Jennifer enjoys spending time in the mountains with her husband and seven children.

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