Reality check time: For the last few months I have described my resoundingly successful cold-calling exploits–all sevens, blackjacks, and cherries across the bar. These cold calls led to an amazing three-month stay in Nairobi (Hakuna Matata, No Problem Man), a truly unique working vacation in Istanbul (Cold Call, Take Two!), and, finally, our return to the African continent to work in Harare, Zimbabwe (Back to Africa). This unfailing good fortune might lead you to believe that traveling the world on the other guy’s dime requires nothing more than a contact name and cleverly worded e-mail, with a few academic letters after your name for good measure. As you might imagine, this is not the case.
Yes, I had good luck in response to my blind calls, but I would be remiss if I did not also share some of my more abject failures, if only to convince you not to lose hope when the inevitable disappointment strikes. I learned this important lesson from a writing instructor in New York City, Mr. Kurt Opprecht, who walked into class the first day and proceeded to boast he had published forty articles in magazines, guidebooks, and major metropolitan dailies. Since my own total of published travel stories was zero, I was duly impressed. But then he opened his briefcase, removed a stack three inches high, held them up for all to see, and announced he was also the proud recipient of more than three hundred rejections. His moral was clear—if you plan on becoming a professional travel writer you need a thick skin and a short memory. We can adapt his advice to our situation–if you plan on applying for a working vacation you need those two attributes as well as patience, perseverance, and a Gandhian willingness to accept rejection without losing hope.
Just remember that an initial “No thank you” response is not the end of the line; simply the first step. In the next few posts I will provide some personal examples of cold call rejections that ultimately morphed into fascinating, no-cost working vacations.