Becca Powelson: February 2014’s A Lady Away

BeccaHat copyBecca Powelson gets around. Literally.

And this year’s American Airlines Road Warrior winner has no plan to slow down. An Ohio native, Becca graduated from Miami University in 2005 with a degree in Early Childhood Education.  “As a child I knew two things for certain: that I would be a teacher one day and that I wanted to celebrate every birthday at McDonald’s forever.” But, as many know, childhood dreams evolve and life has a way of revealing a path we could have never imagined. In an unexpected turn of events, Becca’s post-graduate job as a nanny in Chicago soon turned into a job in the wine import business. “This isn’t what I planned to do with my life,” Becca laughs. More than seven years working in the wine industry Becca still appreciates the unexpected path she’s on. “While many of my friends have now settled down and started their own families, I’ve been busy exploring the world and learning about myself.”

Her current position as Director of Marketing and Sales for Atlas Imports, LLC marries two of her great passions: wine and travel. “My first international adventure on the job was to Mendoza, Argentina,” Becca explains, “the then up and coming wine region at the foot of the Andes mountains.” Since then Becca has made several trips to Argentina as well as Chile, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, New Zealand and South Africa – all in the name of ‘work.’ “About 60% of my travel is for work and I’m definitely grateful for the places I’ve seen when work is covering the cost.” It’s a good thing for Becca that grapes are grown in some of the most beautiful places in the world.

Enjoying a cold local brew and pad thai in Phuket, Thailand.
Enjoying a cold local brew and pad thai in Phuket, Thailand.

A good job will allow you to have a life but a great job will inspire you to live that life. Becca has landed herself a great job and she hopes to “be there for the next fifty years.” By sending her to the far corners of the world, Becca’s vocation has introduced her to new cultures, people and experiences and she is humbly grateful for this opportunity.

I love how travel opens your mind and heart. If you’re able to allow yourself the experience of immersing in the culture – to observe how families interact and what daily life entails and stray off the ‘tourist’ path – you’ll find rewards that reap benefits to your life in every way. Growing up in the United States we can become ‘American centric’ and not truly appreciate or understand how other cultures embrace life and also the struggles they have to overcome daily. Traveling and gaining an appreciation for the blessings we are afforded as American citizens is a gift.

In Istanbul with friend Melissa.
In Istanbul with friend Melissa.

But a work trip is still a work trip and while the itineraries are sometimes similar Becca knows the difference. “I think it’s important to prioritize personal travel – it’s fulfilling in ways I didn’t know existed and I find I forget the worries of business travel when on a personal trip.” Though when work sends you to places like Argentina and Spain it makes sense to tack on a little personal time at the beginning and end. “I always look up new places and see how I can connect via train or plane to somewhere I’ve always wanted to see and explore,” Becca explains, and she’s been fortunate to have friends willing to journey to some of these places to meet up with her. Her friend Jessica met her in Spain in 2009 and friends Gina and Allison joined her in Argentina in 2012. “I love feeling like the local and being able to show loved ones around some of my favorite places. There are only a few spots in the world that I’m fortunate to return to and have this kind of experience.” Becca’s frequent trips to Argentina has only furthered her love for the country. “There are so many wonderful places to travel in the world that it’s hard to justify going back to the same place again. Argentina is unique because it’s a blend of work and my personal love of the country and culture that takes me there.” Becca also travels regularly with her sister, Anne. As the frequent flier in the mix, Becca admits to feeling a bit like a travel agent during these trips. “I don’t mind though, I can be a ‘know-it-all’ when it comes to what’s best and easiest in regards to flights and accommodations so I’m happy to do the organization. I like to plan a couple activities but mostly I leave time to wander and get ‘lost’.” 

With friends Allison and Gina in Argentina, February 2012.
With friends Allison and Gina in Argentina, February 2012.

Because of her busy domestic and international travel itinerary, Becca makes the most out of her time at home in Chicago. “I’ve been blessed with amazing friends and family who do a good job of keeping track of me.” While on the road Becca hasn’t found the time to keep a blog or journal but posts regularly to her Instagram account. Staying connected to home and the people there is important for her and she commits to trying to be home at least 3 nights a week. Those nights are filled with dinner and drinks with friends. “It means a very full calendar but it correlates to a very full heart as well.” Becca has struck an impressive balance in her life, living it fully both on the road and at home.

The American Airlines Road Warrior is an annual competition and one that Becca almost missed. “I saw the magazine cover with details while on a late flight from Miami on the last day I could enter,” Becca remembers, “I’ve been so blessed with the opportunity to travel with [American Airlines] and the prizes and miles are on their way to me as we speak! It’s been an amazing experience.” Among the prizes awarded to Becca is a half a million American Airlines miles and a trip to Curaçao for a press shoot and fun at the award winning Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort. “Being a Road Warrior is about embracing every travel opportunity – whether it’s one you’ve selected or one the universe has chosen for you – and handling it with grace.” Look for Becca and the other Road Warrior finalists on the cover of American Way later this year.

Kayaking around Kolocep Island near Dubrovnik, Croatia with sister, Anne.
Kayaking around Kolocep Island near Dubrovnik, Croatia with sister, Anne.

While Becca “bleeds American Airlines” and has certainly mastered the art of airline travel as well as anyone can she understands that it can be frustrating and tedious. “We cannot control every aspect of travel,” she admits, “flights can be delayed or canceled, sometimes you miss out on events while away from home, security can be a hassle and no one likes walking barefoot through the metal detector.” Becca has kindly provided a few tips for not only surviving air travel but coming out ahead.

Air travel and packing tips from Becca:

  • You definitely have to have a game plan when working to earn miles and it always pays to be loyal to one airline. Also, you’ll earn miles faster flying rather than earning via credit card points. It’s best to spend your money on long distance flights (over 1000 miles) and use your rewards on the expensive, shorter distance treks. That will help you get the most out of the money-to-mile ratio!
  • I love being spontaneous with using my miles. I will often check the website to see where I can travel with the least amount of miles, it definitely takes an open mind! I am waiting for that low mileage ticket for a weekend in Iceland!
  • I never board a plane without an apple! I never know when I’ll have the chance for a healthy meal and I hate being ravenous without an option.
  • I cannot imagine the stress of checking a bag, I like to have everything with me in case there is a change to my itinerary. That way it can’t be lost or left behind!
  • I believe in always packing a scarf. It’s good for a blanket on the airplane and can accessorize any outfit.
  • When packing light, I think layers are essential. Weather can change so quickly, especially if you’re going to more than one location. I like to lay out key pieces right before I pack them just to check colors and patters to make sure they can be worn multiple ways.
  • I don’t pack any liquids I don’t use EVERY SINGLE DAY. If you don’t use it daily, you won’t need it. In a desperate case, most everything can be bought at a local pharmacy/chemist.
  • Instead of a wallet for long trips, I take a large tote and use a small cross-body bag that fits inside as a wallet. It is super practical for the small adventures on the trip. (A Lady Away agrees! Also a great way to carry your passport.)
  • I love maps. I am trying to avoid using my phone as much to navigate new lands, however it’s so convenient – that is, when technology is working and I have a signal.
  • When I first arrive in a new place I love to wander the streets near the hotel to see what goodies are conveniently nearby – where to get water, a small snack, a good glass of wine, etc. The first thing on my agenda usually involves finding a cafe where I can people watch and come up with a game plan for the day. If the city has a bike tour to offer, I’m always going to work that into the plan! It’s a great way to be physical and learn the lay of the land!

So what’s up next for Becca? First it’s back to Argentina for work this month and then a personal trip to Israel and Jordan. Be sure to follow Becca’s Instagram account to keep up with her whereabouts!

Hiking in Cinque Terre, Italy.
Hiking in Cinque Terre, Italy.

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