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It took this woman 50 years to find a career she loves, but she doesn’t regret the journey

When Marcia Proctor was nine years old, her parents loaded her and her four siblings on a sailboat and travelled the world by water for a year. They sailed around the United Kingdom, through the Bahamas and up the east coast of the United States.

Now, Proctor is an independent travel agent with The Travel Agent Next Door. It’s not surprising that she’s in this line of work given her childhood adventure, but what is surprising is that it took her 50 years to land in this career.

Proctor said that at one time, she would have turned her nose up at being a travel agent.

“I wanted to be a professional and I wanted to be a woman breaking down the glass ceiling, but now I am doing work I am passionate about.”

She said she doesn’t regret the journey that brought her this new career — in fact, it’s taught her a lot and set her apart as an agent.

Proctor’s first potential career was law. She earned her degree and wrote the bar exam but said she knew early on that she never wanted to practice law.

“Law was never a burning ambition for me but it kept me from having to find a job for a few years,” she laughed.

“At the time, lawyers had just been given the ability to advertise and market themselves,” Proctor said. It was the communications and marketing aspect that drew her attention. She was good at research and writing so she jumped at the opportunity to provide marketing services for small law firms. “This enabled me to work from home, which wasn’t the norm 32 years ago.”

After she raised her kids, Proctor felt she was ready to leave entrepreneurship behind and return to the corporate world. Working mostly in communications and marketing, she gained new skills and enjoyed it for a while but eventually came back to entrepreneur life. She went back to writing as a business but she didn’t have the same motivation for it that she once did.

Then, in 2015 her father died and she had a health scare. “It made me stop and think. My father passed on and we had previously had many conversations about doing work that you are passionate about,” she said. “I thought, ‘I’m 58 — it’s now or never!’.”

As a travel agent, Proctor has to listen to client wants and needs and match that with a destination, accommodations and experiences. If people are looking for their dream trip, she needs to deliver — this is where her law school education helps her out. 

“[In law school] I learned to research, multi-task and about client service,” she said. “[These skills] allow me to find unique opportunities and get accommodations that are best suited for the client.”

Equally important in her business is her ability to market herself.

“Because I am home-based, nobody is going to walk in the door. I have to communicate and market myself well,” she said.

Although she’s now marketing and selling to individuals rather than big corporations, the basics are the same and her former training and work experience has given her the confidence to know she can do it. 

“I know I am good at certain things and I’m not good at other things,” she said. “With age, you’re not afraid to ask for things anymore. I’ll ask a vendor for a lower price. I think, ‘What have I got to lose?’ and you need that as a small business owner.”

In 2018, her business will be growing as her husband joins her. It will become a true family business, as one of her sons already helps out.

By being part of her business and watching his mother progress along different careers path, Proctor knows her son has learned the importance of loving what you do, and if you don’t, being willing to explore other opportunities. In addition to helping her, he is pursuing his own photography business as well.

And what has Proctor she learned from all of this? “Follow your passion. I wish I had had the guts to do this and move out of my comfort zone five years ago, at least.”

A woman smiles while resting her hands on a desk globe.

(Photo credit Proctor Photography)