For This Travel Advisor, Life Began at 50

by David Cogswell
For This Travel Advisor, Life Began at 50

"It’s a crazy story. But, I feel this career always had my name on it. I’m so lucky. I built a really nice client base. I’m growing nicely, but the best thing is working in this industry."

Some people say life begins at 50. For Limor Decter, it was true, in a way. But it was actually her “third life.”

By the time Decter became a travel advisor, she had already had two careers: as an English teacher, and as a full-time mom. Her life as a travel advisor started with what seemed like a fluke, and it could easily have ended before it began.

It started with her sitting on the beach, looking at her iPhone. “I got my job from Instagram,” said Limor. “I tell people life begins at 50 and they laugh at me. But it’s true.”

Backstory to Career 3.0
Long before she became a travel advisor, Limor (named after a fragrance) taught English, public speaking and creative writing in a high school on Long Island for six years. Then she stopped teaching to raise her children. She loved being a mother. She was very hands-on, raising three children, who are now all grown up and set off on their own career paths.

But travel was in her blood from the beginning. “I was born in Israel,” she said. “I came to the U.S. when I was 6. My father was born in Morocco. My mother was born in Iraq. They met in Israel.” Her grandfather attended university in Beirut. Decter was born into a family that was truly transcontinental. She wasn’t quite “born in the backseat of a Greyhound bus,” but she was born into a family in motion.

Somehow that sense of motion was visible to others, because when she was raising her children, friends picked her out as the person to call for travel advice. She had a knack.

“I stayed at home and became a full-time mom and an unofficial concierge travel planner to all my family and friends,” she said. “For 20 years, I stayed home with my kids, and every day all day I fielded calls, ‘Where do I go? Plan my trip. What museum exhibit should I see? Where should I go for a restaurant? What should I do in this city?’ I don’t know why they thought I knew, but I guess I knew.”

Before her children reached school age, Limor traveled some with her husband, an importer, while her parents stayed with the kids. But when the kids got to school age, her travel ended. “Once the kids rolled around, I devoted all my energy to being a mom and to their lives and school and the PTA and the community and all that, and just being an unofficial concierge, go-to to anything.”

“My friends would be driving into the city and say, ‘Where should I park my car?’ I’d say, ‘Where are you staying, on the east or west or up or down?’ I don’t know why they asked me. Before Google, I was Google.”

A perfect beach day
When Limor turned 50, her youngest child was a senior in high school and the demands of mothering were shifting. She started to look to new horizons.

Limor had spent most of that summer on the beach. It started as just another day. “I was scrolling through Instagram at the beach one summer day,” she said. “I had followed some life coaches and I saw this seminar for women, a second-career workshop.”

Out of the blue, she was seized by an urge to attend a workshop. “It happened to have been a perfect beach day, ten out of ten,” said Limor. “I said to myself, ‘It’s a great beach day, but I’m just going to follow my gut. I like this lady. I’m just going to drive over and figure it out.’”

She asked some of her friends if they would be interested in going with her and got refusals all around. “They said, ‘No, why would I do that?’” she said. Why indeed? “I said, ‘I’m just going to go. I have this calling.’”

The hero’s journey
So began a quest that came with its own dragons and demons, as she drove from Long Island to Asbury Park, New Jersey, to attend a women’s empowerment, back-to-work seminar. The trip assumed the character of an epic struggle in miniature. Perhaps the gods were making sure she knew that nothing worth having comes easily.

“It was a real adventure to get there that day,” she said. “I got lost. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong.”

Still she persisted. “I was just so determined to find this lady and meet her.”

It meant leaving the idyllic beach day, driving through Manhattan and down to the Jersey Shore. She barely got started when she found herself stuck in one of those impossible, maddening New York traffic jams. “I’ll never forget,” she said, “I was sitting on the Belt Parkway. The traffic was insane. I was looking at the Verrazano Bridge and I thought, ‘Should I just turn around?’ But I said, ‘No, I’m just going to go.’ I was on that bridge and the traffic and the whole time, Waze was talking to me.”

While she struggled through traffic, Waze was consuming the energy on her phone. The app was also leading her the wrong way. “I didn’t realize my battery was dying,” she said. “I finally got to this neighborhood and it was not the right neighborhood. Waze put me in another city, one town over.”

Lost in space
She found herself in a scary-looking neighborhood in the wrong town. Thanks a lot, Waze! Not only was her phone dying, her car was also about to die. “I almost ran out of gas,” she said. “It was starting to putter. I was literally on my last minute.”

Just in time, she came to a gas station. “I’m getting out pumping my own gas, and I’m a little leery of all these people around me,” she said. “I’m looking around, thinking this is not a safe neighborhood. I didn’t feel so safe. Then I see in my rearview window, a Radio Shack.”

Thank God! There she could find a charger for her phone, and a restroom. “My bladder was going to explode,” she said. “I walked in and said, ‘I’m begging you, can I use your bathroom? And then I’m going to buy a charger. I’m ready to drop dead.’”

After the climactic Radio Shack moment, Decter made it to the seminar. She met the life coach, who took a liking to her and offered to introduce her to Jack Ezon, a mover-and-shaker in the travel industry, who was then at the Ovation Travel Group.

“She called Jack Ezon, who is one of the most well-respected luxury advisers there are,” said Decter. “He’s a powerhouse. He’s amazing, very well-connected, a strong producer, on advisory boards. He’s literally at the top of the food chain.”

Ezon invited Decter into the office. After smashing through all the barriers, she had established some momentum and the magic was clicking. She walked into Ezon’s office and he offered her a position with Ovation Travel on-the-spot.

The struggles up to that point turned out to be just a prelude. “I ended up getting four days of three hours a day of orientation, with Jack explaining the ropes, and then he took me to one of the rows and said, ‘This is your desk.’ I’m like, ‘Now what?’ He goes, ‘Now you’re going to work.’

“I’m like, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ I was sweating at the brow. But you know what? I took webinars. I learned from everyone around me. I asked a million questions. I commuted three hours a day religiously four days a week. I met the best suppliers, who came to our office, and I started doing a drop of marketing. And before you know it, it just grew.”

After three months, she got her first paycheck. “It was $87,” she said. “It didn’t even cover my train. It was very humbling. I looked at my husband and said, ‘I don’t know if I should continue this.’ He said, ‘Of course! Don’t worry, it’ll come.’”

It all pays off
And he was right. By the end of three years, she had booked more than a million dollars in travel business.

“So that’s that,” she said. “It’s a crazy story. But, I feel this career always had my name on it. I’m so lucky. I built a really nice client base. I’m growing nicely, but the best thing is working in this industry.

“I’m in the luxury travel industry, but the biggest luxury of all is being in this industry, because the nicest people are in hospitality. Suppliers will really bend over backwards for you. They are so appreciative that you send people their way. It’s such a feel-good industry. It’s a happy industry.

"I’ve also been so blessed and privileged to have not only traveled around world, but attended the best trade shows in the industry and met amazing people and made great connections. What could be better? I love my job.”

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