As if starting a new life in a foreign country isn’t enough of a challenge, Cathy Moha also started a new career – in travel.
Now an agent with Coastline Travel Advisors in Garden Grove, Calif., a Virtuoso agency, Moha arrived from France just five years ago.
She found a very different professional lifestyle here than in her native country where she worked first as a nurse specializing in facial burns and later as a college professor. For the first time, in America, Moha said she really had to be intent on making money.
“In France when you are a nurse you are not a businessperson,” Moha said. “It’s still the spirit of ancient times when nurses were mainly nuns. It’s supposed to be work where you don’t make money and you’re there to release people from their sufferings.
“Even if you make money you’re not supposed to show it,” she said. “As a teacher you’re appointed by the French government and there’s not money in it either. You’re just there to teach and transfer knowledge to the people.”
Although she never worked in the travel business before, Moha had traveled often with her parents on their sailboat when she was growing up and made a trip to the U.S. every year between 1989 and 2008.
Although she wasn’t prepared for the demands of the travel business, Moha launched her own company, Assistourist, which specialized in travel for people with severe medical conditions.
At the same time, she was working nonstop to learn the business by taking classes and webinars on travel-related topics, as well as financial courses at the Small Business Administration office.
Without an extensive network yet and still learning how to work with Americans, Moha struggled to make Assistourist successful. After meeting the president of Coastline Travel Advisors, she decided to close her company and join Coastline.
Moha now specializes in travel to France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Israel, and Southeast Asia for a variety of clients rather than people with physical barriers to travel.
But her experience as a nurse still comes into play no matter who the client is.
“Being a nurse gave me a sense of emergency – to understand what is important and what is less important,” she said. “That’s also a big asset in my relationship with clients.
“To really quickly feel what’s important to them and what their big concerns are when they travel.”
Since beginning her new career at Coastline Travel Advisors a bit more than a year go, Moha has been working on increasing travel to Israel.
She’s Jewish, and her son and his fiancé, both now living in Australia, will relocate to Israel to get married and live.
“I’m in touch with the Los Angeles Israeli office of tourism and try to talk to people when I go to the synagogue,” she said.
“People have their habits and way to go to Israel, and it doesn’t look like it is easy to develop a business to Israel from the people around me, but I’m trying to do it.”
Food and wine niche
Moha’s also working on expanding her group business, which focuses on wine and food.
She calls on gourmet French restaurants with proposals to take groups of 12 to 15 people to France or Spain, accompanied by the restaurant’s chef, and has done one group to France thus far.
Her strategy is to host dinner meetings with potential travelers on evenings when the restaurant is rather slow to determine interest. One chef is interested in two trips a year, and she’s also working with a Japanese restaurant to do a trip to Japan.
Moha’s efforts may be boosted by a future appearance as a guest on GrapeRadio – an audio and video program broadcast on the Internet – to talk about food and wine pairing
As if she’s not busy enough, Moha spends time playing classical piano music and trying to get back to the rock climbing, sailing, scuba diving and hiking she enjoyed in France but has been too busy to participate in now.
She also devotes Saturday mornings to writing her third novel, taking a break from her busy life of running a travel business.