Just off the coast of Honduras is an island in a blue escape. The waterfalls off the edge of the earth somewhere out as far as the eye can see and the waves melt into nothingness before they reach the white sandy shores.
For a woman who has traveled to some of the greatest destinations, this is her favorite oasis.
It's not just the water whipped wind that comes off the reef easing the hot sun or the hammocks strung between trees in the spotted shade beckoning for an afternoon nap that makes this place the best for her - it's the silence.
The silence from the rest of the world, kept away by sand bars that reach to the outermost edge, where Natalie Browning and her family can get lost in the adventures they're having together. Here, in Little French Key, a mother, father, and two girls disappear into moments under water, on the beach, beneath thatched roofs, on horseback, where there is only one thing on the to-do list: make memories.
And Natalie Browning
is in the business of making memories
At eight years old, Natalie Browning was fascinated by Disney. It wasn't just the array of colorful characters she loved, nor the stories or the parks, it was the man himself she had an obsession with. Walt Disney dreamed and designed in a way that captivated Natalie's imagination and his vision for the park intrigued her. "Walt wanted it to be a place for everyone to go and enjoy, a place for multi generational families" she says, and that's exactly what he created.
"My grandmother was in her 70's," Natalie recalls about her first trip to Disney, "and she just wanted to chase the characters, to see them." The pair had prepared for the trip by walking laps around their church, "I didn't think about it as a child," she says, " but here, 30 years later, I wouldn't take anything for that time with her. That memory is something that no body can take away from me," and it sparked a lifetime passion for helping others find that same magic.
People in Natalie's community began to ask her for advice, trusting the Disney expert could help them plan even the smallest details that can sometimes seem overwhelmingly complicated before heading to the parks.
So, the transition into becoming a travel agent just seemed a natural step in Natalie's journey.
In time as her clients grew, Natalie followed suite, evolving to fit their needs. "Most of my clients were three and four when they started with me," she says. "Now most of the kids are 10, 12, 14 and are moving on to other things and as my clients have progressed I have progressed." Natalie's destinations have expanded to include more than just Disney and more than just parents with their kids; she has the expertise to plan the perfect romantic getaway, weekend retreat, or solo adventure - although Disney still remains her favorite.
As her business has grown she has added agents that reflect the same kind of friendly, driven and enthusiastic traits that have contributed to Natalie's success. People, she says, who have to know and understand the importance of detail as well as community but are also able to "put up with my crazy," she laughs.
Today, Natalie loves sending clients on trips that allow them to immerse themselves in the experience and make amazing memories, like Little French Key did for her. The best reward is when they share their photos
and stories, then she knows she has been successful in her job. Her goal is to personalize every moment of a trip, leaving no stone unturned; it's not unusual to find her calling up the nearest pharmacy to have a bottle of Pedialyte sent to a sick child or planning an entire dinner party at Epcot for a client and her friends. She knows which room in the hotel will work best for this client or which seat on the plane another client will prefer; she has it all covered. "I want to handle all the details. I want to know what you want, put it all together and make it flow," she says. "We're on call 24/7 and to have that ability, you can know you're not a number to us, you're a name, a person, a family. I get to know my clients, build relationships and friendships and get their trust. "
With the close relationships Natalie builds through her work, her growing community has become a central focus. There is a network of families linked together through Natalie's business and a friendship with her clients that is unlike any other travel business you encounter. She looks after the needs of families, and they look after hers: "when you use me I'm paying for dance lessons for my kids, "she says, "people understand that and when they know that's where they're putting their money it makes them feel good also." As Natalie continues to succeed she looks forward to finding new and fun ways to give back to the people who have allowed her to live her dream.
In 1928 an entrepreneur sat in a railcar leaving Manhattan and heading for Hollywood. The constant chatter from the belly of the train the soundtrack to his mind as it gave birth to an icon. The artist was on the verge of losing his business, his work stolen by his competitor. He was heading for the West Coast a broken man. At just the right moment, Walt Disney's business was about to be revived by a little mouse, and the world was about to be changed forever.
Almost 90 years later, Natalie Browning's love for that cartoon and the man behind him would spark life into a business built around the joy Disney brought into this world. It would be the railroad - the tracks akin to those that brought that Mickey Mouse into this world - that would help Natalie realize the importance of time spent together with the the most important people in the world.
When Natalie's husband, Ryan, lost his job after 17 years in the coal mining industry, their sense of security and family was shaken. A new career with the railroad kept Ryan and Natalie and their daughters apart for the first time. "You don't realize the time and how precious it is until you don't have it together," Natalie says, "the memories we make on the road are like no other, we cherish those memories." That understanding is what makes Natalie and Insider Travel Planners so unique; she understands on a personal level the importance of time spent together with loved ones, creating memories to last a lifetime just like those of Little French Key she holds so dear.
As for Natalie's love of Disney, which is stronger than ever, her favorite character is "Mickey, of course," she says, "after all - it all started with a mouse."
That it did.
Writer Credit: Eliyah Finkelstein