You never know what you are going to find when you open the paper or click on its website.  Expecting the usual mayhem and corruption, I was delighted this morning when I spied J. Craig Anderson’s article “Tour operator embraces Skype to ease international logistics” in the Portland Press Herald. Intrigued, I quickly opened the link and began to read about Janet Spear.

SpearEvidently “agro-touring” is big  business.  Spear organizes agricultural tours all over the world.  One tour this past fall to Scotland and Ireland included stops at farmers’ markets, a botanical garden, castles, trout farms, and a whiskey distillery. What fun!

As I continued to read I realized that I have probably passed her farm stand hundreds of times as I travel Route 1.  It’s in Waldoboro, Maine, just down the hill or two from Moody’s Diner.  In fact I have stopped and taken pictures there because every fall they have the most amazing pumpkin displays.

Pumpkin Display at Spear Vegetable Farm

Pumpkin Display at Spear Farm Stand in Waldoboro, Maine

Touring with a theme is much more interesting than just a series of unrelated stops on a fast-paced bus tour.  I have a friend who went on mushroom gathering tours in Italy for several years.  Though eating fungi has no appeal to me, the thought of tramping through the Italian country side was very tempting.  It’s exciting to know that there is an expert  just up the road from me who plans unique tours. To visit Janet’s website, click here.

I also found it interesting that she uses Skype to help her clients plan the trip they want. Skype, for those unfamiliar, is a free download for any digital device that allows one to participate in one-to-one video calls.  It’s an easy install and straightforward to use.  Talking face-to-face is more personal than just a phone call, and this app would be beneficial for lots of small businesses.  Building trust and a personal connection is important, and Skype facilitates these attributes of a successful business.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 9.19.08 AMIn fact, I use Skype a lot.  Just recently I spent an hour and a half skyping (yes, it’s a verb) with Tim and Val Farren of Farren Safaris, another fabulous Maine-based tour company, fine-tuning my trip to Africa in March.  This app is also extremely helpful when collaborating on workshop presentations or writing projects.

Two other free video conferencing apps are Google Hangout and Facetime.  Facetime only works with Apple products, but Google Hangout works with all digital devices.  The benefit of Hangout is that you can have multiple people in the video call. The free version of Skype also allows multiple people, but it is just audio.

Looking for a different kind of tour–check out Janet Spear’s agriculture-based tours.  Looking to communicate in a more personal way with clients, family and friends—investigate Skype, Google Hangout, and/or Facetime.

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