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Anjana Duff: Sharing the Beauty of the World

A successful travel advisor and owner of Travel Connection, specializing in luxury trips to Europe and the Caribbean, mother of two and happily married to her husband of 30 years, Anjana Duff, has built a life of beauty – and her greatest joy is helping others experience the life changing experiences that come through travel. Anjana came to the United States at 5 years old with her parents, who gave their children the gift of centuries-old Indian traditions combined with modern American life. “I haven’t visited India since I was a teenager,” Anjana laughed, “even though my parents visited often.” Her father came to Canada to study for his PhD, and had every intention of returning to India, but received a job offer to work as a research scientist for Reynolds Metal Company in the United States, and decided to accept. “America was everyone’s dream – we were the typical immigrant story.” The family settled in the small town of Florence, Alabama, in 1968, which was a culture shock for the family. “The community there didn’t even know what East Indians were; they thought we were Native American,” laughed Anjana.

After two years, Anjana’s father was laid off, but by then the family had made this country their home. “In 1976, we moved to Cincinnati, and my father started working for the government. By then we were all United States citizens. I finished junior high, high school and college there – it’s the place I call home.”

After graduate school at Ohio University, Anjana moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and began working in public relations. “When that position was eliminated, I didn’t want to move back home, so I took a position working for Edward Jones Investments in their advertising department. That’s where I met my husband, Mike, so I think it was meant to be.”

By the time Mike and Anjana were married, Mike was a licensed financial advisor, and the couple moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, to set up an Edward Jones office. Anjana remembers those early days with fondness, “We looked at a map and decided Raleigh would be a good place to live and raise a family.”

Like most well laid plans, this one changed in a big way. “Six months after we moved, the home office called and said they had an open office in Conway, South Carolina, and needed someone there right away.” The couple drove to the area the next weekend and found it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. “Mike moved right away, and I soon followed. We’ve been here permanently since 1992.” Mike and Anjana lived in Conway for five years, and then built their current home in Carolina Forest. “We were like the pioneers of this area. Carolina Forest was just all trees. We had one of the first five homes in Waterford Plantation. I can still remember how excited I was when they built a Kroger right down the road two years later!”

Mike stayed with Edward Jones for another 10 years and then moved to Raymond James in Myrtle Beach, where he is today, and together, the couple built a beautiful life and family with two daughters, Alysha, now 26 and Gracie, 21. “I always missed the big cities. That’s what has fueled my passion for travel.” Anjana continued, saying, “I’ve been traveling my entire life. My dad had the travel bug, and we traveled a lot growing up. I have two brothers, and all three of us are passionate about travel. My parents would pack us up in the back seat, and we took road trips around the country – there is plenty to see in the United States!”

As a stay at home mom, travel was Anjana’s outlet, her way of taking care of herself. But as the children grew and needed her less, she knew she wanted something more. “Someone mentioned being a travel advisor and working from home. I had no idea that even existed! I love doing research and planning travel. To do this for other people and get paid for it – this was perfect for me!”

Anjana launched her business, Travel Connection, in 2007 and has enjoyed building it up. “I love helping people travel and have amazing experiences. I know travel broadens people’s horizons – a change of pace and a change of place changes perspectives. The human experience is very universal, and travel allows people to see that.” Anjana also understands how travel positively affects relationships. “You bond over something new, and there’s no better way to deepen and strengthen relationships. Whether you’re on a tropical beach or in a beautiful European city, guards come down. My clients leave on a trip excited about what they’re going to see, but come back saying it was the best trip ever because of bonds they strengthened – they talked, laughed and cried together. What they see isn’t the overriding message of what they experience.” Anjana feels travel is important for everyone. “This is the vehicle to making the world a smaller place… to breaking down barriers.”

I asked Anjana how travel had shaped who she is as a person. “It gives me a more global perspective. I embrace other cultures and people. I enjoy learning and experiencing new things. I’m very open-minded and like to get past the surface to get to know people. I don’t really like small talk – I prefer to connect on a deeper level.” Anjana and Mike have traveled extensively with their daughters and feel it has given them a broader perspective on life. “I believe travel has made them more empathetic to others’ situations. We’re really all the same at the core – there are many more similarities than differences. Both of my girls are open-minded, enjoy learning about other cultures and are caring and kind to others.”

It was hard for this lover of all travel to choose one trip that stands out. “That’s like asking which child is your favorite,” Anjana laughed. While she loves Europe, especially France, and any place tropical, one place she never thought much about visiting was Southeast Asia. Then last May, her older daughter, Alysha moved to Thailand to teach English. “I would’ve never chosen to go to Thailand at this time. It was low on my Bucket List, but, of course, I wanted to go and visit her. No one could go with me, so I made the trip alone – 48 hours of travel with layovers!” Anjana planned an itinerary to ensure she and Alysha would see as much as possible. “It was almost a three week trip, and we went to five different places. We were on a plane every few days, but I wanted to maximize my time there. It turned out to be the trip of a lifetime and an experience my daughter and I will never forget!”

While no one is traveling now, Anjana says it is a great time to start doing research. “Look at photos of the places you want to see. Dreaming and planning and thinking release those feel-good endorphins – it’s almost as good as going! And when it’s safe to travel again, you’ll have a plan.” Anjana recommends staying at least three to four days in one place before moving on. “And if possible, splurge on the view, the better hotel and a central location. Those are some of the key things that can take a good trip and make it a fabulous trip. You’ll always remember the great experience, not the money spent.”

“A good travel advisor is always worth the fee,” Anjana said. “They know and can get the better hotels and locations, the best tours and guides, and even better flights. A good travel advisor will recommend things on your itinerary that everyone may not know about – they have insider knowledge and can also get you VIP perks and upgrades. Not being bogged down with logistics that can take the joy out of your travel leaves you more time to spend with your companions to bond over your shared experiences and deepen that connection.”

The day we spoke, the COVID-19 quarantine was still in force, and when I asked about her daughters, Anjana shared that Alysha was currently in Bali, having completed her teaching contract in March. “She had a four month itinerary of travel planned before coming home in July which started with a two week vacation in Bali…and she got stuck there.” Anjana added that Alysha is safe and not at all bothered by her extended tropical vacation. Still living at home, Gracie is a junior at Coastal Carolina University and finished up her semester online. “She is missing her friends, and all of her social activities.”

Anjana, of course, had to cancel all of her clients’ travel through July and is uncertain about the rest of 2020. “By September we should know more. Right now, I’m advising people to plan for 2021.” This further emphasizes the importance of using a travel advisor, especially during these unprecedented times. “I am an advocate for my clients. No one wants to spend two hours on the phone rescheduling travel plans, trying to get their refunds or changing flights – I help my clients with all of that.”

Learn more about Anjana and Travel Connection at www.travelconnectionad.com, or find her on social media – www.facebook.com/Travelconnectionad or @travelduff on Instagram.

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