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Both on the road and in the insurance market, you don’t always know what’s around the corner. (Photo: Banana Oil/Shutterstock)

I am not an outsider; I call myself an “indoor girl.”

But now I’m planning my annual 50 mile walk with my husband and twin sister. Once again this year, we are planning to conquer the most famous Appalachian Trail (aka “The AT”). When I’m done, I’ll hit the 300 mile mark on the AT miles.

Getting to this point has been a difficult but exciting journey. As I began to walk, a few miles at a time, I began to love the truth and the challenge. As my ride got longer, my sister and I came up with a “two-car race” (parking a car at the start and another at the end to block back and forth).

Before we turned 50, I challenged my sister to join me on a 50 mile hike in the AT. We walked 16 to 18 miles each day, successfully completing our 50th birthday trip.

Now this trip has become a tradition. Every year, we would walk another 50 miles. Sometimes we don’t make it 50 miles, but we still consider every step a success.

Walking down the street has proven to be a metaphor for my role in insurance sales and marketing. Here are three things in common:

  1. Travel and advertising are all activities;
  2. Like my job, climbing requires energy and preparation; and
  3. No two trips are the same.

Information found in the tail

Tracy Catalano, seen here, challenged her twin sister to join her on a 50-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail the year they both turned 50.

Below is some information about insurance products that I have gleaned from my travels.

Take a look. When I’m walking on a cobblestone path, I always look down because obstacles can trip me up at any time. The trail changes direction and changes from gravel to dirt to mud, quickly, and I have to pay attention.

However, I’ve noticed that I’m missing a lot if I just look down. This is like being caught up in urgent business related matters. Without looking up, I might miss something important, long-term and wise.

Focusing means being ready for the satisfaction I’m getting, whether it’s traveling or advertising. Marketing offers instant gratification, for example, seeing the results of email campaigns.

Traveling is a great time to generate creative ideas. Fresh air and getting out of my stuff opens my mind.

Wear appropriate footwear. Walking 40,000 steps a day requires the right shoes. They may not be new, though. They should be replaced with a broken work before they get on the road.

One of the most embarrassing moments of my marketing career was showing the wrong shoes for a TV commercial shoot in a railroad car dealership. I wore open-toed shoes. Although they looked comfortable, that was a poor choice of shoes for the job. The buyer asked me to stop filming. Although I felt embarrassed, the customer was right. It was too dangerous to walk in open-toed shoes.

Here are the tips: Ask someone with experience for advice. Think about the future. Identify the needs. Choose the right tools, and test things before using them under pressure.

Hold your breath. It’s very important when you travel often to slow down a bit and take a breather. It’s up to me to take the best way to breathe properly. It’s good to pause to recreate and capture what I’m doing on purpose.

Similarly, why not do this at work? I can get so busy with tasks that I forget to stop. Taking a break means reading a blog or an article, hanging out with friends, taking my team to lunch, or walking around the house for a while.

Look for inspiration

To catch my breath at work, I often have business events. I started going to HubSpot’s INBOUND sales conference in Boston at the beginning of the advertising revolution. There were about 2,500 traders at the first conference I attended; now it is 25,000. They share ideas, strengths and strategies. I use this assembly, along with Insurance Marketing and Communications Association (IMCA) strengthen my work.

Don’t assume too much. The scariest time I’ve had on the AT was when my husband and I were trying to hike 17 miles in a day. It was very hot, much hotter than we expected, with difficult terrain and a big change in terrain.

We ran out of water with four hours to go, and then we left in the afternoon before two hours were up. Each had only a small lamp. We were so exhausted and dehydrated that we didn’t think we would make it. We were walking in the dark with difficulty. Somehow, the day’s hike unexpectedly turned into 26 miles.

Treacherous terrain can add mileage, and anyone who has hiked The AT will attest that mileage markers and maps are not always accurate. Neither is forecasting the weather.

The lesson of business is, it’s better to say no to something in order to set realistic expectations.

Include the right things. Before I started climbing, I didn’t have the necessary equipment, and I wasn’t in good shape. Since being outside as a child meant going to the backyard to play, it was scary as an adult to be on the road. I didn’t know what I needed. So I went to the outdoor vendor and bought everything: backpack, bear spray, tarps, tents, sleeping bags, and even a mat to sit on for lunch.

However, I didn’t know that the secret to backpacking is to pack as little weight as possible!

I am reminded of my first advertising job in the late 1980s. Back then, we didn’t have design software. It was digital printing at its best. We made notes on paper.

But I had to learn digital skills, then learn the World Wide Web, then learn and learn different digital marketing software tools. It’s been 30-plus years of renovations. I have learned and agree that it is important and sustainable.

Illustration: Both in travel and in business, you don’t always know what’s around the corner. For example, in my career, I have faced financial crisis several times and had to change our methods and our methods. Even in good financial times, sometimes you have to stop spending and change strategies.

Have fun. One of our plans for every trip is to hide a cooler in the trunk of our car with ice cold beer and water. This is sometimes what motivates us to finish. We clink bottles together and thank God for another good day.

Since we are walking, not backpacking, we don’t sleep in tents along the way, but choose hotels that are close to the tracks. We sit together and describe the day, look at our pictures and appreciate ourselves. We do this for hours! After each ride, I create a snapshot that remembers our ride: laughter, tears, experiences and accomplishments.

I also do this with my marketing team. I take accolades and share them. I sometimes treat them to a long lunch. I compile my project achievements from last year and share this with the management.

The more exposure the team has, the better it is for everyone. During this time, I talk about what I have learned and ask others how they would do things differently next time.

Traci Catalano is senior vice president of marketing at Old Republic Surety. Traci Catalano

Hiking the Appalachian Trail not only improved my health but also my health. It has also increased my awareness of my abilities and opportunities. It made me realize that many challenges can be overcome with the right planning, ideas and friends.

Traci Catalano is senior vice president of marketing at Old Republic Surety. He can be reached at [email protected].

Any opinions expressed here are the author’s own.

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