Bubble Thoughts: Consider The Journey On Your Way To Creating a Memory

Bubble Thoughts . . .  

Those delicate moments of unfiltered insight, known to float between the conscious and sub-conscious, have played havoc with my daily routine.

The absence of a commute and its pre-requisite shower, both reliable Bubble Thought portals, have forced me to wake early, many times before dawn, to capture insight before the bubbles pop. In those wee hours, television is a routine background companion. Programming tends to bypass the content of early morning news in favor of something more lighthearted.

One morning I stumbled upon a re-run of “Murder She Wrote”, starring Dame Angela Lansbury as famed mystery writer Jessica Fletcher. This episode followed Jessica on a trip to Cork, Ireland at the invitation of a dear, old friend.

Might I ask: Who in their right mind would welcome Jessica Fletcher for a visit? She’s like an adorable, cuddly, gray haired Grim Reaper. Someone’s going to end up in a chalk outline.

Panoramic scenes shot in and around Cork, though, sent me spiraling back to my first, and only visit to the Emerald Isle. It was the summer we boarded the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle, a 295-foot Barque (Sailing Vessel) in New London, Connecticut, bound for a Goodwill Tour of several destinations across Europe. Our first stop would be in Ireland, following a demanding, character building 21-day transit across the icy North Atlantic.

The afternoon we pulled into Cork Harbour has lingered as more than just another port call. It stands as an ever-present reminder of the emotions at play during an Arrival Experience, my reaction speaking to the true potential of the moment. Memories of that day define an ambitious perspective required to fulfill that potential:

Welcome everyone as if they have been at sea for 21 days.

Land, Beautiful Land

Today’s story picks up where a previous post (Dead Reckoning) left off.

The morning of our 21st day at sea had featured its share of excitement, as we sailed closer to the rugged coastline than comfort would allow. That lesson in vigilant response, though amazing to experience, was exhausting to execute. However, we remained on track to arrive in Cork later that afternoon.

My next scheduled shift was 4:00pm – 8:00pm . . . in the engine room. This meant after 21 days of water, water, everywhere, I would spend our transit through the picturesque River Lee and into Cork Harbour below deck. Considering it was my time first arriving in a new port, I was hoping for a position with a view. When it was time, down the “hole” I went.

Some brief, initial maneuvering at the river’s inlet would be followed by a lengthy transit into the harbor. The Chief Engineer, sensing my curiosity, asked if I wanted to look topside. I knew enough not to physically step on deck, which at that point would be covered from bow to stern in sail lines. Instead, I would sneak a peak out of the access door that led to the mechanical spaces.

I opened the door and went weak at the knees. The greenest green I ever saw. Rolling hills bathed in an emerald hue set against the blue canopy of a mid-summer sky. It was poetic. You would have thought I had been lost at sea for months, the way my heart and soul reacted to the visual spectacle before me.

Duty called, so it was back down to the engine room. Being toward the end of June, the sun was still shining when my shift ended. Commercial docks are never things of beauty, but I didn’t care. We had arrived in Ireland, it was all new, and all very enchanting.

Consider the Journey

Every travel adventure, local, national, or international, begins with an aspect of choice. Once reservations or plans are confirmed, travel becomes a necessity. Somehow, some way, your customers must transport themselves to your location.

Invest a moment to recognize what a person has endured to become your patron. The act of getting from Point A to Point B in today’s environment can be exhausting, even for the most seasoned travelers. If plans are local, surviving a daily routine with enough time and energy left for dinner or a massage takes effort. Weather, traffic, crowds, mechanical delays . . . any number of factors can create doubt as to whether the trip will be worth the effort.

The mere act of arriving becomes an enchantment. Walking through the entrance releases the pressure, reducing tension that may have accumulated during travel or transit. “Shoulders Down, Spirits Up” is what I strive for, that relaxing boost of energy that comes from finally reaching a destination.

Arrival represents a sense of personal comfort and reward. Silent whispers of gratitude wash over the guest, celebrating the satisfaction of having followed through on plans. The guest can now move forward, invigorated by the anticipation of exploring a new place, new opportunities, or new levels of service.

The only thing standing between them and potential memories of a lifetime . . . is you, and your heartfelt welcome.

Empathic Empowerment

Most empowerment models focus on awareness and authority. A scripted response, or worse, a reaction.

An upgrade to Empathic Empowerment combines a visual and emotional perspective to truly connect with the moment. You are sensing the most appropriate action or response. This clarity is necessary to exceed the expected and become truly engaged in the moment.

See beyond surface demeanor when a guest arrives, fatigue may be filtering through. Or, it may have been a pleasant trip and arriving has re-energized their spirits. Either way, the pace of service and gratitude expressed will enhance the essence of a warm, genuine welcome:


The pace, or tempo, of an arrival experience should reflect the spirit of the moment. This begins with approaching each guest as a specific, unique opportunity to engage.

A weekly customer to a Spa or a business traveler arriving at their hotel may appreciate a fast, efficient, courteous arrival. This aligns with the overall purpose for choosing the destination. Their focus is beyond arrival, to the more practical elements of their visit.

Identify when additional time and attention can be allotted to create a more memorable experience. Read the situation in front of you, then apply your best judgement to determine pace. Your heart may go out to the parents managing their children but bypassing extended dialogue and seating them at their table may be the best move.

Read physical and verbal clues that give you the green light to interact on a more personal level. Probing questions, a relaxed posture, and casual gestures indicate a willingness to engage. Recognize this is not idle chit-chat, but an opportunity to display genuine interest and care.

Listen with intention. Practice breathing . . . it is impossible to speak when you’re taking a breath.

Information you glean may be used to create personal delighters or other special moments along the way.


Expressing gratitude for choosing your business is the foundation of a true service connection.

Gratitude has morphed into a service standard whose presence is routinely watered down, simplified into a four-word scripted response: “Thank you for choosing” or “Thank you for calling.” Too often, the phrase is used to springboard dialogue into an overview of reservation details, bypassing the intent and value of the expression.

The guest in front of you is your reason for being. Regardless of miles traveled or nature of their journey, you must feel grateful for their choice. Share it genuinely, honestly, and with complete transparency.

This goes back to pace. Pause between statements to allow the emotions involved to come through, both as offered and received. Smile with your eyes, allow the guest to see and feel what is coming from your heart.

Signature Moments

Why will someone choose to visit your establishment? More importantly, what will bring them back, or have them sharing stories on your behalf for years to come?

An impactful arrival experience begins with creating a list of basic expectations. These align with your customer experience, elements a customer or guest will take for granted once they arrive. Then add more . . .          

The opportunity to visit Ireland was nowhere near our scope of influence. As cadets, we would boldly go wherever the ship we were on was taking us. That it turned into a Goodwill Tour of Europe was a blessing. When the choice was communicated, we expected to visit the destination.

Once we arrived, we wanted more . . . to experience the culture of Ireland, to build a cache of stories we could share with others, and memories we could cherish forever.

For many, those memories began and ended with a visit to both the Guinness Warehouse and Murphy’s Stout Brewery.  The reality of 19-year old cadets on the loose, exploring what the city of Cork had to offer, testing the limits of sobriety along the way.

Others, including myself, ventured beyond the city limits on a tour of Blarney Castle. This, of course, is home to the Blarney Stone, said to bequeath the Gift of Gab to those who kiss it. We discovered that you lie on your back, stretching upside down when planting a kiss on the stone. Which I did . . . in the process confirming the legend’s claim because its been non-stop gabbing ever since.

That was a Signature Moment for me, a life-long memory that I have shared repeatedly over time.

What opportunities exist for you to create a similar experience for your visitors? The arrival experience is perfect for planting the seeds of interest, even confirming arrangements on behalf of the guest if possible.

This again supports the critical nature of Empathic Empowerment. Begin each interaction with full awareness of services offered, menus, local attractions, seasonal offerings, etc. Be willing to share opinions, personal recommendations, and personal experience whenever appropriate. What the guest will appreciate or have interest in will be determined during the arrival exchange.

This is what you’re listening for . . . the guest will provide direction for you to act on. It may require more subtle probing, a choice between options. Perhaps the result will be something totally unique, a personal Signature Moment that you create from scratch. These don’t always require a big budget or collaboration among service forces. You would be amazed at the impact of a hand-written note.

Emotional, not financial, investment is what your guest will appreciate most.

Remain ready for the opportunities, and work to create lasting memories that guests will share repeatedly over time.


Memories from our transit to and arrival in Cork, Ireland, carry a deep appreciation for the emotional content of an Arrival Experience. The potential that exists within that exchange to create lasting connections and memorable moments requires a specific perspective: Consider the Journey involved.

What has your customer or guest endured to become your patron? Arrival becomes a moment of enchantment, an opportunity to celebrate having followed through on plans. Practice Empathic Empowerment to monitor the pace of the arrival experience, and express sincere gratitude for the opportunity to serve.

Making a choice lends itself to basic expectations. Signature Moments create lasting memories, stories guests will share with others over, and over again. Be aware of opportunities to create these moments. This could be a featured service, menu item, or seasonal attraction. It could also be something unique, something you create such as a handwritten note. Listen to the guest for clues as to what they would appreciate most.

Reach beyond your potential, and your guest may be the one going weak at the knees.

Thank you for spending your Tuesday with Tall Tim Talks!

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