Daniel Shenk-Moreno visited Barcelona six times in the past year. The city offers many attractions, but for Shenk-Moreno, a lifelong Barcelona fan, seeing his favorite soccer team defeat Manchester City in the Champions League quarterfinal was the highlight.
He was in the city again for the league’s final, and even though Barcelona’s ultimate win happened in Berlin, the local celebrations lasted through the night with crowd-surfing in the streets, raucous cheering and fireworks.
Shenk-Moreno doesn’t travel for pleasure; it’s for a job he didn’t even dare dream about. The 2013 graduate works with ProActive Tours, which books and guides international tours for club and college sports teams.
As an international business major, fluent in Spanish with a passion for soccer, no job could have been a better fit, but the irony is his first job out of college “fell into my lap,” he says.
A growing business
Shenk-Moreno met one of ProActive’s owners, Jeff Davis, while refereeing soccer in Harrisonburg. In January 2013, the pair worked a tournament together, and Shenk-Moreno learned that Davis would be leading a trip to Barcelona and Southern France in April. With graduation soon approaching, Shenk Moreno applied to be an intern with the company.
“At the time, they didn’t have anyone who spoke Spanish. That was my in. I ended up getting the internship and also helped out on that trip,” Shenk-Moreno said.
The week he began his internship, ProActive’s third employee handed in her two-weeks’ notice.
“So the owners said, ‘If you really like the job, then you can have the job,’” Shenk-Moreno said.
Today, the company has seven full-time employees and double the number of trips annually compared to when Shenk-Moreno started as operations manager and group sales associate.
A ‘thirst’ for exploration
He takes the “live in the moment” approach to the demanding travel schedule work
“I’m enjoying it while I’m young and I’m able to travel and I have the flexibility that comes with not being tied down with a family yet,” Shenk-Moreno said.
His work has also taken him to Cuba, Canada, Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay, England, France, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden.
Travel has always been part of Shenk-Moreno’s life experience. A native of El Salvador, he spent much of his childhood in Central and South America.
“It wasn’t, for example, like you stayed in Harrisonburg and never left … There was always this thirst for wanting to get out, wanting to explore,” Shenk-Moreno said.
Everywhere he goes now, though, there’s one thing in common–an emphasis on active travel.
“We don’t just sit on a bus. We go on walking tours or bike tours. When we’re in Costa Rica, we do white water rafting,” Shenk-Moreno said. “The activities mostly work on team bonding, communication, group dynamics and getting them to become a closer team. It’s always fun to do zip-lining or other activities where they have to work together.”
Most mornings, he indulges himself in a run, listening to a Rick Steve’s audio tour of the area he will take his group later.
“We do a lot of our own guiding because we know our audience. A college team doesn’t necessarily want the entire history book. They want to know the cool stuff, the fun facts, the necessary facts, and then they want to have more free time to go around and take pictures,” Shenk-Moreno said.
Despite being an experienced traveler, Shenk-Moreno deals with the perils as well. While leading a trip in Barcelona, thieves took his camera, wallet, passport, sunglasses, phone and $300. He had no way of paying for anything, no way of getting out of the country and a group of 25 college students to take care of.
“Everything worked out, but I was more bummed about my passport because I was two pages from filling it. I had three different visas and all these stamps from 26 different countries. Now I have five stamps,” Shenk-Moreno said.
However, the challenges are worth the benefits.
“I get to show people who have never traveled or gone anywhere a new place … That’s a rewarding experience, and when people say, ‘I can’t wait to do it again,’ I know I’m doing my job right,” he said.