Celebrating Travel Industry Couples – Flemming Friisdahl & Rhonda Stanley
Open Jaw by Martha Chapman
Flemming Friisdahl & Rhonda Stanley
Still travelling and still loving it, all these years later: meet Flemming Friisdahl and Rhonda Stanley of the Travel Agent Next Door
When the question is “Where did you 2 meet?” and the answer is, “In Egypt”, you know you are off to an exotic start.
“I was working with an inbound operator – I was the nice Canadian boy to meet and greet the passengers – and Rhonda was on a Manager of the Year trip with Sears Travel,” recalls Flemming.
When I ask Rhonda what her 1st impressions of Flemming were – he jumps in: “Handsome! Good looking!” And, Rhonda remembers someone who was very positive and good at what he did, though the sparks didn’t really fly for either of them. It was, after all, a working trip.
They both eventually reconnected when Rhonda was transferred from St. John’s to Burnaby and Flemming, who had moved to Vancouver, was hired to run Sears groups for Western Canada. Eventually the relationship moved from professional to personal and they moved in together. However, as this arrangement didn’t strictly adhere to company policy, it was an elaborate secret, kept afloat by their having separate home phone numbers, arriving separately at work and rarely lunching together.
The cat was out of the bag, though, when Rhonda became pregnant with their twins, now 20 years old. The couple married shortly after the girls were born and honeymooned on a Royal Caribbean Nordic Prince cruise to Alaska. “New house, new babies – we didn’t go very far!” Flemming laughs.
But there have been many trips since then. The most romantic destination? “Greece, hands down,” says Rhonda. “But we don’t know if there hasn’t been a place we’ve been together which we haven’t found romantic.” These days they also enjoy travelling with the kids, including a recent family holiday in Brazil. And Flemming says that Rhonda has gotten used to him being on the road, which he was almost every other week when he worked at Thomas Cook.
Today they are senior execs at The Travel Agent Next Door, Flemming as Founder and Rhonda as Vice President of Talent Development. So… is there a downside to working with your spouse? “No question, we talk about it at home and work can dominate conversations. We try not to do that when the kids are around,” says Flemming.
And they have definite thoughts on the secret to a happy marriage. Rhonda says the answer is to never lose focus, no matter how bad things are, and to always say I love you. According to Flemming it’s all about communicating – helped by the fact that they always take at least 1 trip, just the 2 of them, each year, “Even if we talk shop at times!”
What are their plans for Valentine’s Day this year? The question provokes much laughter from them both: it turns out Flemming’s going on a buddies’ getaway to Hawaii (“It was the only time we were all available!”) and Rhonda will be with the family in Atlanta. Flemming says, “I don’t believe one day defines romance – Rhonda and I are more about every day.”
However you spend it, Happy Valentine’s Day, Flemming and Rhonda!