A born and raised New Yorker, Marisa grew up thinking she had everything she could ever want in her backyard. She never did much traveling, and certainly never dreamed of going to Africa.

All of that changed when a professor at the University of Michigan convinced her to study abroad in South Africa. That semester changed her life – and Africa won her heart. The adventurer inside her was born as she chased down a thief, climbed mountains, went on her first safari, traded fuel at a black market and left her heart at the orphanage where she volunteered. She then challenged herself to visit 24 countries in one year, which she accomplished by spending the next semester in Spain. Upon returning to Michigan, her wanderlust kicked in again and she decided to finish her degree in Ecuador. After graduating, she couldn't study abroad again – so she moved to Spain to teach English.

After a few years gallivanting around Europe, she returned to New York where her passion for Africa landed her a job at a luxury tour operator. She fell in love with the travel industry and knew she wanted to do big things within it. Her experience as an Africa specialist later lead her to Protravel International, where she realized other young professionals had a tough time getting a foot in the door. As a result, she created NEXT, a joint initiative of Protravel International & Tzell Travel Group, designed to recruit the next generation of travel consultants and prepare them for successful careers. NEXT opens the door to new agents through an intensive in-house training program, job placement services, and professional development opportunities.