Sent by Andy & Leonie Paterson
Based in Belfast
I'm Yvonne, a full-service Travel Agent, seasoned adventurer, avid planner and Barbados specialist.
Originally based in Belfast, I've decided to spend 2021 living in Barbados on a 1 year Welcome Stamp Visa. You can read all about my move from Belfast to Barbados in my latest blog.
Living and working remotely here in Barbados is boosting my knowledge and passion for recommending this wonderful paradise island to my clients in Northern Ireland, UK and Worldwide. I'm so excited about what Barbados has to offer all types of holidaymakers and I've been sharing the highlights of my adventures in Barbados through weekly episodes on my podcast called Life In Barbados.
With over 58 countries under my belt and counting, my love of travel knows no bounds. From budget to luxury, lazy to adventurous, city break to bucket list - I’ve experienced the highs and lows of travel and picked up plenty of tips and tricks along the way. Now I hope to share my expertise with other travellers so they too can experience the joie de vivre of taking their dream holiday.
Acting as your personal travel consultant, I will take care of all aspects of your trip, creating the ultimate, stress-free holiday for you. I'm excited by the opportunity to help you experience the joy of travel. Whether you’re celebrating a big life event or milestone, dreaming of the perfect honeymoon, or eager to experience something culturally or physically challenging - I can bring your vision to life, anywhere in the World.
As a trusted Travel Counsellor, I want to build relationships so that I can anticipate your every travel need, look out for holidays that are perfect for you, suggest places you might like to explore and create personalised, high-quality itineraries. Most of all, I will provide the highest level of customer service so your entire holiday is exactly as you envisioned it as well as financially protected with 24/7 support.
Follow my journey as I strive to become a true Barbados specialist on Facebook and Instagram or for more inspiration to fuel your future bucket list adventures to other parts of the World, you can read my Personal Travel Blog or listen to my Bucket List Travel Podcast on all the major podcast channels.
Life is short and the world is wide. So, what are you waiting for? Get in touch to plan your next adventure.
I absolutely live and breathe travel and I love to write about my experiences! Please take a look through my posts - you might find your own holiday inspiration.
27 January 2021
2020 brought so much change, good and bad, for so many people around the world. And I knew the turning of the year wasn’t going to magically put everything back in its place. They say accepting change is the fastest way to find peace, but I went one better. I created my own change. I changed my address, my currency and my career focus, though luckily not my local language. After many extended trips overseas, I’d always dreamed of becoming location independent. 2020 was going to my year but the pandemic had other plans for me. I still managed to squeeze in a few great trips though. I spent some time exploring Santorini, I crossed Cappadocia off my bucket list and I even made it to Cyprus for a few weeks, but I knew the real adventure was yet to come. It’s now January and I’m writing to you from a lovely hotel room on the gorgeous island of Barbados. With a little help from the tourism board (and a few glasses of finely-aged liquid courage), I applied for a year-long tourist visa to spend my 2021 in paradise. If you’ve listened to my first podcast venture, 'Otherworld Travel: The Bucket List Podcast' you’ll know that Barbados has been on my dream travel list for a long time, and my chat with Marc McCollin about all the amazing rum, food and diving opportunities just made me that more excited to cross it off my list. You’ll be able to follow my adventures in my brand new podcast called 'Life in Barbados' to experience Bajan life through my eyes and ears as I strive to become a true Barbados specialist. I hope this series inspires you to take a leap of faith and finally cross off that bucket list item you’ve been dreaming of. Whether you’re interested in visiting Barbados yourself, or exploring the idea of location independent living, this is the show for you. I can’t wait to bring you on this journey with me. Subscribe to 'Life in Barbados' on your favourite podcast player and stay tuned for my next episode...
06 June 2020
While we're all bound by our own borders, why not take the opportunity to explore the places we take for granted? There are countless jaw-dropping vistas, historic castles and charming townships are right on our doorstep (or at least within driving distance). These staycation ideas should help curb your travel needs (for now). Kent, England Take a trip to Kent and you'll find stunning historic mansions and townships steeped in history. Hever Castle (which I can personally recommend) is well known for being the childhood home of Anne Boyelyn and has been a backdrop and scene for many famous films. Leeds Castle is also well worth a visit. The sprawling grounds are home countless plant and bird species, including an impressive collection of Birds of Prey. While you're at it, add Walmer Castle and Canterbury Cathedral to the list as well. As well as the cathedral, in the bustling historic medieval market town of Canterbury, you can also create your own sweets in a unique Fudge Making Experience with Fudge Kitchen. And how about some gin tasting at Copper Rivet Distillery or beer tasting at Shepherd Neame Brewery and The Foundry Micro Brewery? You can't take a trip to Kent without exploring the stunning vineyards of Chapel Down Winery (yes, right here in the UK!) Walk around the grape vines, learning about the wine industry before sampling the fruits of the harvest. Make sure you try the sparkling wine! The Kerry Way, Ireland The Kerry Way is the Emerald Isle's longest trail. It stretches 210km across Ireland, offering fantastic views of the unspoilt landscapes. A walk here will swathe you in 10,000 years of dramatic Celtic history. You'll be treated to beautiful landscapes at every turn - from rugged cliffs to some of Europe's finest golden beaches, small friendly villages and velvety green fields to picturesque mountain ranges. You can take on the Kerry Way as a self-guided tour, which means you'll be given the tools (map, notes and GPS) and freedom to go at your own pace, whilst having your accommodation and luggage transfers organised for you. It's an excellent choice for those who like to hit the trails on their own and absorb the serenity in peace. Otherwise, there are plenty of tour operators and hiking groups you can complete the walk with. Snowdonia National Park, Wales There are two main ways to see the stunning Snowdonia National Park - by hiking some of its epic trails, and by kicking back in the comfort of a rail car.There is no shame in either - both are equally beautiful. In fact, you can have the best of both worlds! Begin your journey on the coast at Porthmadog and enjoy a night by the marina before heading into the National Park. The network of trails will take you through the idyllic natural landscapes of Welsh wilderness, with the beauty of the park on full display. Explore woodlands, wander along ridges, cross rivers and circumnavigate sparkling blue lakes. If you're up for it, end with the summit of Snowdon. At 1,085m, it's the highest point in the British Isles outside the Scottish Highlands. There are plenty of routes which combine walking with sections of travel on the Welsh Highland Railway, allowing more distance to be covered and giving your weary legs a rest from time to time. Scotland by train How about a bit of the Orient Express glamour in Scotland? The adventure begins as soon as you step aboard the elegant carriages of the Northern Belle. You'll be escorted to your plush seat by an attentive steward. Your table is then set with pristine white linen, bespoke silverware and sparkling glassware, ready for a fine dining experience. Admire the exquisite details of your carriage; the opulent furnishings and craftsmanship evoke the glamour of 1930s “Belle” trains. Take a slurp of your sparkling Bellini cocktail and prepare yourself for a three-course brunch. Enjoy the splendid scenery through your window as the train makes its way north to Arrochar on the West Coast Highland Line. You'll spend the afternoon exploring West Scotland’s most iconic castle, sitting on the banks of Loch Fyne. Inveraray Castle boasts an abundance of lavishly-decorated rooms and acres of stunning gardens. It was even a filming location for the BBC hit drama Downton Abbey. After your afternoon’s sightseeing, return to the train for a champagne reception and a sumptuous five-course dinner. I've watched this stunning train pass by as I was walking the West Highland Way and I can guarantee you'll be blown away by the view Northern Ireland I couldn't finish off my staycation list without promoting the wonderful Northern Ireland. Make sure you have a few nights in Belfast. You'll need time to take in the sights. A visit to the world famous Titanic Exhibition is a must. Take a black taxi tour to get some insights into the history of the troubles, then hang out in the bars in the Cathedral Quarter and listen to some live and local music. You'll also be spoilt for choice when it comes to dining options. Getting outside Belfast, a trip to Northern Ireland would not be complete without following in the footsteps of a giant. While visiting the Giant's Causeway, have a wander along the stunning Strand Beach - you will often see horses galloping by the water. Stop off for some whiskey tasting at Bushmills Distillery or treat yourself to a day of relaxation at the luxurious Galgorm Spa. For Game of Thrones fans, there are plenty of filming locations to visit. The Dark Hedges and Ballintoy Harbour are two of the most popular. Both are stunning in their own right, even if you haven’t watched the series. And don't forget my home town of Derry, an ever evolving artistic and cultural hub. It hosts many fantastic events such as the Round the World Clipper Race and Halloween celebrations (which may be on hold this year for obvious reasons). And best of all, you can get the ferry and bring your own car if you want.
06 June 2020
In the lead up to World Environment Day on Friday 5th June, we’re reflecting on how we can be more responsible travellers when borders open up and people start exploring again. But first, a bit of background. World Environment Day is an annual celebration, first introduced by the United Nations in 1974. The aim is to raise awareness and inspire action for the protection of our environment. It stretches far beyond keeping our city parks clean and saving the whales. It tackles all kinds of environmental concerns including marine pollution, human overpopulation, global warming, sustainable consumption and wildlife crime. In recent years, social media has made it far easier to raise awareness. Enter the humble #WorldEnvironmentDay hashtag. Hopefully you’ll be seeing it a lot this coming Friday. While the detrimental impact of the coronavirus pandemic cannot be downplayed, one positive to come out of it is that it’s given the environment a little more breathing room. Fewer planes in the air, fewer cars on the road, fewer emissions being pumped into the atmosphere. Infact, the National Centre for Atmospheric Science has reported a significant improvement in air quality in cities around the UK and Ireland. A similar story is playing out in India, where residents of northern Punjab are seeing the Himalayas for the first time due to increased visibility. The rapid reduction in pollution caused by humans is astounding but will it last? That is a question for the experts. But there are ways we can help maintain the positive impact on the environment. When we go back to work, school and our regular lives, and particularly when we start to travel again, these are a few things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. Offset your carbon emissions Many transport companies now give you the option to offset your journey. You can do this for bus, plane and train tickets. It’s usually only a few dollars. Some pessimists might argue that it's a bandaid fix that only serves to put your conscience at ease. Carbon offsetting doesn’t change the fact that the emissions were made in the first place, but it does take that money and re-invest it in projects that benefit the environment. It’s not always about planting trees. Your offset fee might go towards renewable energy construction or the rehabilitation of polluted or contaminated land. Reduce your consumption of single-use items It’s extremely difficult to cut out all single-use items from your life (though, it is possible! Search the “zero waste” hashtag on Instagram for inspiration). It’s even harder when we’re travelling. Every time we grab food to go, tuck into our in-flight meal, or buy a transport card we know we’ll only use for a few days, we contribute to the 6-million tons of single-use plastic that gets tossed out every year. Some of this is unavoidable, but the best way to make a difference is to identify easy swaps you can make to reduce your waste output. Everyone should be using a reusable coffee cup by now, and it should be a crime not to be using a refillable drink bottle. You can also throw some cutlery in your bag so you can say a self-righteous “no thank you” when the person at the takeaway shop asks if you need a plastic fork. Metal straws are all the rage now too. Avoid buying “travel size” toiletries and instead, buy a few refillable bottles and use the products you’ve got at home. And when it comes to buying and printing tickets, see if there’s a mobile ticket option. Take local and public transport Those who have enjoyed (or endured) an overnight journey in substitute of a flight can pat themselves on the back. While there’s a colossal difference between the luxurious Orient Express and the 12-hour slog from Cappadocia to Istanbul, both offer their passengers a far less fossil-fuel thirsty way to travel. Even on short term journeys, taking the metro or tube rather than a taxi or driving can make a huge difference. More often than not, it’s a lot cheaper too. It also brings you closer to local life. Jumping in a tuk tuk or squeezing onto a minibus (which is actually more like a cattle truck) isn’t the most glamorous way to get around, but it’s a travel experience you’ll likely never forget. Give housekeeping a few days off How often do you change your sheets at home, really? It’s definitely not everyday. I’d be willing to wager it’s not every week either. Having your room made spick and span and your bed made with crisp white bedhseets each day is one of those luxuries you only get on holidays, but consider whether it’s worth the gallons upon gallons of water and massive amounts of energy it takes to clean and dry them en mass. The same goes for towels, to an extent. Make sure you hang them up to dry and re-use them for a few days before swapping them over. Most hotel rooms will have a note or something to hang on the door to let housekeeping know you’d like to re-use your linen. Look into purchasing carbon credits There are hundreds of companies and not-for-profits offering these services to environmentally-conscious individuals. Purchasing carbon credits is a way to “balance out” the carbon emission we produce on a daily basis. You begin by calculating (or estimating) your emission output and pay a fee according to that output that funds climate positive activities. It’s not just individuals who can take this step. The bulk purchasing of carbon credits is being adopted by companies all around the world, from huge multi-nationals to small businesses who want to do right by the environment. There are even subscription services for this. Offset Earth (https://offset.earth/) is a great example. It’s basically a membership to the “we care about the environment club”. You select a plan that best suits your carbon activity. If you travel a lot for work or leisure, you can opt for the higher package. Or if you only take a quick getaway here and there, £1.25 a week is enough for you to become climate positive.
15 December 2019
Back in 1998, I left the relatively small town of Derry and went to university in Liverpool. I kept hearing people talk about just being back from a 'gap year' before starting university. I literally had never heard of it before. I then went from being a skint student with lots of university debt straight into full time employment in London. I had always dreamed of taking that big trip. So, I had big dreams and plans but living in pricey London the practicalities of saving wasn't that straight forward. Then I started thinking who else would be interested in travelling as well and the reality was my friends and family all had their own dreams and plans which were all different, so I needed to figure out if this was something I could do on my own. And this led to my first trip solo. For a variety of reasons, I ended up in Jamaica. I planned to travel around the island and my guidebook told me it would cost about $4-$5 to get from town to town. Turns out in reality and following a recent security incident, that tourists in Jamaica, especially women travelling on their own, were discouraged from travelling by public transport - so instead, it would cost around $100 to get from town to town. $100 per journey! There was no way my budget was going to stretch to that. There went my plans for travelling around the island. I was very proud of myself when the solution focused part of my brain kicked in and I realised that if I kept getting the cheap bus transfer back to the airport, I could then get another airport transfer onto another destination. Luckily now we have the internet and many blogs to turn to in order to better plan and hear what's really happening on the ground. I was approached several times and hassled quite a lot in a short distance trying to have a wander around - I felt quite intimidated. I came across a couple of tourists in front of me speaking in German. I decided a good way to safely explore a bit of the town was to walk closely behind them - like a stalker! They were probably just as intimated by me as I was by others. These days, I always use free walking tours as a way to firstly get my bearings in a new place, work out if there are any no go areas and find out more about the local history and culture. It is a great way to meet others and reduces your need to stalk people! Another way of me getting out and about was to go on a few organised group tours. This again was not only a good way to see the sights but also another way to meet people. I find these days there are more and more creative tours, should that be food walking tours, street art tours, exploring with locals, or activity-based tours such as cooking, which can give you a real insight into life for locals. I suggest as much as possible, that you use local tour companies so that you are investing into the local economy rather than using corporates based elsewhere. That's one thing I love about Travel Counsellors - we have direct access to lots of in-country local partners. Back then, I'm not sure I had ever eaten out alone or gone into a bar on my own. You need to work out if you are happy just sitting in your own company or if you want to use it as an opportunity to meet people. Having a good book to hand or a journal to write in is a good distraction if you just want to be on your own and have some food. However, if you do want to meet people my top tip would be to sit at the bar and try if possible, not to be on your phone or reading, as it will put people off chatting. Strike up a conversation with the bar staff as an opener and then take it from there. Also, if you see someone else sitting on their own or even a friendly looking group, don't be afraid to ask if you can join them. Strangely enough, in western countries this may seem like a bit of a pickup move, but when you are in places on a tourist or travelling trail, this is normal - people wanting to connect. Today, access to the internet, technology and social media really help you stay connected, both with people back home to touch base with if you are feeling the need, or people that you meet along the way. I remember having to make analogue plans - arranging to meet people in a week's time at a certain café or hotel, not knowing if they would turn up. But in recent years on my 'big trip' I saw on Facebook that an old friend that I had not seen in several years since they moved back to Australia was in the same place I was heading to. After contacting her, we ended up spending four days together catching up - that would never have happened if it was not for Facebook check-ins! Regarding my first ever solo trip to Jamaica, it was a personal challenge in so many ways, but after that experience I knew if I could do that on my own, I could do anything. From there I started to go on 3-4 week trips every year and it was only 11 years later when I managed to jet off for an extended period of time for the adventure of my life… In summary, my top tips for travelling solo would be: * Do your research * Don't be afraid to start small - maybe eat out a few times or go out for a drink by yourself somewhere more local or familiar or try a weekend break away on your own. * On your first trip, go on an organised tour. There are some fantastic options for all budgets, age groups and interests these days. These are especially great if you have a short amount of time and want the benefits of having your days planned for you with other people. * If you go it alone, join a local free walking tour as soon as you arrive - it's a great way to familiarise yourself with the area and meet people. * Consider joining some other local group tours, which can range from anything from a few hours to a few days. * Plan your trip well with lots of activities to keep you busy but be flexible in your attitude so that you can take opportunities as they come along. * Check out the popular hostels and go for a drink or some food. * Make use of social media to connect and re-connect with people. * Just do it - give it a go! Want some help in planning a solo trip, get in touch with me at Travel Counsellors…
10 January 2020
I'm a fan of what's now been termed 'micro trips', even shorter than a mini beak. Is it worth it I hear you ask? My answer is absolutely, given the right destination and some pre-planning. I've done a number of these over the years, between days trips to Paris for lunch in the Eiffel Tower to an overnight break in Oslo to see 'The Scream' by Edvard Munch, or last year's birthday trip to Riga. Albeit, they have been within a three hour flight/ train range, but still not a timeframe people would think you could get any enjoyment out of. Here are my top tips for getting the most out of a micro trip: - Choose flight times wisely to maximise the amount of time you have to spend somewhere. - If going to a big city like Paris, Berlin or London, decide on a specific area of the city to explore, rather than spread yourself too thin. - Plan ahead - work out what you want to do and where these places are located. Plug them into goggle maps, work out the most efficient route and make a schedule accordingly. Then download the offline version of google maps. - Work out where you want to eat and any cafes or bars you might want visit and schedule those in too. - Pre book tickets for any big attractions where you might have to queue. - Consider taking a 1.5-2 hour walking tour which will likely take in the major sites or a 2-hour food tour which will give you the opportunity to try lots of local foods in a short space of time. - Check if you can pre-book fast track at the airport to give you more time to explore. - Save sleeping for the plane! - But most importantly, give yourself permission to change your plans as you go, so you don’t miss out on any exciting opportunities that may presents themselves when you are there. Want some help in planning a micro trip, get in touch with me at Travel Counsellors…