Travel Counsellors agent Yvonne Campbell moved her life and business to Barbados just before Christmas – and she doesn’t even need a coat, she tells Samantha Mayling.
Q. What is your background in travel?
A. I previously worked in the not-for-profit sector but always loved travel. I’ve been to 58 countries. In early 2019, I started thinking about planning travel for a living. I researched travel franchises and liked Travel Counsellors because it was very personalised. There was a lot of support for someone new, as they have their travel academy programme. I made the leap in December 2019. Last January , demand for bookings was really high and I left my full-time job – I was doing 18-hour days. But by the end of February, it had all changed. It was a shock, but I’m a grafter so I focused on social media, marketing and podcasts. I got some consultancy work in April in the not-for-profit sector, for two days a week.
“One Sunday in November, I was considering Barbados at 9pm; by 10pm I’d decided; and by 8am the next day I’d booked my Virgin flight.”
Q. What prompted you to move to Barbados?
A. I’m from Derry and was living in Belfast. I always wanted to be a ‘digital nomad’ but in the past there were language and work barriers. For my podcast, I’d spoken to the Barbados tourist board about working visas. I saw an offer for a long stay in the Maldives, did the maths and thought ‘I could work there’, so I studied the air corridors list and switched my focus to Barbados. One Sunday in November, I was considering Barbados at 9pm; by 10pm I’d decided; and by 8am the next day I’d booked my Virgin flight. Here there are great beaches, scuba diving, rum shops and friendly locals. There are also the practicalities: the language, Wi-Fi, being an eight-hour direct flight away, and it’s safe for solo female travellers. I was due to fly on January 6 but on December 20, I heard restrictions were due to be tightened, so I rebooked my flight and Covid test and flew on December 22. My family were very supportive. I had a business class ticket and, while in the lounge, I saw an upgrade offer so flew out first class. I cried for an hour – I was so overwhelmed but then excited. It was straightforward when I arrived and reached my quarantine hotel, Sea Breeze Beach House. I had my test on Christmas Eve and got my result at 6am on Christmas Day.
“I rent a top-floor apartment with a sea-view balcony in a beachfront plantation house, overlooking a beach on the west coast.”
Q. What is it like living and working in Barbados?
A. I brought three bags and the rest of my stuff is in storage. I’m usually up by 6am to coordinate with UK time and finish by about 1pm. I rent a top-floor apartment with a sea-view balcony in a beachfront plantation house, overlooking a beach on the west coast. A lot of travel counsellors know people who live here or visit regularly, so I have lots of contacts. There are Covid rules about social distancing, masks, sanitising and contact tracing. I’ve made some friends already. One person arrived in October and is spending six months at a hotel; another arrived for two weeks and extended their stay to three months. The cost of living is pricy but you could do it more cheaply depending on where you live on the island. It’s similar to London prices where I am but eating out is reasonable and mobile phone and broadband costs are like the UK. I was a tad jealous of the snow in the UK so I might go to New York in December. But I don’t even have a coat with me here.
“I was a tad jealous of the snow in the UK so I might go to New York in December. But I don’t even have a coat with me here.”
Q. Do you miss your friends and family back home?
A. It’s easy to keep in touch with people in Derry and Belfast, as they’re all in lockdown anyway. Eleven family members plan to visit next Christmas, and 17 people have booked to visit me, fingers crossed, from April onwards. I’ll see more of them here than I did at home in 2020!
Q. What is your ambition?
A. I specialise in luxury holidays and honeymoons. My aim is to become a Barbados specialist and I’m building relationships with suppliers so that I know the perfect hotel for each client. Travel Counsellors holds regular briefings and I follow lots of Facebook forums as well as FCDO advice. My visa lasts for a year, so I might stay here or move elsewhere – I could explore other parts of the Caribbean. This year is an investment, to get under the skin of Barbados. If you do your homework, it is feasible.
“My aim is to become a Barbados specialist and I’m building relationships with suppliers so that I know the perfect hotel for each client.”
Tell us about your two podcast series
I started my first podcast series, The Bucket List Podcast, last summer. It documented my travels and aimed to inspire potential clients. I have done 15 episodes, featuring places such as Tanzania, the US, Australia, Iceland, Vietnam and Argentina. The second episode was a chat with Marc McCollin, senior business development officer at the Barbados tourist board, and he talked about the Barbados Welcome Stamp, which is a 12-month working visa. I have now started another podcast series, called Life in Barbados: A Year on a Paradise Island.
“I have had good feedback about the podcasts. I have invested in the quality of them – I have a producer/editor who helps with the technical side.”
It is the perfect opportunity to showcase suppliers and entrepreneurs here. There is a mix of people who may be interested in working remotely as well as those coming for holidays and extended stays. I have had good feedback about the podcasts. I have invested in the quality of them – I have a producer/editor who helps with the technical side. It’s also a good opportunity for me to find out about Barbados as a foodie destination, from local eateries to high-end restaurants, as well as activities, such as surfing, kitesurfing and mountain biking.