If you’ve never heard of an International Travel Concierge then read on. Today’s interviewee, Kelly Little excels in this role whilst also enjoying life in the sun on Barbados.
What is your name?
Which country do you come from/call home?
I was born in Canada, but I call Barbados home – I became an honorary Bajan in 1996.
Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?
When I travel for fun, which usually means to write and photograph, I’m game for any style but prefer to ‘live-like-a-local’ and backpack – it must be the anthropologist in me! There is a huge difference between tourism and travelling; a week or two in any given place just doesn’t suit me so I never stay less than a couple months. The first week in a new place is a time to get my bearings. The second week I feel comfortable – but it isn’t until that little bit of culture shock sets in that I know I’m on the verge of learning.
When I travel for business the setting is quite different, a little more posh and luxurious.
One constant that never changes is the fact that I’m not much of a winter person; I joke during the summer that, “When the sun drops below the horizon that’s too much winter for me!’
After I escape the cold Canadian winters, and in my spare time, you can find me in Barbados hosting ‘off the grid culinary, ground and horse tours’ which always support the local people – the majority of my guests come from Canada, Australia and England and we usually end the day with a breadfruit cook on the beach and, swimming lessons! Or, teaching writing workshops for the travellers and locals that don’t blog but are looking to get into the trade.
How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
Over the years I have funded my journeys in various ways. When I first decided travel was in my bones, I skimped and saved every penny I earned. Eventually my writing paid off and it became less costly with sponsored press trips. I’m a former newspaper reporter and member of the Canadian Association of Journalists so it wasn’t extremely difficult to get into the trade. Now-a-days, I spend a lot of my time travelling for other people who fund my trips or, coordinating long-term itineraries as well as consulting.
You describe yourself as an International Travel Concierge. Can you explain exactly what this involves?
In a nutshell, as an International Travel Concierge, I am contracted to travel for people who have business somewhere in the world and can’t take the time to do it themselves. I have acquired a very diverse skill set over the years and found myself doing ‘little favors’ for friends or friends of friends while I travelled; that soon became my primary means of funding and has turned into a very lucrative business.
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
I was 12 years old the first time I travelled alone. I know that may sound weird but in Northern British Columbia, at the time, it was very safe. I loaded up my horse and did a week long back-country trip that was life changing to say the least.
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
Bermuda! I am an islomane so I wasn’t about to pass up an invitation from a friend of mine, Lorraine, an ex-politician of the Caribbean States, to an island that is 15 miles long if you walk in a straight line and a mile and a half wide. The moment I arrived she ushered me off to a stranger’s funeral, the next day, a wedding on the beach.
Bermuda is very small and highly populated and there is not enough land to accommodate life and death. Bermudians have had to become creative. Extensions are built onto family homes to accommodate their grown children’s families. The exceptionally deep graves at the cemetery have cement lids which are removed when a new coffin is added on top of others, separated by banana leaves.
One thing I didn’t care for were the hills which always seemed to block my view of the ocean and the fact, that everyone wants to run over the cane toads with their scooters – West Indians don’t like frogs.
I never spent any money either. I would go into a restaurant, order and eat, and when I went to pay someone long gone had covered the bill. Bermuda truly is a world of its own.
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
Yes, I was the target of a mugging one night at Miami Beach in Barbados but it all worked out good in the end – Respect Among Strangers it Could Save you Grief – you can read it on my 1Life196Countries.com blog.
Do you have any funny travel stories?
I have many, but three that always sticks out in my mind. The first time I went to Barbados for the Crop-Over Festival. My friends and I were dressed and heading out the door when one screamed at me, “KELLY YOU HAVE A WORM IN YOUR FACE!” Let me tell you I almost fainted! Turns out a pimple, is considered a worm! And, the expression on the faces of my West Indian friends when I clean flying fish!
One day in Oistin’s, Barbados, I was trying to cross the street, it is a very busy place and difficult for traffic to stop. A hen and chick passed me on the sidewalk, made their way to the crosswalk and proceeded to cross the road; they actually stopped the traffic for me – it was hilarious!
In Bermuda, I came home to find my bags on the step and the door locked. Bermudian people rely heavily on lineage to determine if your “friends” are respectable. I had befriended a person my host didn’t know (based on lineage) and she gave me the boot! Do you know it gets very cold in Bermuda at night? I slept in the yard, wearing layers of clothes out of my suitcase under the watchful eye of a cranky little lizard who thought I was too close to his pomegranate tree.
Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?
I think the worst place I have been to is the Shuswap in British Columbia.
There is a very distinct racist attitude that is not only directed at minority groups, but toward anyone who appears not to have ‘enough’ money. It is a money oriented and pretentious place and is too overpopulated in the summer months; you’re hard pressed to even eke out a piece of beach – there is a serious lack of public access to the water and the Albertan traffic, especially the speeding semi-truck drivers, exude road-rage and want to run you in the ditch. Scary roads those!
Where is your favourite place in the world?
I love everywhere except the Shuswap, I’m an Earthian (lol) unless there is snow on the ground!
My favorites: Dog Creek British Columbia, Barbados, Jamaica, Dominica, Bora Bora, Maldives and Zanzibar.
You’ve spent 7 months in Barbados living on $400 a month. Do you have any tips on how to make your money stretch so far?
Barbados is the richest island in the Caribbean but there are ways to stretch your money. No matter where you go your budget determines your lifestyle so it really is relative to you and how you choose to spend your time. If you are simply seeking to explore the island for its natural beauty, soak up some sun, eat the local food and swim with the turtles $400.00 – $600.00 will cover you.
This trip was an experiment for me and I diligently stuck to my budget. I have done every touristy thing to do so I wanted to see how I could survive as a local – the wages aren’t high here and people work for a local dollar but pay a tourist price if they want anything in excess. I have friends working in posh hotels that earn $60.00 per month!
In Barbados cigarettes, rum/beer, cheese and transportation are very cheap; a dollar Canadian for a Banks beer if you stick to rum shops, markets and roadside vendors. Rather than a taxi, jump on a ZR van; they take you almost anywhere for $2.00.
Accommodations are inexpensive if you are staying a long time and get the local price – I paid $250.00 bajan per month ($125.00 CA) for a beautiful house minutes from the beach that, during high season, rents for well over $2500.00.
Couch-surfing is starting to become popular so check that out as well. Many locals are also willing to put you up for pennies in exchange for some labor. As for food, stick to market and roadside eateries or cart vendors in the residential areas of the parishes. For example a ‘cutter and two’, which is an amazing salt bun with two fish cakes and a seriously thick slice of cheese costs roughly $2.00 Canadian depending on where you buy. Barbados has the best bread and cheese in the world I might add! As a side note – that salt cod for the fish cakes is imported from Nova Scotia, Canada.
Cook for yourself most days too. You can go to Oistin’s Fish Market in Christ Church and buy 100 un-cleaned flying fish (when in season) for $15.00 CA – buy them cleaned and you will pay double or triple. They don’t like you to take them home on the ZR vans, apologize profusely or hire a taxi. Speaking of taxi’s, if you find one driver and ALWAYS use him, and send your friends to him, you will get a seriously great deal!
Many of my friends also ship a container of food ahead of time for their stay-cation which is relatively inexpensive – Bajan food is cheap, America is NOT! At Christmas I paid $200.00 for a black forest ham, the type we slice up for sandwiches at home and pay around $8.00 for.
Electronics are VERY expensive in Barbados! It would serve your budget well and the locals, to bring some cell phones or inexpensive notebooks, laptops or digital cameras to fund your trip – you will get more than you paid at home – and the Bajan will get what they want for a lot less!
In Barbados and most West Indian islands, you won’t find second hand stores – they are highly superstitious about lingering spirits.
My advice – support the locals and you will never want in Barbados. Oh! And don’t forget to eat the macaroni pie!
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
Boy, I would have to write you a book! But I will say, it will involve a lot of crazy-ass adventures!
Can you imagine life without travel?
Not on your life!
If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?
Dreaming of travelling!
What is the name of your travel blog and the url?
1Life196Countries – 1life196countries.com
International Travel Concierge – http://internationaltravelconcierge.wordpress.com/
When did you begin your website?
My site just had its first birthday! I haven’t blogged for long – too busy with hard copy writing and travelling.
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
I write because if I don’t I can’t sleep! And, because I think humanity at a global level is better served when we take the time to learn and think about each other. My favorite quote: “I can not teach you anything, I can only make you think.”
Please tell us about your involvement with wild horses in Alberta?
The Alberta Government uses these horses as a commodity and has no regard to the fact that they are a heritage animal with historical bloodlines – I have joined the fight to save their lives and have them deemed ‘heritage’ because they are an important part of Canadian history, the same as the buffalo.
You spent a Christmas in Barbados. How did that differ from Christmas at home for you?
In Canada we prepare for Christmas very early in the year, spend too much money, adorn our homes with lights, decorations and, eat turkey. In Barbados (BIM as the locals call it) they don’t jump the gun and it’s all about the curtains and the candlelight ceremony at the Prime Ministers home, Illara Court. Before Christmas lights and spruce trees were imported to this tiny West Indian island to support tourists who spend the season there, it was all about the curtains, the new outfits people would wear to Mass. Now they paint the houses, change cushion covers, buy a new piece of furniture and hang lights! While eggnog is our drink of choice, theirs is sorrel, and their meal consists of a moist Bajan black cake (you could get drunk on this stuff), jug-jug and pepperpot – you can find those recipes on my blog.
The candlelight ceremony is quite the affair. Thousands of people attend the evening, blankets laid out on the grounds in front of the massive stage, thermoses filled with sorrel to enjoy an evening of choir and entertainment. When you arrive at the gate you are given a candle – it is a remarkable sight with tiny lights flickering to the tune of tree frogs and song, it’s absolutely magical.
A special note; Barbadians don’t celebrate New Year’s like we do either, and it’s not called New Year’s in BIM; it’s Old Years Night – because they haven’t lived the ‘new’ one yet.
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
Tasteless Tourism on the Racist Train
A graphic tourist display in the Shuswap depicting a decapitated black man and the KKK – my post went viral and the company shut the display down!
What has been your favourite article to write either for your blog or another publication?
You say that you promote “Local Branding”. Can you briefly explain what this is and what it involves?
Tourism and travel are changing – people want to ‘feel’ the ‘life’ of the host country – the best stories are those written by locals as they teach us the most. As a traveller doing research I want to read personal accounts that makes me feel like it is happening to me or something I can relate to and personalize; I don’t want something generic; that is why I have collaborated with My Destination BC – we have the same philosophy and this is the style I teach in my workshops.
What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)
Ya, an airplane – I love leaving the Earth! And a horse! Though an elephant is pretty cool too if you can get past the pokey, wiry hairs! And boats – because I’m a water freak…
Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
Do your research before you leave, respect the country you are visiting, support the locals, do something hands-on that’s out of your comfort zone, teach some micro-skills and – * TREAD LIGHTLY * I’m quoting an unknown here; ‘Kill nothing but time, take nothing but pictures & leave nothing but footprints’ AND a piece of your heart. Most importantly, don’t forget to experience the people lives!
What has travel taught you?
I am not who I thought I was.
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? West Jet
Favourite city? Victoria, British Columbia
Favourite beach? It has no name, it’s a secret little phosphorescent cove I found in the Caribbean!
Favourite food? Flying fish, Dolphin (known as Mahi Mahi elsewhere), Sorrel and Cassava Pone!
Favourite language? West Indian Accent and Dialect
Please provide the following:-
Website url: 1life196countries.com
Website url: http://internationaltravelconcierge.wordpress.com/
Twitter handle: 1L196Countries
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/1Life196Countries
Google+ profile/page: https://plus.google.com/+kellylittle