Ten years ago, Frances Galbraith took a year out from her job with Ulster Bus, packed her bags and travelled the world. Where many leave these shores never to return, seduced by chilled out Thailand, Aussie beach culture, or the bright lights of the Big Apple, it had quite the opposite effect on Frances.
“I travelled all over the world, but my feet led me back here. It made me realise how much we have to offer on the Causeway Coast and the pride I feel in this area of ours.” A flame had been lit, but it proved to be a slow-burner. It would take another eight years with Ulsterbus before Frances finally fulfilled her dream and established Glenara Elite Travel – luxury travel and tour operator.
One year on and Frances has no regrets about heeding the advice to: ‘Go For It!’. “The opportunity came to take an early retirement package and I thought if I’m ever going to do it, I need to do it now.”
“It’s taken time to get my Bus Operator’s license, and I’ve only just completed my taxi driving test that will allow me to branch into chauffeur work. But Glenara Elite Travel is still here, taking on bigger companies in Belfast and Dublin, and I’m still chasing my goal of attracting more people to stay here, eat here, enjoy the whole experience and not just a day trip.”
One year on and Frances is also the first to admit her dream would not have become a reality without ‘Go For It!’.
“I had already started speaking with Anna [Logan] and we were working on my business plan when ‘Go For It!’ started in November. It was perfect timing.
“It was Anna who guided me through everything. I knew what I wanted to do, but getting people with experience to tell you how to do it was so important to me. Anytime I need something, I just lift the phone to Anna and she advises me on what direction to go.”
The passion Frances has for the Causeway Coast and Glens is clear to see, bubbling just below the surface. It’s about connecting people with place. Her place.
Sure, it’s taken time to adjust to life without a regular monthly wage packet, and it’s meant a lot of hard graft, but there’s a glint in her eye that says: ‘I wouldn’t have it any other way’.