Listen to Judy's Interview Here
Listen To Juy's Second Interview with Updates on Pilgrimage Here
Megan Chapa: Hello and welcome to the Travel Agent Interview Podcast. My name is Megan Chapa and I am your host. Today I am privileged to have Judy Yirsa on the conversation with me. Welcome Judy.
Judy Yirsa: Hi, thanks for having me.
Megan Chapa: Hey Judy, we’ve been talking about gadgets for kids, because we both have road trip with our children. We’ve had some experiences with headphones that are not so great. I have not had good experiences with several brands that I’ve tried. But you happen to have a brand that you like, and that your child has been happy with, and you think it’s very comfortable. Would you tell us a little bit about this?
Judy Yirsa: Yes. It’s actually called CozyPhones. It’s by Halo Acoustic. I purchased it a little over a year ago for my daughter’s first international flight. We went to Portugal last September. She was about to be two. Well, she was one and a few months. I just was on the market trying to find headphones. As you know they’re pretty bulky and they tend to slide off. She doesn’t really like anything on her head. In fact, at that time I was having a hard time with bows being on her head. I really needed to find something comfortable. I found these cute headphones. They come in different colors, different styles. I bought her a purple frog. It was sort of like a toy for her. There are these soft fleece materials that she can lay down.
Megan Chapa: Do you know if it has a volume limiting feature? That’s one of the things my husband also cares about, which I do think is important, is that they can’t turn it up, to like eleven, and then burn their little ears out.
Judy Yirsa: Yes. Yes it does, yes.
Megan Chapa: Okay, awesome. Judy, let’s talk about you, the star of our show. Would you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the travel industry?
Judy Yirsa: Sure. Well, I inadvertently got into the industry a little over five years ago. I was working as a receptionist at an engineering firm. They had an in house corporate travel agent that would sometimes get overwhelmed because the company constantly had people flying out to different sites. I would help her a little bit. On the clerical side, I got to learn a little bit about booking. I just decided to take the plunge and do my own consulting once I got pregnant with my first daughter. Then once I, before I took the plunge, I just started to think, I’ve kind of been helping my friends and family plan their travel arrangements for quite a bit now. I was fortunate to be in Au Pair in college. I got to travel with this family that I loved, and they’d take me to Europe. We went to Switzerland, Germany, Italy, France. I just kind of got the bug.
Megan Chapa: That’s a pretty good thing, that’s awesome!
Judy Yirsa: It was very good. I’d get days off in each country, which is awesome. The family, the parents, they fluently spoke German, Italian, and French. They had family in some of these places. I not only got to do the tourist attractions, but I got a glimpse of how the locals live.
Megan Chapa: How about..? Let’s talk about the particular area of travel that you specialize in.
Judy Yirsa: Well, my first inclination was to go into family travel, because I did it, I was an Au Pair. But my first love is actually, my faith, and I think in the last few years of adulthood, I guess, after college, I’ve done my own sort of faith journey, trying to discover a little bit more about the history of my faith. I was raised Roman Catholic. I think it got started a little bit actually through my parents and my grandparents. We would take trips to see different churches and basilicas throughout California and Mexico. I hear this wonderful story telling from my grandparents. That sort of sparked that little interest in me to kind of see other places, and discover more. I’ve been fortunate to be able to visit other places. On my honeymoon for example, my husband and I, we went to Rome. My family and friends sort of joked around with us. Our honeymoon pictures looked like a pilgrimage. It’s just church, after church, after church. But that’s what we love. We love going to these little chapels, and huge basilicas and to learn the history of it. It’s really exciting and interesting for us. Since then I’ve been able to research a lot more, especially throughout Europe, South America, and have them fortunate enough to help others plan trips to these places, and sort of make that dream bucket list destination a reality. Yeah, it’s really, my first passion now is religions travel.
Megan Chapa: That’s exciting. It’s really refreshing to hear that your husband has the same interest as you, and that you guys can, this can be a centering point of your relationship, and that you guys can travel together. Let me ask you this question. The stories that your grandparents were telling, was it about places of, that are central to your faith, that you wanted to go visit, and that they had been to? You wanted to seek those out also?
Judy Yirsa: Yes. I grew up in Central California. A really big part of California history are the missions. For example, I would visit the missions with my parents. And learn a little bit about the history of how that mission came about, how it was established. Of course that revolves around Catholicism -- I would visit my grandparents in Mexico. I got to do to the basilica of Guadalajara, another really beautiful grand church, and learned the history of that. There’s actually relics of old saints, and the history and story behind those things, and how they got there. Just different stories like that, that just kind of just helped inspire a little bit more of a devotion. It’s really nice. It’s the thing I really enjoy.
Megan Chapa: Do you do individual trips for people? Are you planning like large groups and are you going as a participant? Are you also going as a guide? How has that happened for you, and what do you have coming up in the future?
Judy Yirsa: I do a little bit of both. I help clients tailor their own custom pilgrimage. It’s just sort of varies. But at the same time, I’ve put together a few groups, tours, group pilgrimages. For example, I have one in the works for next year. It was actually supposed to happen this year. But I am five months pregnant.
Megan Chapa: Congratulations!
Judy Yirsa: Thank you. Had it postponed. It will be happening next year. The dates are still tentative. We’re still looking for a priest to come along with us. When I plan my own group tour pilgrimages, I usually come along just because I want to. At the moment, the one we’re working on is a Fatima pilgrimage, just because this year marks the hundredth year anniversary of the apparitions of Mary in Fatima, Portugal. Actually May 13th was the hundredth anniversary. Yeah, so next year it will be a hundred and one. But the good thing that I’ve been telling my group is that the crowds will be a little less. The pricing may actually be better because the hotels and the airfare will probably go down a little on price since there won’t be the abundance of people that will want to go the following year. I’m after these old visions. I’ve been to Fatima and really got to experience it at a time when there was maybe, I don’t know, a hundred, two hundred people there in the chapel. It was really nice to actually get to really take it all in. You really get that sense of looking around everywhere. I don’t think you can get that quite as well with thousands and thousands of people.
Megan Chapa: Sure, and you’re getting elbowed and maybe you wanted to come home and to pray, or just reflect. You said you’re being hurried along. Yeah. I think 2018 would be a really good choice.
Judy Yirsa: I also have other destinations in mind for the future, future, I guess. Obviously Jerusalem is one of them. I’ve been talking a lot with my church community. That’s a really big point of interest for all of us. But as well, there’s just really, I mean it’s kind of endless because I have a bucket list. It’s huge. But there’s Ireland for the six steps of Saint Patrick. There’s different, there’s a Rome tour that I kind of had in mind. Assisi, Siena. There’s so many. I get just excited just thinking about it.
Megan Chapa: Well this is great, too. Because if persons participate in one, and they really love it, you’ve got a checklist that you’re gonna be going down in the future, and they could potentially get on the next one, too.
Judy Yirsa: That’s right.
Megan Chapa: I see that you have a Youtube video on your website that outlines that path that you guys would be following. Is this a video that you created?
Judy Yirsa: Actually my husband helped create it. It was a combination of our own pictures, and then pictures that we took from our supplier that was helping us to organize everything.
Megan Chapa: Great. All right, we’ll put a link definitely to both your website, and to the Youtube video where people can see the path that this Fatima Pilgrimage is gonna take. What is your greatest success story? A funny story, or a situation that went slightly awry, but you were able to correct in your client’s past or your own.
Judy Yirsa: Well I actually have story on my client’s part. It’s funny now, but I’ll tell you that day it was quite stressful. But it turned out to be a huge success story.
Megan Chapa: Okay, good.
Judy Yirsa: A couple reached out to me, wanted to celebrate their honeymoon in Portugal, Spain and France. The couple missed their flight. They reached out to me, and luckily they took my recommendation to get travel insurance, which I always recommend to everyone.
Megan Chapa: Yes, me too, especially internationally.
Judy Yirsa: Luckily I was able to get them flights. But it wasn’t until the next day. They were to miss out on an entire day of touring in Lisbon, Portugal. I reached out to the supplier, took care of everything. I reached out to transfer companies so that their car would be waiting for them the next day at their new time arrival. It’s a very stressful day, the day of trying to fix everything. But afterwards, I kept getting texts and emails, and they were just sending me picture after picture of them enjoying all the landmarks, and just having a wonderful time. After they came back, and they just called and had all these wonderful stories, I took care of their insurance claims for them and they got their money back for all of the tours, and the site discrepancy and all that. It was really great. It turned out to be really great.
Megan Chapa: I appreciate your story because it’s a really good testimony as to why you should go through a travel agent. Because they have the phone numbers to call the people you need. You’re not stranded at the airport. Someone is working the scene while you are patiently waiting with access to a computer and a phone number and can reach all the people you’re supposed to be in contact with, the car that’s supposed to be waiting for you. She handled the insurance claim. You did a good job. I appreciate the story.
Judy Yirsa: That’s right.
Megan Chapa: Thank you for that.
Judy Yirsa: Thank you, yeah. I was very happy that even though the mishap one day, they recuperated their money fast, and they ended up really, really loving it, the rest of their vacation. They were very, very happy.
Megan Chapa: Yeah, awesome. Now let’s talk about your best or most memorable meal since you’ve been to some of these countries where things and cultures can be a little crazy. What do you have to tell us?
Judy Yirsa: Hands down. For me it was a dinner in Italy. It was actually pretty simple, I think in terms of meals out there. It just was cooked so quickly. I got a recommendation from our concierge at our hotel. The restaurant was called Angelino. The Concierge couldn’t say enough about how wonderful this place was, and how it’s really popular with the locals. He said, you have to try the Bistecca Fiorentina. He didn’t give as much of a description to my husband and I. Just, I understood steak, and I love steak. Sure, we had a three course meal soup, really good. I can’t remember the name. But the steak, it was just, just the way it’s cooked, it was like two and a half inches thick, like the size of head, for two people. The waiter brought it out, and he cut it in front of us, and it looked really rare, which I was getting really worried about. But I still tried it anyway. It was just the most delicious cut of meat I’ve ever had in my entire life. It came plated simply with potatoes and it was delicious. It was just, I’ve never had another steak like that again. I can’t wait to go back. We talk about that, my husband and I, I think, at least once a month.
Megan Chapa: You’re talking about my husband’s language right now, steak and potatoes, Cuban egg soup, you can have that babe. But he’d eat the whole steak himself. Sounds good.
Judy Yirsa: It was so good. Of course we had it with the house wine, which you can never really go wrong with Italian house wine. I think for desert we had a Tiramisu, which, it was wonderful. But still that steak, I dream about it.
Megan Chapa: That’s a good steak. Well I thank you for your time. That’s our last question. Is there anything that you’ve thought of that you might want to add into the podcast to tell our readers that might be of use to them? They’re contacting you, or about the services you offer.
Judy Yirsa: I don’t think so. I’m just really thankful for what I do. I really think I’m in the best position because I’m sort of a nerd when it comes to researching and putting travel plans together. I really enjoy it, learning about destinations and cultures, and especially when it’s faith based. It’s just that much more special. I love when people reach out to me about different trips. It really gets me excited. It’s almost like I’m going with them in a certain degree.
Megan Chapa: Well it’s good to hear your passion, and I think that our listeners will appreciate that, too. Especially, ones that are looking for this type of travel. Thank you very much. We will put all of Judy’s contact information, her website, the information for the kids’ headphones and her Youtube video for the Fatima pilgrimage in 2018 in the show notes. If you want to find more information about Judy herself, you can go to our guests and click on her profile. Judy, thank you so much. This is Megan Chapa, the host of the Travel Agent Interview saying good night.