Having grown up in Tacoma, Washington State, in a home where television wasn’t allowed, Yolanda Edwards spent hours of her childhood reading magazines and dreaming of ways to live a life of travel.
With loads of details on the destinations she desired to see most and a thirst to explore the world, in 1985, at the age of 17, Yolanda found herself on the island of Mykonos where she remembers thinking “this place is paradise.” Arriving back home, she worked hard until she saved enough money to get back to Greece. Yolanda fell in love with the country, so much so, that she spent a school semester in Kalymnos, before going on to study modern Greek in college.
After completing her studies and still yearning to see as much of the globe as possible, Yolanda’s vast knowledge of magazines, her innate sense of style, and incomparable vision brought upon plenty of editorial work, before landing a “dream role” as Creative Director of Condé Nast Traveler, where she spent years taking the publication to new heights.
Today, this illustrious traveller, who has inspired hundreds of thousands of people around the globe to pack their bags and journey to some of the most beautiful parts of the world, is the founder of a stunning quarterly travel magazine YOLO Journal, designed for those with “great curious minds, wanting to find the most authentic experiences.”
We had the pleasure of speaking with this chic travel aficionado about her new project and love of Greece, where she’s spent countless memorable moments for work and play.
Tell us about YOLO, which has already become the ‘must-have’ magazine for travel enthusiasts.
I wanted to create the magazine I’d always wanted to read, but nobody had made yet—a collection of travel imagery, ideas, and inspiration, from people that I find, or find me. Imagery leads—not that the information isn’t important—but you can find loads of information everywhere—once you get the inspiration. Because most magazines feel the need to pack in so much information on each page, it has the reverse effect, in my humble opinion: they give great intel, but you don’t get the emotional connection or feeling of the place. Most of us are very attracted to Instagram and get a lot of travel intel and inspiration from it because we get to know (and trust) the person whose suggestions we are following—perhaps even more than we used to get from magazines. I am creating Yolo with all of this in mind—that the reader has a ton of resources, but still wants/needs inspiration, from someone they trust.
In YOLO’s latest edition you’ve done a great job highlighting some of the most beautiful parts of Greece. Having travelled there so many times, what was the selection process like?
I wanted to make sure I showed different areas, and not only the islands. And I wanted to make sure I had a range of photography styles as well. I included many places I have never been, like Meteora, or Chios—because I fell in love with the images and their stories, and they provided a great mix in the issue.
Would you describe yourself as a relaxed traveller, or do you prefer planning?
I plan the heck out of everything, but I never have to-do lists. Once I’m at my destination, I am very go-with-the-flow, but that’s because I’ve planned enough to be able to do that. I always have our hotels planned, but I don’t necessarily book restaurants—unless it’s a spot I’m dying to go to.
What does it take for a destination to steal your heart?
Authenticity is a word that has been so overused, but it’s what I’m the most interested in finding anywhere and everywhere.
If you could describe Greece in one word what would it be?
What is your fondest memory of your first trip to Greece as a teenager?
We were in Mykonos, it was 1985, and every night we would go to Pierro’s…and by go to I mean, we would hang out in the square where everyone was, and just take it all in. Everyone seemed to come from all corners of the globe and felt free to be whoever they wanted to be.
What elements of the Greek culture do you connect with most?
Philoxenia! I’ve never met people who are so open and deeply kind, and genuinely consider you a friend even if you’ve just met.
What months do you prefer travelling to Greece?
I love September the most, but because of my daughter’s school schedule, we end up there in August, which is my least favourite month.
Is there a destination in Greece that has surprised you?
The old town of Rhodes was such a pleasant surprise to me. When I go to Patmos, I fly into Rhodes, and spend a day and a night there, before heading out. I had anticipated that the town would be super touristy but was pleasantly surprised. We met such lovely people, had great meals, and loved wandering the ancient streets.
What makes you feel most alive in Greece?
A swim in that perfect water!
Your favourite time of day on the Greek islands?
Around 5 pm, when I’ve just come back from a lovely day at the beach, have just showered, and am sitting with my friends and family recapping the day, before we enter into the 2nd half, the evening.
Fave spot to watch the Greek sunset?
At Skinopi Lodge in Milos!
Best swim you’ve had in the Aegean?
Around Poliegos is the most beautiful water! Jumping off a boat into that is just heaven.
What scent and sound reminds you of Greece?
Walking by the harbour, hearing the clang of the boat’s bells, the fishermen’s chatter, and the smell of the sea.
Your most cherished Greek dish?
So hard to choose! We duplicate the boiled zucchini here at home…so simple and so perfect!
In Greece, what is your drink of choice?
The coldest beer I can get my hands on, next to an ouzo!
If you could bottle one thing up each time you left Greece, to take back home to NY, what would it be?
That feeling of the sun, salt, and sea on my skin.
You have travelled to Greece at different stages of your life. What spots have you loved most: A. as a single girl? B. with your partner? C. as a family?
As a single girl in the 80s, I loved Mykonos. With my partner, I loved exploring small islands like Karpathos. As a family, we love Patmos, because we have so many friends there, and it’s a big reunion every summer.
Where in Greece would you like to explore next?
I’ve never been to the Ionian islands, and would love to go there!
Make sure you check out Yolo Journal