I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Women in Travel Summit (WITS) in Chicago this past weekend; a global sisterhood of travelling women. WITS was organised by the Go Girl Travel Network and is a forum to educate, inspire and connect female travel bloggers together.
WITS brought together like minded women; women who seek more in the world than just having goals of getting married by 25 and kids by 30. Not that there is anything wrong with that but women have been breaking barriers in all fields and women who choose to travel full time deserve extra respect. Yes we are the ones breaking away from the norm of a corporate job, yes we choose to follow our passion, yes we change society’s expectations of us for ourselves.
A high school friend of mine once commented “shouldn’t you be thinking of getting married, your eggs are drying up.” Imagine my horrified look at his audacity! I politely pointed out I can still have all that, but people with his thinking will never accomplish what I have though. Why can’t a woman’s success be measured by the number of countries she has explored or her volunteer work in impoverished nations or even trekking to Basecamp Mt Everest instead of the stereotypical marriage/kids timeline?
At WITS, I was inspired by the likes of Evelyn Hannon who founded Journey Woman. She is well respected and known as the grandmother of female travel bloggers for all her innovations and contributions to women travel in the last 30 years. Jeannie Mark who is our resident Nomadic Chick is another. She literally quit her job, sold all her material belongings and booked a one way ticket to India without looking back. And Gillian Duffy of One Giant Step, who took off to explore the world with her partner with goals of freedom and happiness.
These may sound like rare individuals but they have proven to women over the years that there is so much more to life; that one is never too old to travel. Women travellers are adventurous and risk takers who are strong enough to stand up and find their best selves. They inspired us to realise that this travel lifestyle is doable; whether we choose to travel solo, with a partner, with kids, however we choose to do it…it is possible!
Travel for women is different. In the last few years there has also been an increase in solo female travellers, girlfriend getaways and all female tours catering to specific female needs. The travel industry has finally started recognising this.
Travel really is the best life education one simply cannot learn in a classroom or behind a desk. And I’m not talking resort travel! So as women what have we learned on our journey as travellers?
- We meet strangers whose cultures can be so different we learn understanding and mutual respect; we learn there is no one right way to do things in the world and should not judge others quickly.
- We are forced to communicate with people who speak other languages as we travel through countries that speak little English (or your home tongue). We learn confidence and self esteem, not to mention our own form of sign language!
- Going to unknown territory we are forced to be independent and exercise safety and patience. We learn to be more prepared individuals.
- We value relationships from the different people we meet.
- We appreciate our freedoms, ability to express ourselves and learn our strengths.
- We are more financially conscious by force…we cannot all be Aladdin with a magic carpet :)
So at WITS I did not just make connections, I made lifelong friends, all with the same passion as me. I found women who understood me. Yes we prove women can break out of social norms. We women in travel will channel our paths as we have the potential to make a statement about our chosen lifestyle.
It’s socially acceptable when men choose to travel and live nomadic lifestyles but let’s be honest, we women in travel…we will continue to look for and fully appreciate each adventure in the world because we rock like that!
See you all in Boston next year!