We believe that travel is an everyday celebration of our shared humanity and the unique gifts we each have to share with the world. But today, on International Women's Day, we are taking it one step further, to celebrate all the strong, wonderful and courageous women who continue to strive to make our world a better place. So step up, raise your voice and help us to #BEBOLDFORCHANGE.
Women have always been leaders in travel; from Harriet Chalmers Adam's photographic exploration through South America, Asia and the South Pacific to pioneering journalist Nellie Bly’s 72 day round-the-world journey. And of course, we can't forget Gertrude Bell’s adventures through Syria, Asia Minor and Arabia. The list goes on and on, and even today, women continue to lead the charge as some of the world's most veracious and inspiring travelers.
Today, in honour of all the wonderful women in both our lives and across our beautiful planet, we've sat down with three badass globetrotters to share and learn from their travel experiences. We are pleased to introduce you to Halley from Texas, Riely from Vancouver and Anna from Toronto.
When did you first decide to take a trip to another part of the world?
Halley: I first decided to take a trip to another part of the world when I became a senior in college and a friend and I were talking about how much we wanted to backpack Europe. It was the beginning of the school year and she and I kept bringing the subject up, but I didn't think we were actually going to go through with it. Then one day, we sat down and hashed out all the details and we just went for it! We then grew our gang of travel ladies, bought flights, booked hostels, and when the summer came, we set out on our two and a half month backpacking trek across Europe!
Halley in Athens, Greece.
Did you travel alone for any part of your first big trip? Tell us about that.
Halley: There were four of us ladies for the majority of the trip, and then another one of our friends met us halfway, so I didn't travel alone for the majority of the journey. However, when we were in Ireland, I took a day trip to Howth on my own and hiked for about five hours that day and then traveled back to Dublin later that evening. So I did go on a day trip solo, and it was really nice. The hike was very relaxing, with the fresh air and the beautiful scenery of the water and the cliffs. It felt nice to be alone for a little while, and just go at my own pace.
Riely: My first real journey abroad was with a group of students and teachers. A little more supervised than I wanted at the time, but I had been dying to visit France and immerse myself in the French culture no matter how short the trip.
Did you ever have any fears associated with being a female traveler? If so, how did you overcome these fears?
Riely: Sure, I had fears, I mean who doesn't. Not so much associated with being female, but fears as a traveler in general. Appropriate though lengthy safe travel talks were given leading up to my first big trip, which escalated my fears a little. I had an obligatory money belt on most of the time and was made aware to be constantly on guard of strangers trying to snag your valuables. I think that gave me the wrong impression at a young age of certain countries and the individuals that live there.
Riely in Rome, Italy
Describe one of the most memorable moments you had traveling.
Anna: Do I have to pick just one? I'd have to say one of my most memorable moments while traveling so far was bungee jumping in New Zealand. It wasn't necessarily the most cultural or historic thing I've experienced while traveling, but it held alot of meaning to me. For as long as I can remember, I've been absolutely terrified of heights. While that might have put off most people, I decided to sign myself up for bungee jumping anyways. I started to panic almost immediately after, but as the kind lady at the register told me, 'no refunds!'. I stressed about it for the entire 24 hours leading up to the jump, and I will admit, I even cried for a good 20 minutes in the car before dragging myself in to what felt like certain death. Obviously I survived to tell the tale, and I'm actually hoping to go bungee jumping at Victoria Falls in the near future. I'll never forget it, because I felt so strong and so free. I'll keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone, but so far, I don't seem to be getting any less afraid of heights.
Halley: One of the most memorable moments I had while traveling was in Prague. We were out drinking at a cute Irish pub on our second night there, and met up with some friendly Australians. We were all hanging out at the pub until they closed, but we weren't tired yet, so we wandered around the cobble stoned streets. It was particularly memorable, because there wasn't anyone else in sight. Granted, it was three a.m., but we expected to see at least a few people here and there, but there was no one. We stood in the town square, where it was extremely crowded just earlier that day, but in that moment it was so quiet and even more beautiful than it was during the day. We wandered around the square, New Town Prague, and ran across Charles Bridge and laughed until daybreak. It was that one moment where I truly felt young and carefree. I still remember sitting in that tram on the way back to our hostel and seeing the sunrise. It was my favourite night!
There are many incredible female travel groups out there. They hone in on safety as a key element. Do you think it’s unsafe for women to travel on their own?
Anna: There totally are, and I belong to more than a few! I agree that safety is paramount, especially when you hear so many horror stories on the news. But at the same time, we need to recognize that there will always be dangers, regardless of gender, and the important thing is to keep your chin up, eyes open and wits about you. There are certain cultures that may make it more challenging or uncomfortable for women to travel, but with the right attitude and a healthy dose of respect on both sides, I think women should be able to go just about anywhere, either on their own or with others. Just be sure that you prepare ahead of time, and that you take necessary precautions in areas that may be slightly riskier. Bad things can happen anytime, anywhere, including at home. I'm not saying we should all rush into the most dangerous, war-ridden countries anytime soon, however I do think women should have the ability and confidence to travel when and where they want.
Anna in Killarney, Ireland.
Talk to us about some of the real challenges you think female travelers face.
Riely: The one thing I've noticed that is not necessarily exclusive to any particular culture, is that women often tend to be the victims of objectification. This can make travelling alone uncomfortable at the very least, and scary or dangerous at the very most. It can sometimes be difficult to tell whether someone is merely being friendly and is genuinely nice, versus others who may less than honorable intentions. As a woman, it can also be quite frustrating and annoying to receive this unwanted attention. Situations can something turn sour quite quickly if you do not smile, or respond in the way your unwanted suitors would like to see a woman act.
When/If travelling in a country whose customs are different from your own, how does it change the way you travel?
Anna: One thing I like to do while traveling is to learn at least some of the local customs and traditions, so that I can interact with locals in a way that is both meaningful and respectful. Last year I traveled to Myanmar, which also happened to be the first country I visited in Asia. It was a bit of a culture shock, but in the best sort of way. Myanmar is a predominantly buddhist country, and its people continue to dress in very conservative, traditional clothing. For the entire two weeks I was there, I rarely saw a woman, young or old, wearing pants (they tend to favour skirts), or shirts that showed the shoulders or any cleavage. Not that I dress particularly promiscuously, however, I adjusted my own style while there, to better fit in and show my respect for their culture.
Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo provided by Halley.
Where is your next trip taking you and why did you choose that country?
Riely: As far as travelling outside of Canada, I hope to travel back to Italy. One of my brothers is currently residing in Rome and I know him and his partner would love to show me around to their secret destinations and Italian hot spots. And really let's be honest, there is always more to see in Italy.
Halley: My next trip is to Bali and Sydney for a month! This trip was inspired with my same travel companion and good friend, that I traveled across Europe with. We're both recent university graduates who are eager to squeeze in one last hoorah, before embarking on "big kid life". We chose Bali and Sydney because we wanted to go somewhere we haven't been yet, and those two were next on the list! I'm excited to see another part of the world, and to experience yet another country's culture and traditions!
Any advice for females traveling for the first time on their own or within a group?
Riely: I would say, try to be open to new experiences and limit your expectations. You never know where you will end up or the places that will hold your most favorable memories.
Halley: Beyond having the time of your life and enjoying every second, my best piece of advice I can give to any solo female traveler, or anyone in a group is to keep your possessions as safe as possible. That should be a no brainer, but I unfortunately had my purse stolen while in a hostel bar in Rome, and it was the scariest moment of my life. Everything important was in that purse, and that was my first mistake. My second mistake was taking my purse off me, and setting it next to my friend (without letting her know) while I was in the restroom. The bouncers ended up finding it about a half hour later. It was ditched in the downstairs bathroom, but I got lucky. Be smart about your possessions.
London, England. Photo by Riely.
Tell us why travel is important to you.
Anna: Travel is important to me because it serves as a way to connect with different people and places across our world. I find that it allows me to find peace and balance, in my otherwise busy, chaotic life. Travel is my way of reconnecting with myself, and to really open my eyes and heart to what is happening in the world.
Have a story to share? We'd love to hear from you! E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org