You’ve founded several exciting companies and events specifically for women travelers. Why do you focus on women?
Honestly, I feel that I have always had a calling towards helping other women. My first company, Go! Girl Guides, literally came to me as an idea in a dream in the middle of the night. Sure, it was probably that I was frustrated at a lack of information I could’ve specifically used when I was traveling South America, but sometimes things just hit you in ways you can’t predict.
From that business came the Women’s Travel Fest — which was also a need, there was a huge void in the travel community when it came to women, and from that came Damesly, tours I created for women, which were a natural extension.
Tell us about Go! Girl Guides! How do you hope to inspire women to travel the world?
I have found such incredible personal strength and power through traveling the world. I know myself better, I understand other people better, and, bonus, it’s given me a whole new career. But, I meet women every day who want to travel the world but are afraid to go out there and do it alone. My whole existence has been around reaching these women and trying to encourage and inspire them to do the things that seem scary at first, like traveling.
I hope that Go! Girl Guides and our guidebooks can be another tool for women to have in their toolkit when it comes to getting out and seeing the world.
What inspired the creation of Women’s Travel Fest? What excites you about hosting the Women’s Travel Fest each year?
When I first moved from Arizona to NYC, I went on a cross-country road trip in which I was talking to women about traveling and I was just struck by the incredible curiosity and the conversations I had that lasted for hours. That’s when I knew I wanted to have these conversations in a bigger way, and that’s how Women’s Travel Fest began. What excites me every single year about this event are the conversations I have with our community. Last year, I had a woman in her 70s come up to me with tears in her eyes saying ‘I finally found my tribe’ and that just about exploded my heart.
It is a LOT of hard work planning this event every year, but it is the community that makes me want to keep going.
You’ve also launched Damesly. What makes your women-centric trips unique and different, and how do you create custom experiences?
Damesly is a women’s tour company that focuses on workshop-based learning — the idea was to take the workshops we have at Women’s Travel Fest every year and take them traveling. So, every trip has a theme.
For example, in our Cameras + Canyons tour, we combine a 2-hour photography workshop with a tour of the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, where we are taking photos the entire time. It’s a fun way of seeing the world, because you’re meeting like-minded women along the way.
When it comes to your personal travels, how do you think exploring the local culture of a destination helps you discover its story and layers of history?
Well, I don’t really think of the two as any different. Exploring a place is getting to know the local culture, and vice versa. It would be a real shame to get to a new country and only see your hotel room (although, I’ve definitely done that if I’ve had deadlines to meet — sorry, Kathmandu!). I try everywhere I go to talk to everyone I can, for tips, insight and just for friendship!
Share about a particularly memorable trip you’ve been on! Why was it so special?
I recently was in Bhutan, and it was really special to me, because it taught me some real lessons that I didn’t anticipate when I landed. Like most travel stories, it started with food poisoning. I was so so sick and had a 7 hour hike to Tiger’s Nest planned on my last day in the country, and I knew I didn’t want to miss it. So I toughed it out, somehow, and made it all the way up the mountain to the temple. As I was sitting there, meditating in this amazing place, I heard a voice out of nowhere that said, “We already love you, now you just have to love yourself.”
I cried the whole way back down the mountain, and I continue to hold to that memory when things get tough.
What advice would you share with a budding travel entrepreneur?
The best advice I have is to just keep at it. Not all projects will end up taking off, not all products will be sold, but if you just keep plugging away towards the ultimate goal of living the life you dream of living, it will start to come together slowly but surely. I also am a big proponent of meditation and manifestation — I visualize the life I want every single day and have for years. Now I catch myself taking a step back and realizing — whoa, I’m living it!