Not surprisingly, I attend a lot of travel blogger/influencer conferences. The two big ones that I’ve attended in the past (and will again later this year) are TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) and WITS (Women in Travel Summit). I enjoy these conferences because I meet so many incredible people, usually see an area rolling out the red carpet for the travel bloggers in town, and because I learn a lot and come away inspired after every conference.
Wanderfest was new to me. It was new to almost everyone, actually. Wanderfest19 held in Austin a few weeks ago, was only its second iteration. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect — especially after I saw the agenda. There were a few workshops that seemed travel related, but there were also time slots for yoga, jewelry-making, and DIY souvenirs. I’ll admit, I was intrigued. I knew this wouldn’t be my typical blogger conference.
It wasn’t. In fact, only about half of the ~40 women there were bloggers. Others had found the conference simply because it was touted as a conference for women who love travel. Many had never been to a conference of this sort before and it was refreshing. We weren’t there to learn industry standards; we were there as a community of women who love to travel and want to connect with other women who share this passion.
Wanderfest is an opportunity for inspired women from around the world to gather together, share stories, and build community in the spirit of adventure, sisterhood, and travel.
The event was held at Casa de Luz — a spiritual retreat kind of place with a Vegan restaurant attached and plenty of flexible space to gather. The path leading back was a dirt path through a garden. It was easy to forget that if you walked back to the street, you’d see downtown Austin across the river.
I did take the yoga workshop and took an Instagram tour with a local Austin blogger. But I also took part in some fascinating discussions about sustainable travel, budgeting for travel, becoming a travel hacker, and the final small group discussion we had about women and travel.
I’m still thinking about those conversations.
First, we talked about what it means to be a woman traveler. There are safety issues, of course, though most of us in the room did not feel unsafe when we travel. We take the usual precautions that we also take at home and are aware of our surroundings. But we wondered how much of our fear is because the news and some businesses capitalize on scaring women into thinking they are vulnerable targets at all times. For those of us who travel the world, quite often alone, we find most of the warnings ridiculous.
More than that, we pondered, was why we would use the term “woman traveler” at all? With women making 2/3 of the travel decisions, why differentiate travel as specifically geared toward women? What does that even mean? Are we not adventurers, comfort-seekers, curious nomads, and cultural students of the world just as men are? Do we need to separate “men’s travel” from women’s? What would “men’s travel” even be??
From there, we split into small groups and were assigned three arguments. The question was: is travel a right, a responsibility, or a privilege?
Each group came up with so many different ways of thinking about travel. At the root of all of discussions we tried to define “travel.” Did we mean it as a concept, or a means of moving from one place to another? The discussions got deep.
As an American, I feel very privileged to travel. I like to think it’s my right, but it is not. I am lucky to live in a country where the idea of taking a vacation and having the means to do so is quite fortunate. In some places, the idea of traveling for fun must seem completely foreign. Even here in America, not everyone can travel. Too often, people live paycheck to paycheck and may not have a job that allows them to take time off to do something so frivolous.
But I also view travel as a responsibility. One of the most enlightening aspects of travel to me is seeing how other people live. It’s important to me to teach my children that there are other viewpoints in the world, and other ways of living. I think my children learn as much from our travels as they do in a classroom. Plus, they learn intangibles such as being resourceful, relying on maps, books, dictionaries, and other people to navigate the world. Travel is invaluable that way.
I wish travel were a right. It’s more of a right in America than it probably is in many other places. Despite the discussions we had, I can’t wrap my mind around travel as a right, other than that we are constitutionally allowed to cross our borders. But to me, travel is a privilege, and I will never forget that.
I’d love to continue the conversation here. How do you think about travel? And the idea of “women’s travel?”