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?”
I think there is a certain justification for discussions over male vs female travel in terms of making it easier for women to travel alone but I think there are greater differences between solo travel and traveling with someone else, and independent travel vs organized tour travel. –Curt
All very true, Curt. SO many different ways to think about travel.
The question of whether travel is a right, responsibility, or privilege is fascinating. I’ve most often thought of it as a privilege, particularly as an American where we can go to so many places without a visa. But you make a great point about it being a responsibility to stay open to different cultures and ways of living. The way I see it, if one has the privilege of being able to travel, there’s a certain responsibility to use that privilege wisely and be a culturally conscious traveler. Lots of great food for thought here!
Thanks, Lillian. My thinking is pretty much aligned with yours. I found the discussion fascinating — especially when we talked about people in some cultures where the idea of travelling for pleasure probably never even crosses their radar.
Sounds like such a great gathering. I like the idea of being with a mix of bloggers and ;regular’ people, haha! I also haven’t really felt unsafe while traveling on my own, but I’ve also been fairly lucky not to run into too many bad situations. I think the differentian is silly too – why would I want a different itinerary than a dude? OK maaaybe I want to fit in a spa treatment then more men maybe not as interested haha, but overall!
I was thinking the same thing: what would men want to do that women don’t? I’m not sure why we make that differentiation.
Wow this is spectacular!
Thanks so much!
I haven’t heard of Wanderfest but will have to look into it since Austin is not too far from Phoenix. I enjoy conferences if they aren’t too large and am always looking for new ones so that I can network.
I definitely think you’d enjoy it, Andi. Wanderfest 2019 was in Austin. They’re deciding next year’s plan and location, but there should be a Wanderful group nearby. I thought I remembered someone mentioning Phoenix.
Travel, at its core, is a very personal endeavour. I always recommend that people travel as they live. If you love outdoor cafes and museums in your home city, do it while you travel. If you self identify as a woman, solo, adventure, family, couple, college-educated-white-male, then travel as one. Traveling is a way to expand yourself by expanding your horizons. The path and direction are entirely up to you.
Love this!! I hope the Wanderfest group is reading this. I’ll make sure to share it with them. I think we all enjoyed the different perspectives and thoughts we shared.
It is hard for me to say that it is a ‘women’s travel’ genre or a ‘men’s travel’ genre. I feel like it might be more prominent in our minds because we are women, and know that it takes a lot of courage to take that first trip alone. There are many cultures that still prey on women as being the inferior gender, and women’s rights are still at the forefront of topics in the USA; this is a reason that I feel it might be in the social sphere of distinction honestly. I also feel privileged to be able to travel as much as I have been, it should be a right for all 16-18 year old kids to help them see the world differently – yet that would be more a Utopian world wouldn’t it.
Great perspective, Janiel! I wish you could have been there for the Wanderfest discussion. I think you would have enjoyed it.
I love this – what an interesting discussion around women’s travel. I do agree that women’s travel is so complex and really we are MANY different kinds of travelers under that one big umbrella. But also I think it’s important to have that space in the diaglogue for women-focused travel… obviously women still face inequality around the world so even if we are making 2/3 of the travel decisions, it doesn’t come without fighting for it!
I am going to be at WITS later this year, too… would love to meet up!!
It was a great discussion and I’ve loved continuing it here.
I won’t be at WITS in Maine, but I will be in Latvia. If you’re there, let’s definitely meet!
I should be attending the July workshop in Topanga https://wearesacred.org/events/ . when is the Women in Travel Summit likely to take place – I am keen to attend the summit. would be good if that gets schedule in July.