It was an enthralling two days all about women and travel at the Women’s Travel Fest last year, which means that the third annual Fest in 2016 will be even bigger and better.
This year, fest goers will hear what it’s like to photograph for National Geographic from Annie Griffiths, one of the first female photographers to work for the magazine; Megan McDonough of Bohemian Trails; Miki Agrawal, co-founder and CEO of THINX; Kiersten Rich and Courtney Scott of The Getaway Girls; and Kenecia Lashae of Passport 2 Pretty are among some of the speakers lining up to inspire women to get out into the world at the Women’s Travel Fest in New York this year.
However, back in San Francisco last year, excitement was in the air as more than three hundred women gathered to inspire their wanderlust last February. Girls That Roam was there observing the rush and thrill of women being around other globetrotting women and galvanize their wanderlust.
The women sat enraptured in their seats the first day listening to a lineup of amazing speakers, such as private explorer Felicity Aston and the panel discussion with noted journalist Laura Ling, Paula Froelich, of Yahoo! Travel, and Julia Cosgrove of AFAR Magazine who took the stage to regal the audience with their travel tales along with many others at the San Francisco Design Center in the South of Market.
The women spoke about being safe while gallivanting around the world as many women express concerns about sexual harassment to rape to being pick-pocketed to scarier issues. They told the audience about how they’ve navigated through public health outbreaks – similar to early this year’s spread of Ebola in West Africa – and political and terrorist hot spots, such as North Korea and the unfortunate murdered hostage Kayla Mueller, an American from Arizona. Their stories also applied to November’s terrorist attack in Paris and the untimely death of California State University, Long Beach student Nohemi Gonzalez who was among the estimated 128 dead, according to media reports.
Julia and Laura suggest that in a big scary world travelers should do their homework.
“Do your research and sess out don’t just blanket block out entire continents or regions of the world out of fear, because travel is the primary antidote to fear,” says Julia.
“We really need to be educated and really make smart decisions,” adds Laura about getting too close to hot zones around the world. “I trusted my instincts. When you are out there things just happen and so it’s important to trust your instincts but also just take more of these precautions.”
The rules of travel have changed within the past year, especially for Americans and other Westerners, with the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and anti-American sentiment around the world.
“[The] rules have changed now and they’ve changed significantly over this past year because every single one of us in this room has a price on our head right now,” says Paula, after talking about being caught in a civil war in Malawi and held for a bit by one of the warring tribes in 2012. “Yeah our government isn’t going to pay, but ISIS will pay a lot of money.”
However, with the new rules that doesn’t mean hanging up your traveling shoes and staying home. If anything, the women encouraged the audience to continue discovering different countries and cultures and connecting with people.
“Like Nike. Just do it,” says Paula. “Here’s the deal you can say don’t go to Turkey and Syria right now, that’s just like saying don’t lay out on the lawn in baby oil on during a 95 degree day when there is not a cloud in the sky.”
The conversations weren’t all about the scary unknowns and what to do if you land in the Sudan unexpectedly to have armed men board your plane checking passports (this happened to Girls That Roam’s Super G while traveling in Africa) or traveling to a country pausing between a political coup and new government elections as Girls That Roam’s publishers Heather Cassell and Super G did when we briefly stopped in Honduras in 2009.
These were just some of the hot issues up for discussion throughout the day, but it wasn’t all about the big bad scary world out there. It was also about celebrating the world we live in that is full of wonders and open for discovery. Speakers, like Patricia Schultz, author of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die: Revised Second Edition, talked about destinations that are must-sees on any wanderluster’s bucket list, seeing the world on a dime, giving back while seeing the world, and much more.
Other speakers encouraged women to go on great journey’s, like Felicity, who was one of the most exciting speakers of the day. Felicity talked about taking women across Antarctica and her own solo journey skiing across the ice continent.
“The hardest thing is to start. You will have 100 reasons why you should put it off but absolutely the most important thing that you can do is to make a start,” says Felicity. “Whatever your first step is taking that first step don’t put it off because if you put it off before you know it you will be months and years down the line and you won’t have done it.”
The second day of the fest women filled workshops learning about how to break into the travel industry to accessible travel, queer women’s travel, traveling with your family, and voluntourism opportunities at the Women’s Building in the Mission District.
The most popular workshops were travel writing, travel career and travel photography where women packed the rooms.
Girls That Roam’s Heather spoke on behalf of the Bay Area Reporter as the newspaper’s contributing queer women’s travel writer, on the LGBT Travel panel. The panel discussion was led by LoAnn Halden of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, and included Jody Cole of Wild Rainbow African Safaris.
The next Women’s Travel Fest will be hosted in New York, March 4-6, 2016.