As the producer and co-host of the World Nomads’ Podcast, I am constantly on the lookout for compelling and inspirational stories to capture, regardless of the gender of the subject.
However, International Women’s Day seemed the perfect opportunity to reflect on and acknowledge some of the incredible women we have featured in our episodes who have used travel to transform their lives.
Elise Fitzsimmons, the publisher and co-founder of Unearth Women, a digital and hard copy magazine focusing solely on women in travel, says it’s important to share women’s stories. “If we can champion and highlight and acknowledge that the average traveler is not a male who is just graduated from college and is out backpacking in Europe, but rather a woman in her late 30s, early 40s traveling by herself, I think we can really change the conversation around what travel is, what it means, who it appeals to, and whose stories we are highlighting and showing as valid.”
One of our Amazing Nomads subjects was Lauren Farmer. Lauren was working in marketing, and freelancing as a photographer on the side, when she went to Antarctica as a guest on a ship. Fast forward six years and she is now an expedition leader promoting sustainable tourism in the Arctic and Antarctica.
“I feel it’s important to acknowledge the achievements of women,” explained Lauren, “just as it is important to acknowledge the achievements of anyone who sets out to do good. I feel it’s especially important that those who historically have not been given the opportunity to achieve, such as women, are given the chance to do so.
“I’m proud that I’m setting out to break boundaries and preconceived notions of what a polar expedition leader “should” be, but I’m equally proud of being a kind and compassionate person, because perhaps the greatest achievements aren’t the ones splashed across news sites, but are times spent helping those alongside us to take their own steps forward.”
Cassandra Brooklyn, who we heard from in our Mexico podcast, runs group tours for people who don’t like group tours. “Women need to be made aware of the achievements of other women,” she told us, “so they can be encouraged to reach their own goals.”
Cassandra takes her inspiration not from the achievements of those splashed across news sites, but her best friend Judi.
“Judi is a black woman from New York City who bike tours by herself all over the world. While she does encounter other female bike tourists, encountering solo female bike tourists is rare, and black female bike tourists are even more rare.
“Women need to be made aware of the achievements of other women, so they can be encouraged to reach their own goals. While we can always set our sights on the seemingly impossible, when we know what has been possible for other women to achieve, it gives us confidence to strive for even more ambitious goals.”
We met Bette Goessling in our episode highlighting Women in Travel. Bette is the embodiment of a woman who set her sights on the seemingly impossible.
Born in 1945, Bette had wanted to travel since she was a child, but her parents thought she was “crazy”.
“I told them I was going to travel all over the world, and they said I'd better marry a rich man. I told them that wasn't necessary,” she explained.
“I was from a middle-class Jewish family, very protected. Wasn't allowed to cross the big road. Couldn't work when I was in high school, because young Jewish girls didn't do that. It wasn't proper. So, I think I rebelled.”
Bette was one of the first women employed by Northwest Airlines, and later Pan Am, and used her travel benefits to experience the world inspired, not surprisingly by American aviation pioneer Amelia Earheart, “…she could fly and so ahead of her time! I wanna be her in my next life!”
While “it was a man's world back then especially in the travel industry”, Bette didn’t let that stop her achieving her dream.
“An unfortunate by-product of my leading a rather unconventional life”, explains Lauren “is that I worry (almost constantly!) about the future.
“I remind myself that life is a work in progress. You don’t have to have it all figured out from the start, to get started living the life you want.
“There’s a Hunter S. Thompson quote which reads, ‘Buy the ticket, take the ride…’ and I often remind myself of it when I’m in the early stages of planning an adventure, or stepping in to something new which might feel daunting. Sometimes you just need to buy that ticket, book the flight, say yes… and then everything else will fall into place.”
Bette, now in her 70s still works in the travel industry as a guide.
“It's my giving back stage; I want other people to be trailblazers. I want them to feel what I felt. I love the horizons that have been opened to me, and it's created more of an open mind than people who don't travel.”
Our next episode of the World Nomads podcast showcases award-winning author Susan Spann who is currently climbing all 100 of the Nihon Hyakumeizan, Japan’s most famous peaks.
“Magic happens when you take that first step,” Susan says.
So, you're thinking about taking the leap and traveling solo? Before you book your trip, here are a few important tips for women to keep in mind.