I stood in a random parking lot in North Austin amped up on caffeine and waiting anxiously for a girl by the name of Meghan to pick me up and drive me all the way to New Orleans for the Women’s Travel Fest 2017. I had no idea what Meghan really looked like since we had only met online in the Nomadic Matt Superstar Blogging course a few weeks prior. As soon as she pulled up, with bouncy blonde hair and a big smile on her face, all fears of being kidnapped and thrown into a river with rocks tied to my ankles vanished. Even if she were crazy I’d be able to take her, I can be surprisingly scrappy when need be.
I waved goodbye to my friend in Austin, who had stuck around to make sure he wasn’t sending me off to my certain death with a stranger, and set sail into the unknown. Within minutes Meghan and I were deep in conversation on all things travel and life in our twenties, aka: school, family, crazy roommates, money, careers, love and how to keep travel a priority on top of all of that! Lost in chatter along the rural Texas highway, the miles and the cows flew by before making a brief pitstop in Houston to pick up one of my best friends, Dominique, who had flown in from México City to join us. From there we were on our way to connect with yet another girl we met online, Erica, for our first night in New Orleans.
I tell this part of the story because I feel it so embodies the spirit of the Women’s Travel Fest and travel in general. It’s a tale of friendship, adventure, calculated risk, faith in humanity and girl power. As the weekend went on we would come to meet many other women from a variety of walks of life, each with her own unique story and purpose for attending the conference. Not only did we network and build potential professional relationships but we formed lasting friendships over three incredible days in the Big Easy.
Apart from the fun of being in one of the country’s most distinct cities whose Spanish, French and African influences linger on, the Women’s Travel Fest 2017 was informative and above all else inspiring. For those looking to make a career in the travel industry or those looking to incorporate travel into their lifestyle in a major way, I highly recommend checking out next year’s festival!
TOP 5 TAKEAWAYS FROM THE 2017 WOMEN’S TRAVEL FEST
1. Importance of Finding Your Tribe
For those looking to make frequent travel a permanent lifestyle choice, especially if you’re trying to build a career around travel, it’s extremely important to connect and form friendships with people who can understand this choice. You’re going to need to know you have friends you can reach out to for support and advice, friends that will travel with you and friends that will support your professional endeavors by motivating you and building you up instead of resenting you for letting your light shine. Build yourself a solid travel/professional development tribe, nurture it, and watch it blossom into adventure, meaningful friendships and fulfilling opportunities!
Side note: It’s important to still make time for the other loved ones in your life and see the value in those relationships too. Realize you can’t expect them to relate on certain topics the way your travel friends will but also remember that they likely bring you support and joy in another way that is equally important! After all, variety is the spice of life!
2. You Must Live Your Truth
Shannon Kaiser, the author of Adventures for Your Soul, took to the stage on Saturday afternoon and spoke in a way that moved the whole room. She was incredibly authentic and inspiring as she shared her personal journey with us and laid out the steps she takes to create a more fulfilling and satisfying life. Shannon's talk had us all on the edge of tears as she urged us to live out our dreams and generously shared insight on how to "play with the world". This is a topic that recently really hits home for me and I think many women struggle with feeling like they have to compromise themselves or their dreams to please others. They don’t.
The closing speaker, Sarah Dodd, known as the Nomadic Dreamer, also talked about her experiences of breaking social norms and no longer allowing the word “should” to control her actions and keep her from being herself and living the kind of inspired life that results in true peace and happiness.
The bottom line is, if you get really honest with yourself on who you are and what you want out of life then the best thing you can do is to have the courage and persistence to live that dream. By becoming free and happy you will be a light that shines so brightly that you radiate happiness and joy to others, making the world a better place.
It’s more than okay to be happy, you deserve it.
3. Importance of Organization, Planning and Taking Calculated Risks
Once you’ve discovered your truth and are clear on the kind of life you want to create for yourself and have a handful of close friends who understand and support your dream it’s time to make a plan. For as much as I believe in trusting in the universe and its divine intervention in our lives, I’m also a big proponent of doing your due diligence in terms of research and planning.
If it’s a short trip you’re planning at least take the time to secure your lodging for the first few nights, do some background research on the history, culture and language of the region you’re visiting and try to have a couple in country contacts set up ahead of time Use your tribe to help you meet new people because a friend of a friend usually ends up becoming a friend of yours too.
Beyond that, if you’re trying to map out what a non-traditional traveler life looks for you you’re going to have to get good at budgeting and scheduling. It’s also worth taking some time to learn how to travel hack, a topic Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie, The Globetrotting Teacher, gave a wonderful presentation on and talks about on her blog.
And for those looking to make a full time career in the travel industry it’s extremely important to understand how the industry works and to keep up to date with current trends and changes, as discussed by Pauline Frommer who shared amazing insight on the industry and how to work airlines, hotels and tour companies to your advantage. (Check out Frommer’s latest article Frommer’s Best Places to Go in 2017).
We also heard from a variety of other bloggers, writers, editors, Instagrammers and Snapchatters on how they have forged successful careers in the travel industry. While each one has their own unique story the overwhelming message was that success doesn’t happen overnight, rather it involves researching, planning, list-making and goal-setting, draft after draft. It requires having enough conscious thought to make smart decisions and enough passion and trust in yourself to take risks.
4. Show Up to To Do the Work
So, you know who you are and what you want, you’ve done enough research to devise an outline of how to reach your goals and you’ve found a group of people who’ve got your back. Congratulations! Now it’s time to do the work, because for as much as our thoughts can determine our future it is through ACTION that they work their magic. By taking action you will have successes and “failures” all of which will help you gain that much more clarity on who you are, what you want, and how to get there, but you have to take action.
If you do the work with passion, patience and persistence you will not fail.
How you determine success will depend on you and you may find you end up in a different place than you envisioned, but if you got there by way of passion, patience and persistence you will be somewhere successful. Do the work and don’t allow anyone, including yourself, to tell you that you cannot achieve your goals. Many of the speakers at the Women’s Travel Fest mentioned that they wake up at 5:00 am on a regular basis and often work 12 hour days, that's their level of dedication.
Keynote speaker, Scott Eddy, told the story of how he’s worked tirelessly for 7 years building his brand and now has over 1 million followers on Twitter which he amassed 100% organically because as he will tell you, there are NO shortcuts in life. Still today, he continues to work day in and day out to increase his reach and create a life based around what he’s truly passionate about.
You may be dreaming of ditching the 9-5 and enjoying the perks of working around the world but in order to be successful in this industry you will find that you’ll be working way more than 40 hours a week. Of course, if it’s your passion it won’t feel like work but it still demands dedication and energy.
5. There is No Limit to Our Creativity, Especially When We Collaborate
Perhaps the most inspiring take away from the conference was just how capable we are as humans to create and do truly amazing and meaningful things with our lives, as individuals and even more so when we work as a team. While many of the speakers are proud one women shows who’ve created a life and a brand that works for them, they got there with the support of their tribe and by collaborating with gifted and talented peers.
You can achieve amazing things like Cassie de Pecol who was the first woman to visit every country in the world, promoting peaceful tourism along the way. You can do great things like Kelly Lewis and Alyson Kilday who together founded Damesly, which organizes tours for professional women to network and pursue their interests while traveling. You CAN do amazing things that make the world a better, happier and more fun and interesting place. The best news is that you can have fun and make friends while doing it! Be open to infinite possibilities, don’t discredit your dreams as too crazy and think not about competition but rather about collaboration.
If you can’t already tell, I ADORED the Women’s Travel Fest and found it be educational, inspiring and fun. I highly recommend it to any of my lady friends out there with an interest in travel! Feel free to post any comments, questions, or suggestions in the comment box below.
- Chelsea 💕