Day Two of The Women in Travel Summit started with breakfast. I had the pleasure of meeting some amazing ladies, including one who traveled throughout the United States, by visiting 50 States in 50 Weeks. Here’s the kicker, she’s from Australia. One of the profound things she said is that we are so lucky to be in the United States, because if we want to be in the desert we can go to Arizona, if we want to be on a beach, visit Florida, Need culture? go to New Orleans and there’s history in every state in America. Her stories resonated with me, as she found splendor in driving through New Jersey and Nevada. Why does it take someone from a completely different continent to visit our country and find such magnificence in it? Too often as Americans we overlook the grander of our country. It made me want to discover all that she found to be enticing. There’s such value in living in a vast country filled with natural resources, nature, and incredible wonders.
After taking our quintessential group picture (all 300 of us), we listened to the amazing stories of people who partake in volunteer travel. This conference opened my eyes to traveling with a purpose. I eventually would love to use my travels to help others; maybe building a school in Thailand for girls who just escaped sex trafficking or making pillows and beautiful patterns with the women of Kenya; Teaching the children of Dubai English or handing out sanitary napkins to young girls in need in India. I had a lot to think about when it came to travel, I was excited about the prospects.
Our first breakout session was WordPress for Travel Bloggers, it basically went through all the ways you can self-host on a WordPress platform. This was valuable information, but right now I am ok with hosting via wordpress and not self-hosting. However, three things I learned that could be valuable to you is:
- Always compress images before uploading to a blog.
- Always do regularly scheduled backups of your database and your entire site.
- Protect yourself by any means from hackers, because they want to send out spam emails using your credentials. If WordPress prompts you to pay extra for hacker protection go for it.
Street Harassment while traveling with Delia Harrington, was one of the sessions I looked forward to the most. While I was producing my show Reserved, this was one of the issues I was very passionate about bringing to the forefront. Growing up I had no idea how to navigate this unwarranted attention I was getting all of a sudden. To avoid the hissing, cat calling and being stalked to my building, I would just take a longer way home, getting off the train one stop before I should’ve and just walk the 5 extra minutes. This was my means for coping with an issue, that everyone else ignored.
When I arrived to the forum, it felt like I was not alone. I watched around me when women of all shades raised their hands when asked if they have ever been victims of street harassment. I shared my story of my first time being cat called at age 13, or even cursed out when I didn’t respond. It was comforting to know that other women were able to relate, some women recounted being as young as 11 when they were first approached by men on the street. It’s disheartening to know that an issue such as street harassment, which can make girls and women feel unsafe in their own neighborhood, is taken so lightly. I remembered trying to tell the women in my family about my experiences and feeling like I was talking to a brick wall. Just ignore it, they would say. I believed I had to accept this fate of being harassed as just the norm, although at the time I didn’t know it was harassment. I had my aha moment in college; I was in a women studies class listening to group final projects, when a team based theirs on Street Harassment. It was the first time I was able to define what was happening to me; finally I didn’t feel ignored because other people experienced it too. Although street harassment is a global issue, there are great strides being taken against it. Here are some ways we can respond to street harassment:
- Direct confrontations with street harassers may prove extremely dangerous, particularly if you are alone in an unpopulated space.
- It’s each individual’s right to decide when, how, and if to respond but keep your safety in mind
- If you’re safe to do so confront your harasser with strong body language
- Use statements not questions leave me alone vs. will you leave me alone?
- Identify the perpetrator “Man in the yellow shirt stop touching me”
- Educate others, especially men
- Tell your story
- Get active
Finally, after sneaking out of the hotel to do some sightseeing with my mom and grandma, during our 2-hour lunch break, I attended the last break out session for the conference. This session was all about maintaining a travel blog when you are not travelling. I found some amazing tips on using your neighborhood as a source of inspiration or reliving your times in the countries you previously traveled to, by writing about topics you did not already address( maybe restaurants, museums, to dos or what not to do). I found this session to be great because it inspired me to keep on writing even during the down times when I may not have a trip on the horizon. Just open your eyes to see that there’s culture all around.
When we all convened, back in the main hall, I was under the impression that the conference was over, but there was so much more to come. Adventurous Kate was the final speaker of the conference. She spoke strongly and passionately about Gender Inequality in the blogging world. She rose awareness about men getting all the praise for blogging and photography but are they really dominating the field or just getting credit for it? She encouraged us to support one another.
With that being said, I had to leave the conference earlier than anticipated. I thought the conference would end on time but it went over and I felt like I was leaving an amazing party early. Well, there’s always next year and its happening in sunny California!
Manicures and photobooths! I managed to arrive in heaven. Well, not really but this was all the pampering a girl needs to be happy. During the break I was torn between attending a bloggers revision workshop or a holistic scheduling break out session. I chose, How to get ish done and still have time to do yoga (The holistic scheduling session). I learned some pretty cool techniques, but most, I was already familiar with. When you have a 9-5 job, and manage two blogs and one website like I do, it’s imperative to hone your time management skills.
One of the questions asked was What would you do differently if you knew for sure that the only real currency you have in life is you?
When you start to think like this, you begin to take risks. If the only currency in life I had was me, I would have to do three things better:
- Make lasting relationships
- Get rid of the fear of rejection and take more risks.
Even though this was a hypothetical question, this is really a great way to put things into perspective. I need to start thinking of myself like currency and know my worth, because I have tons of value. Heck, I am a goldmine. You, who are reading this, whoever you are and wherever you may be should do the same.
Other Takeaways from Miss Catrice:
- Know why you do what you do and why you are the best at doing it
- Be very clear about your brand
- Do not be afraid to stand out
The stand out tip resonated with me most. It’s very important to be the person that stands out. Whether it’s a bright blazer, crazy hair, an amazing broach, always have a conversation piece on hand when a new opportunity presents itself at a conference or maybe even an event.
Follow @catriceology for some more personal and professional branding tips.
My next break out session was about the boring and monotonous world of SEO. SEO is search optimization, and if a blogger want to find success, their website/blog should come up on Google’s 1st page and not its 22nd.
Three tips I learned was:
- Making Google like you is all about creating amazing content that people love and share
- Publish up to date and real life content that people care about
- Brainstorm the common terms and phrases you think people use to search the broad topics of your blog site
Shortly after a delicious lunch, my last break out session of WITS15 day one would commence. I was torn between “Press Trip Travel,” which I believe would’ve been totally beneficial to me or “Meeting the Global Challenge of Educating Women Through Media: Soulful Travels with Grannies on Safari” I chose the latter and I am happy I did. Grannies on Safari did something to my soul. They were so cute and they have amazing chemistry. Most of all their session was almost like a call for action for us travelers to do more for others abroad. There are women across the world in Africa and India who can’t go to school because they don’t have sanitary napkins to wear while on their periods. That should never be the case. We have to use our platforms to bring awareness to these issues and help our sisters (and brothers) reach great heights in their lives even if they are miles away.
Grannies On Safari have a show on PBS and you can Click here to visit their website.
With Day One of WITS 15 down, I was feeling overwhelmed. I needed to connect with the many people that I met that day, but I also needed to take more action. I have more than one platform, one is even geared towards the empowerment of women and even though I’ve made progress with all my platforms, this conference made me realize, that my work has just begun. I needed to make more of an impact. Do more, heck, maybe even rebrand. That night, I had a feeling of non-complacency. If I learned anything from this conference it was that change and growth were on my horizons.
The night before Women In Travel Summit 2015 (WITS15) I planned out my whole schedule on Sched, which is a genius app for organizing your schedule and calendar. I was able to sync all the activities I would do for the weekend on my Gmail calendar, which alerted me every time I had a workshop coming up. I was all packed and ready to head to Boston for a weekend of connecting with other women travelers like myself. I hoped to leave with new friends and lasting connections yet I had very little expectations for what the weekend would bring. I love going into a new experience with an open mind and heart.
I realized I was in Boston when we drove past the harbor leading up to the Engineering School at Boston University. Beautiful town homes lined the stoned streets, it was so charming. The first event on the Sched calendar was an opening party at the We Work South Station. I decided to have dinner with my mom and grandmother instead, whom I brought with me to tag along and enjoy the city while I was at the conference. It would be the only time I had to hang with my favorite ladies before the conference really got started.
Saturday morning, I woke up refreshed. I got dressed in what seemed like a standard conference outfit; a dress, tights, boots and a cardigan. Everyone knows you can’t attend a conference without a cardigan. I checked in and was super excited when I was told that the amazing travel bags that were on each chair in the conference hall was for us to keep. I was torn between the red and the black. The red was vibrant, but the black was practical (I went with the bold red). I was overwhelmed and quite excited when I saw how many beautiful women were in attendance at the conference.
Where would I sit? I found a seat next to lovely women, as close to the front as I could possibly get. I love sitting in the front, it keeps you alert at all times. Breakfast was continental and consisted of bagels and delicious muffins. The opening speech came from an amazing woman, traveler and entrepreneur, Asian Fusion Girl also known as Dina. Dina’s story was raw, and relatable. Dina grew up internalizing the negative words of her mother who told her she wouldn’t amount to anything (her father was a bit more supportive and compassionate). She used these words to fuel her life to great heights. While in college she decided to pursue a career in music. She got on a plane to Brazil to connect with her uncle who had a connection at MTV in Sao Palo. What came out of her spontaneous trip was a record deal. However she ended up winning a huge legal settlement, when she heard the music from her demo tape on a commercial that was broadcasted throughout Brazil.
She decided to travel with her new found fortune. While in Italy she met a man who she gradually fell in love with. He was filthy rich and treated her like a queen. They traveled the world on his private jet and didn’t find it necessary to carry luggage, as there would always be clothes waiting for them at each location. He eventually asked her to marry him, but not before she invested some of her money into the stock market and was making huge returns; Dina was deemed the Girl with the Golden Touch because it seemed as if everything she touched turned to gold. Her fiance asked if he could invest some of her money and she didn’t think twice about it. After all, he was wealthy and such a boss. She admired what he did and how he handled his business.
One day when everything in Dina’s life was perfect, she received a call from her lawyers, frantically saying all her assets had been frozen because her fiance got busted for his illegal doings. She lost 90% of her assets. After going through all forms of depression she decided to travel the world and give the 10% she had left away to people in need. This woman walked right into her purpose. She opened up kitchens to feed the lower caste people of India and helped save 3-12 year old girls from being trafficked in Cambodia. She eventually picked herself back up, so overjoyed by her travels and began thriving in business again, initially with her blog Asian Fusion Girl.
I was so moved by Dina’s speech. Her honesty and transparency set the tone for the rest of the conference.It was at that very moment when I realized the type of conference I signed up to be apart of, and I was so happy I did. There were people out there that travel with purpose and I would learn more about giving back while traveling as the conference went on. Yet, this felt like a space where as women we could be empowered. We could be uplifted. We could share our stories. I was absolutely excited about what the rest of the day would bring.