By definition, community is a unified body of individuals. There is something magical about travel that unites people and creates a shared sense of understanding of culture, time and place. Travel experiences are unique to each person, good and bad, and there is great value in sharing amongst one another. Women who travel share an even deeper bond, as their experiences represent shared gender and cultural norms. In an age when female-focused travel and sustainable tourism are moving from trends to the norm, communities are even more important for informing, inspiring and empowering women to travel well. Here are five founders who have successfully built communities to do just that.
If you’re a travel content creator, you’ll find your people in the Wanderful community. Founder Beth Santos started a personal blog in 2009 when she couldn’t find substantial resources for women who were traveling alone. She added global contributors and eventually started hosting in-person events. That was when she realized the real power of the community she had built.
Santos’ initial goal was to share stories about the real issues affecting women who travel, like gender norms in different countries and practical information, as opposed to fashion advice. After a few years, she had built a decent following and realized she could teach other female travel bloggers how to build a business.
That was when she launched the Women in Travel Summit to share her learnings with other women. “It’s a conference for creators to open up a conversation about how we can make travel more meaningful and inclusive, “ she said. “ We share how we can use our platforms to expand some of these values, grow our businesses and support more women who are building their own businesses.”
In 2015, she rebranded as Wanderful and since then, her blog has evolved into a global lifestyle brand whose mission is to make travel easier for women by connecting them to their greatest asset: each other.
From a membership base to chapters in over 50 cities, Santos found a way to create an online community of travelers and then connect those women in person through global gatherings, a woman-to-woman home sharing network (so that solo female travelers can rest assured that they’re booking a safe and verified stay) and women-fueled trips to places like Antarctica.
We Are Travel Girls
When Becky Van Dijk and Vanessa Rivers met in London in 2015, they bonded over a mutual love of travel. At the time, they couldn’t find any travel blogs that consistently shared articles from women around the world, so one year later they launched a website to promote female travel bloggers, calling it We Are Travel Girls.
Four year later they have grown a sizable following on social media (over 400,000 Instagram followers and two million monthly views on their Pinterest page) and expanded their brand to provide free travel resources, host global meet-ups and offer bespoke trips. They are also committed to fundraising for charities working on much needed projects around the world.
With an audience that is predominantly women between the ages of 25-35 years old, in the US, UK & Australia, Van Dijk and Rivers have created a global community of female travelers who can contribute articles to their blog, connect in exotic locations and learn from one another.
Girls Trip Tours
For Eyitemi Popo, Girls Trip Tours has been a labor of love. Originally from Nigeria, she grew up going back and forth between the U.S. and Nigeria. After graduating from college, she founded Ayiba, an online magazine dedicated to chronicling the African Renaissance. Through her platform, she created a community of Africans living in the diaspora who wanted to connect with the continent and understand it better. By creating content that was able to bridge the gap between those two communities, the idea for Girls Trip Tours was born.
As a global traveler herself, Popo already saw the challenges of solo female travel. “I knew if I wanted to bring people to the continent, I had an opportunity to focus on women and create a more interesting experience.” The goal was to bring the magazine alive and create opportunities for women to visit the continent. By facilitating solo female travel in Africa, Popo is curating a female-driven ecosystem that can host or guide explorers.
Girls Trip Tours is focused on female empowerment and hosts trips to various destinations in Africa where travelers can take in the sights and have authentic experiences with high profile business women and local industry leaders. Their uniquely curated trips allow women from all over the world to safely explore an African city with confidence and purpose, all while supporting local women.
Women Who Travel
Inspired by the Women’s March in 2017, Lale Arikoglu and some of her fellow female editors at Condé Nast Traveler decided to build on the momentum and publish a collection of articles about women doing interesting things in the travel space. The positive reception prompted them to launch a Facebook group for self-identifying women who travel and the project took off.
Within two years, Women Who Travel was established as an evergreen vertical for the platform, featuring a podcast, meet-ups and most recently, curated trips for women.
As one of the founding editors of Women Who Travel, Arikoglu oversees the vertical and co-hosts the podcast. While acknowledging that travel is a luxury for many, Arikoglu said the Facebook group, which has 150,000 members, and meet-ups are completely accessible (and free) to any woman. “The internet makes the world feel so much smaller and so much more accessible,” said Arikoglu. “We see a real hunger for women to talk about their travels and share stories with one another, and we see it all come together in our online community and meet-ups.”
By building communities that are inclusive, each of these founders has tapped into an innate desire for women to share, learn, inspire and encourage one another. And since knowledge is power, the real takeaway is how much travel empowers women.