Going back for seconds at the Women’s Travel Fest

The fun and inspiration of finding your people, wherever you are

Last March, Sean and I packed up our apartment (which Sean had called home for almost a decade), moved our belongings into storage, packed our bags for a year of travel, and said goodbye to New York City and so many wonderful friends. Sean took on new remote projects, and I left my job as vice president of programs at a non-profit to be able to embark on our adventure. And, after some frustrating Ticketmaster experiences, we finally saw the two-night spectacle of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway. But in some ways, one of the most memorable events that month wasn’t one of these milestones but rather the lasting inspiration I felt from attending an annual gathering of women in travel.

I found out about Women’s Travel Fest thanks to an email from Nomadic Matt, a travel blogger I’ve enjoyed for years. Billed as “a transformative event that launches careers, connects new friends, and has sent hundreds of women across the world,” the festival’s panels and workshops take place at the gorgeous Angel Orensanz Foundation, a former synagogue built in 1849, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Since we were about to embark upon a year around the world, I thought I’d give it a try. I knew I wanted to document my experiences somehow but hadn’t yet figured out the specifics of how I wanted to do so. (Ahem, this blog!) I thought attending the fest would be an ideal way to learn about the world of travel and connect with some like-minded and inspiring ladies.

What stayed with me

After walking only a few blocks from our apartment at 1st & 1st in the East Village, I stepped into the room only to be completely awed to find myself surrounded by a diverse community of women brought together by a shared love of travel for every reason under the sun.

There were several other moms there (including one brave woman who wore her baby in a carrier for some of the talks), women younger and older than me who were saving up for the trips of lifetimes or planning their next rendezvous, plenty of women who shared their passion for traveling solo—and many who seemed eager to meet new travel buddies for their next trips.

Stephanie Zito of Wandering for Good shared my favorite piece of advice: “take yourself on your own honeymoon once a year.” I still have yet to put this into practice, but I appreciated the self-care vibe of the challenge and would of course love to find my way to Fiji or Tahiti—or even my local nail salon—on my own sometime. For now, I suspect any solo trips won’t involve such great distances, or else I’ll want to invite Eliza and Sean along too.

I spent my day at the Women’s Travel Fest being enthralled by great speakers and panelists and then stepping out to the reality of needing to nurse my seven-month-old daughter a few blocks away. When I returned home in the evening, I gushed to Sean about all the ways I was excited to incorporate what I’d learned into our plans and maybe, possibly make a business out of it that would enable us to travel with a great sense of purpose beyond just the year.

How I’ve changed

What difference a year can bring. Last year, I was about to embark upon what had been until then a daydream of extended travel. This year, I’m fresh off our adventures—and reflecting on all we’ve seen and done. Last year, Eliza fit snugly in her BabyBjörn and seemed all too happy to go wherever we went. This year, she’s a 19-month-old toddler walking and running and bouncing to her heart’s delight. Last year, I was merely thinking about starting a blog but otherwise keeping my writing to myself. This year, Sean and I can look back on more than 60 blog posts we’ve written for Bond & Thomas from around the world to share our observations and advice with a growing readership. (Thanks for visiting!) I’m now self-employed and actively working on my own projects. I have a newfound confidence in myself as a traveler, a mother, a wife, and a daughter after taking serious time over the past year to invest in those incredibly important, and often overlooked, aspects of myself.

As I prepare now for my second Women’s Travel Fest (taking place from March 8-10, 2019), I’ve been spending time looking up the speakers and panelists so I’m better prepared to ask questions when I have the chance to meet them. I’ll be bringing business cards in hopes of exchanging quite a few. I’ll be taking more detailed notes as well so I’ll have better fodder for bringing more writing and ideas to life. Lastly, I’m no longer nursing, so I won’t be stepping out and missing anything this time around (though I expect Sean will send a few photos of Eliza to break up our time apart).

Advice for others

The Women’s Travel Fest encourages its attendees to “join your tribe,” but finding your people can be a goal for all of us, whether you’re a fellow travel lover or quite the opposite. What is it that lights you up and makes you feel most alive? Know that there are others who feel similarly. Connecting with them virtually or in person feels like finally being able to scratch an itch that you never thought you could. Maybe it’s because I’m fresh off watching Russian Doll (ahem, twice), but I’d say we all could give and take a little more support in our lives.

Perhaps I’ll approach this weekend’s solo trip to New York and our old neighborhood as the honeymoon I take myself on this year. While there’ll be less pampering than Stephanie Zito hinted at in her talk last year, I’m pretty sure the inspiration will jump start another year of adventure (and lots more travels, both near and far). Let me know if you’ll be there too, and we can sip mai-tais in the concrete jungle together.

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