March 2020 was one long year. In the midst of the global Coronavirus, New York and the rest of the United States were in the beginning stages of coming to terms with this pandemic. The Women’s Travel Festival marched on and was one of the last events to take place in the city before larger gatherings were banned. The three-day event began took place from March 6-9 at the Angel Orensanz Foundation in Manhattan.
The first day had various workshops including travel writing, publishing, photography and more. On Saturday, March 6, there was a wide array of panels on travel mishaps, useful travel products and apps along with some major after parties into the wee hours of the night.
The Travel Addict had the pleasure of attending the last day of the festival, which appropriately took place on International Women’s Day. Check out our five takeaways from the final day of this year’s event below:
- Pack your patience
An earlier panel we attended on the last day happened down in the cold basement of the Angel Orensanz cathedral where photographer Susan Portnoy offered a presentation on tips and tricks to get a damn good photo. The session was called “Get the Shot! Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Photos.” Those in attendance not only got to view Portnoy’s incredible work but we got to hear stories behind it and certain aspects of a photo to pay attention to. She also made it clear that patience is a key to get the right shot and shared that she waited 45 minutes on a street to shoot painters working on a building.
- Be flexible and remember empathy
A panel with editors including Nikki Vargas of Unearth Women, Meredith Carey of Conde Nast Traveler and travel writer Imani B shared their must travel destinations in 2020. Being of Colombian heritage Vargas’ pick was her home country that represents her heritage, cities such as Bogota, Medellin and Cartegena.
Travel writer Imani B shared heartbreaking stories about living in Wuhan China with her husband and son during the outbreak of Covid-19. She said her friend was in her apartment from January 24 to present-day [March 9] not knowing when her and her two toddlers could return to normal life. Imani also said that she and her family made Malaysia her new home and her travel pick especially for families.
Carey’s choice was a domestic choice, Nashville Tennessee and urged wanderers to spend their money where it’s needed, especially after the tornadoes the state faced.
All of the women spoke very candidly about the uncertain times of coronavirus and being flexible in travel plans this year. They also mentioned that with the societal and political aspects of the virus could lead to xenophobia and to remember empathy and that the places we go are about the people.
- Find or be the connector
Zim Ugochukwu told the story about how she built Travel Noire, a community of over 1.2 million travelers. She shared her inspiring story of her personal story and traveling deeper. “Communities we move through fit us for that part of our lives.” Travel Noire is a digital media company that helps adventurers discover, plan and experience new places along with serving millennials of the African Diaspora. According to Ugochukwu Travel Noire was meant to make travel more inclusive with more representation of people of color. One of the most powerful things Ugochukwu said during the session was, “The more difficult the journey, the more beautiful the arrival.”
- Tell a meaningful story
There are a lot of travel sites, influencers and people who take their travels to the gram. But Bare Feet TV host Mickela Mallozzi curated a panel with travel writer Nneya Richards, Senior lifestyle editor at Conde Nast Traveler Lale Arikoglu and travel photographer, Valerie Lopez aptly titled “Not Just for the Gram: Sharing Your Travel Stories Responsibly.” This informational and personal session asked the question “What story are you telling?” The women on this panel highlighted that stories should be meaningful, accurate and don’t bully anyone into loving a destination! Enjoy the trip, do the research, there’s no rush to have it on IG first. Besides, you can always Latergram it!
- Take the leap
The keynote and final event of the day was presented by Alexandra Jimenez and founder of Travel Fashion Girl. The panel was called “Building a 7-Figure Travel Business” but instead it was an inspiring, heartbreakingly emotional and powerful talk about the journey of her business and personal life along with navigating it presently.
Jimenez was on a panel last year but this time she laid it all on the table. From talking about business to a difficult divorce and giving some wise words of advice, “Get a prenup even if you’re broke because it doesn’t mean you won’t have money after [the marriage],” she said.
Her message circled back to the very first panel of the day called “Don’t Look Just Leap: Defining Moments, How to Identify Them & Trust them to Land on Your Feet” where travel blogger Diana Edelmen who also shared her life story of travel and the twists and turns that came with them and how every leap helped her get to the next step. That was one of the running themes in all of these panels presented by these inspiring women, telling the fear to step aside and taking the leap.
With tears, Jimenez laid everything she had on the stage and her strength echoed throughout the cathedral. It was clear, she put everything into her business and she faces the pressures we all have of keeping up with life while adapting to the ever-changing challenges that come with it. “You can’t be the woman you want to be without remembering the girl you used to be,” she said poignantly.
The Women’s Travel Festival continues to provide inspiration, lessons and connections for women who love the sense of exhilaration that travel brings. While we can’t hop on a plane as freely as we would like to now, we’ll patiently wait to be in the clouds, on the road, in a train car or on the high seas when the time is right. Our search for adventure never fades.
“Traveling’s not something you’re good at. It’s something you do. Like breathing.” -Gayle Foreman
Article by Liz Ramanand