Inspiration and Insight from the 2015 Women’s Travel Fest

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The second annual Women’s Travel Fest was held in San Francisco from February 27 to March 1. It was an exciting time to be surrounded by fellow-travel loving women, brought together by TBS member and founder of Go! Girl Travel Guides, Kelly Lewis, who had this to say about the event:

“[It’s] an incredible labor of love. We do it because we’re passionate about it, and because we know it’s necessary. It takes about 6 months of my life each year to plan and execute, but each year when we host it, and I get to interact with our incredible community of women, I feel like it’s worth every second of hard work.”

Kelly was especially excited by the two youngest participants this year: both sixteen.

“One was driven down from Oregon by her mother as her 16th birthday present, and another who was dropped off by her father each day. Meeting these gorgeous, enthusiastic young travelers gave me such a feeling of joy.”

women's travel fest

The Women’s Travel Fest is about exposing all types of travel enthusiasts to the resources and stories that motivate us all to book our next plane ticket.

The range of female-related travel topics touched on everything from the best travel gadgets and packing tips, to working abroad and travel writing.

“I met dozens of supportive people,” said Christina Leigh Morgan of Currently Exploring, another TBS member in attendance. “I was motivated by inspirational stories like Laura Ling practicing gratitude while imprisoned by North Korea, learned tactical skills in the workshops and took away real opportunities for collaborations with other attendees and vendors. The community and energy was simply amazing.”

While there was a lot on information to absorb over two days packed with speakers and workshops, I’ve picked two highlights to share with you, because I found them most applicable to the travel writers and bloggers in the audience.

To get all of the good stuff, you’ll have to sign up for Women’s Travel Fest next year, which will be held in New York City!

women's travel fest
These guys win for longest distance traveled to be in San Francisco.

Inspiration from Felicity Aston

women's travel fest

While there was so much to learn and to love at the Women’s Travel Fest, what stood out for me were the inspiring women who took the stage to share their stories.

One of those captivating stories was that of Felicity Aston, the only woman to cross Antarctica alone and only person to ever accomplish this feat on solely muscle power. Felicity used cross-country skis to traverse the 1,084 mile expanse.

Hearing her tales of deadly temperatures, blinding storms, and the terrifying isolation of being the only form of life for as far as the eyes could see, paired with her projected photos of an eerily empty, white landscape, was truly astounding.

If you’ve ever felt alone on your adventures, Felicity illustrated that now matter how scary solitude is, there’s beauty in it too.

Felicity aptly reminded the audience that it isn’t how much progress you make, but that you make progress at all. The hardest part of her challenge, she admits, was getting out of the tent each morning and facing those freezing temperatures.

“Just keep getting out of the tent,” she offered us.

While few of us will take on challenges as physically daunting as Felicity’s, bloggers, writers, and others looking to make a career out of a passion for experiencing the world could all find inspiration in her advice.

Just keep writing. Just keep blogging. Just keep traveling. Just keep getting out of the tent. 

Since completing her journey, Felicity published the account of her experience in Alone in Antarctica.

Learning the Secrets at a Travel Writing Workshop

women's travel fest
The Women’s Building in The Mission district of San Francisco

 

The second day was broken down into smaller workshops, including one on travel writing. Lavinia Spalding, editor of Best Women’s Travel Writing, and Rachel Friedman, author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost, hosted the hour long session.

Since this workshop reaped the most blogger/writer relevant information, I’d like to dive into the particulars of what they presented.

Learning Your Craft

Writing is a skill we must hone through practice and exercise.Working on writing like a craft, rather than something that can only be done when inspiration strikes, is something that many of us neglect to do.

Lavinia recommended taking an article you admire, and cutting it up with scissors to assess the breakdown and flow of how a piece works. How long is the intro? Where is the hook? How big are the paragraphs? How do they vary? All of this becomes more digestible when physically broken down.

Another fun exercise they recommended, is to simply copy your favorite work, word for word. The act of writing good writing, even if the words are not yours, gives you a sense of how it’s done. Some other tips included…

  • Write and read constantly
  • Attend events, such as Book Passage
  • Learn to take notes with your five senses. Capture what you can’t research later.

Breaking in and Pitching

Reading and knowing the publications you want to write for is the first order of business in pitching. You want to have a sense for their style, the length of their articles, what they’ve done in the past, and what sections they offer to freelancers.

Lavinia and Rachel recommended pitching to junior editors first, and focusing on front of book sections, which are often the most freelancer-friendly.

Sending Yourself on Assignment

As we all know, all-expense paid press trips don’t get handed to you the first time you publish a blog post or a freelance article. It takes a lot of time and experience to convince someone else to foot the bill. So until them, send yourself on assignment, by exploring your home town.

When you do travel, find out something strange or unique about the destination, and research it before you go.

Networking

We’re all in this together! I loved how Lavinia and Rachel stressed that there are plenty of stories out there to go around, and there is no reason to be in competition with other writers. Instead, network and meet fellow writers so that you can help each other.

Joining writing groups will give you a chance to socialize with people who understand what it’s like to work behind a laptop all day, and they can also make for great editors! Exchanging your work with fellow writers is an excellent way to improve, both through editing someone else and having your own work critiqued.

Rewriting

One of the most difficult pieces of advice I often hear, and Lavinia and Rachel both echoed it, is to hold on to your drafts for longer than you think you should, before you try to publish them. It’s so tempting to hit send when you think you’ve got something great, but chances are it could be better.

This can be applied to blogging as well. Although there are times when a quick turn around is necessary, setting your work aside for a day or two can mean the difference between a good piece and a great piece. You’ll notice so much when you return to it with fresh eyes.

Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite. And reap the rewards.

Or as Lavinia put it, quoting Hemingway, “Write drunk, edit sober.”

 

Overall, the weekend was an insightful and inspiring glimpse into the many opportunities that are open to women who love to travel, whether it’s exploring a new country on your own, or breaking into the travel writing world.

Did you attend Women’s Travel Fest this year? What was your biggest takeaway?


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