Sharing travel adventures with other women offers a unique chance for self discovery
Travel tours for women offer a chance for connection and personal growth, in addition to the usual delights of a special trip. It’s an appealing mix for midlife women looking for greater meaning and substance on our bucket-list vacations.
As a midlife woman who began travelling more in my late 40’s, I discovered that travel fulfilled something I didn’t even know I needed.
I took a trip to India in 2017 and left my family at home. Being away from the obligations of everyday life for almost three weeks, helped me to remember parts of myself I had forgotten. I reconnected to who I was, separate from all of the roles I play. I was “just Susan”, and I felt more alive, inspired and free.
As I have continued to travel more, I have found this is especially true when I travel with other women. Travel can be an intense experience, and sharing that with a group of women allows for bonding that might take months or years in other circumstances. It’s a little like summer camp, but with comfy beds, wine and much better food.
Recognizing this opportunity, women travel entrepreneurs are creating women-only tours designed to allow for meaningful experiences and personal growth. With many of us dreaming about future travel adventures, I wanted to highlight two companies with special itineraries for women.
Christina Tucholski and her partner Nektaria Panagiotari created SheFari because they saw how their own travel experiences were unique and special when they shared them with other women.
“Being in a group of women allows you to feel emotionally safe; you feel you can share and relate,” says Christina Tucholski. “You can be in your pj’s and have a glass of wine on your balcony together. And you are ok to be a little more vulnerable. We try and encourage that connection and transformation that happens.”
SheFari specializes in Europe travel – in fact both of the founders have a personal connection with Greece – and SheFari trips to Iceland, Thailand and Egypt are planned for late 2021 and 2022.
I haven’t been on a SheFari trip but am particularly intrigued by their travel tours designed to follow in the footsteps of historic women. The Egypt itinerary will follow in the historic footsteps of Hatshepsut; she was a pharaoh fourteen centuries before Cleopatra, and the first to attain complete power with her rule.
Christina says they’ve seen that SheFari trips resonate with midlife women. “Midlife women really invest in their travel experiences and are thoughtful with their choices. They’ve worked hard throughout their life, and have earned the time and means to enjoy it. And midlife women embrace the transformative and learning aspects of our trips.”
Christine Winebrenner Irick started Lotus Sojourns, a group travel company, because she believed it offered an opportunity for women who wanted to explore the world as well as their place in it. She saw that when women travelled together, it gave them an ideal balance of comfort with a chance for personal exploration.
“I think it offers safety and security with a balance of risk and adventure.” From a practical standpoint, a group tour takes away the challenge of planning it yourself, she adds. “You can be sure of the investment of your money and time, which are valuable resources for midlife women.”
Lotus Sojourns leads trips to Guatemala, Peru and Jordan and is creating a U.S.-based sojourn to Montana, while we wait for international travel to return to a “new normal”.
Christine and I have talked about the many ways we’ve personally benefitted from the change in perspective we gain with travel; it’s what makes travel an ideal opportunity for midlife women to re-think how we see ourselves.
“How we connect with people when we travel is so different than in our daily life,” she says. “What started my vision for the company was connecting women in a way that creates conversations and empowers them.”
I agree. Hopefully we all cherish the men in our lives; I have a husband and two young-adult sons, and I love our family adventures. But as a midlife woman, I am craving space for myself in a way I didn’t seem to need when I was younger.
If you’ve read my stories about midlife, you may know that books by Dr. Christiane Northrup have really resonated with me. She writes about women’s midlife health and points out that the word “menopause” can be interpreted as men-o-pause. In other words, put men on pause for a while at midlife.
While most of us don’t actually want to pause the men in our life, travel with other women creates some bandwidth for exploring the complex emotions that can accompany midlife.
Christine of Lotus Sojourns says she sees how group tours for women remove the need to think about how we present ourselves. She feels that freedom as well, as a tour leader and midlife woman.
“It changes the dynamic of how you show up. I know I’m definitely going to be fine wearing yesterday’s yoga pants, putting on a hat and even crying, versus if there was a man there. It will not be the same space.”
A Women's Travel Buffet
Some midlife women may dream of a month-long meditation retreat in India, inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. But many midlife women, me included, prefer a travel buffet – itineraries that combine a little bit of everything: relaxation and indulgence with the perfect dose of challenge and adventure. It’s still a vacation after all, and I want to relax and enjoy myself.
That was the vision for SheFari, itineraries that offer the pleasures of a vacation but with more nuance and depth. “We saw that there was an opportunity to create deeper, more impactful journeys. I like to say that we wanted to come up with the perfect travel cocktail: part retreat, part girls’ trip, and part adventure of a lifetime,” Christina says.
And the benefits don’t require that you have a group of women friends to go with. Travelling with women you don’t know can be even more transformative. And a women-only tour is ideal for women who don’t have travel companions, or are choosing to travel on their own.
“Some women are hesitant to travel with strangers but it’s actually liberating,” Christina says. “You start out as strangers but get to know each other quickly because travel creates an environment where women can be open-hearted in their sharing.”
On one of my India adventures, a woman in our group celebrated her 89th birthday. What a privilege it was to spend time with this very special South African traveller. Betty was one of the most interesting people I’ve met and also travelled with the smallest suitcase I have ever seen. Talk about inspiring.
I’ve learned that I love spending time with women who are different than me, of different ages, from different places and with different perspectives. Isn’t that why we travel, to experience people and places beyond our everyday lives?
Empowering Local Women Through Travel
Speaking of privilege, travel is an opportunity to empower not just ourselves, but also women in the places we visit. Christine plans every Lotus Sojourn with that in mind; empowering local women is a key element of the trip. Women travellers get the opportunity to connect their own growth with growth opportunities for the local women they spend time with.
“That connection (between travellers and local women) empowers each other; you see how you overcome similar challenges,” Christine says. “Being a mirror for one another’s experiences and seeing the similarities across cultures and across socio-economic differences is really empowering.”
Knowing that you can’t know exactly what to expect, that a surprise might be right around the next corner, is the thrill of travel. And the chance to share those special travel moments with a group of “like-hearted women” while we discover new parts of ourselves – together, seems the perfect reason to hit the pause button on everyday life.