Women’s Travelfest 2016 – New York City

In the days of cat fights on The Bachelor (yes, I watch it) and the self obsessed Kim Kardashian (don’t get me started on that clan), it was incredibly empowering to be a part of the 2016 Women’s Travelfest at the Angel Orensanz Center  and Wyndham Garden Chinatown in New York City. I went to last year’s event in my home base of San Francisco and with keynote speakers such as Patricia Schultz, Felicity Aston, and Laura Ling, I knew it would not be the last one I attended.

Kelly Lewis, the creator of The Women’s Travelfest and Founder of Go!Girl Guides, had a vision of getting kick-ass women travelers (that’s my description of the women at this conference, I hope Kelly would agree) under one roof and she has successfully done it for the past 3 years. Below is a review of the event through my eyes. (Disclaimer: All of the women that spoke at this conference were awesome, I’m just highlighting a few of them.)

This California girl was excited to wake up to snow on Friday morning, so after a frosty day of walking The High Line and hanging out (aka drinking) at the Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park, it was a treat to attend the Travelfest’s kick-off cocktail party at the Wyndham Garden Chinatown.  I enjoyed sipping a glass of wine and mingling with other women who shared a passion for the transformative power of travel.

2016 Women’s Travelfest
Helping Women Conquer the World 

Day 1 – Saturday was a full day event  at the Angel Orensanz Center from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm with coffee, 10 minute breaks between speakers, an on-site lunch and a cocktail hour at the end. To warm up crowd we all got a goodie bag which included  Clinque Lip Balm and a Go! Girl Guides: Mexico: A Woman’s Guide to Traveling to Mexico. We could wander among the booths while thawing out with some coffee and checking out vendors such as  Servas.org, HIUSA.org, ThinxClothing Arts and Fuhwe. Then the speakers took the stage.   

Annie Griffiths–First off, I’m going to give her the best dressed award, she looked very smart in her gold accented top and trendy black booties. Annie is the one of the first women photographers to work for National Geographic. She had a slideshow of some of her wonderful photography and described the backstory of how she captured the shot. While with National Geographic she broke barriers by bring her children along on her shoots all over the world and paved the way for others to do the same. She shared some helpful tidbits on good photography such as, shoot after the sun goes down, don’t put the sky in the middle of the frame and how the human brain likes things in thirds. (I hope sharing these tip doesn’t get me banned from future Women Travelfests.) 🙂 She is also the Founder of The Ripple Effect Images

Miki Agrawal— The minute she got on stage, rockin’ the hat, she brought us into her world of questioning assumptions and getting sh*t done. She is a very engaging speaker, the author of Do Cool Sh*t, the co-founder of Thinx and Tushy and the owner of gluten-free restaurant Wild (two in New York and one in Downtown Vegas). She talked about non-sexy but important topics such as period management and bidets….not your typical cocktail conversation.

When visiting South Africa in 2010, Miki discovered that girls in developing countries sometimes had to take a week off from school, known as their week of shame. Each month when they had their periods, since they didn’t have access to pads and tampons, they would stay out of school due to shame and embarrassment. This leads to girls dropping out of school, sometimes getting pregnant early and not continuing their education. From this discovery,  and the fact that there hasn’t been an improvement in period management for women in developed countries for decades, Miki and her team created Thinx and they work in partnership with AFRIpads. For each pair of Thinx sold, the company funds a pack of AFRIpads that goes to a girl in the developing world so she can stay in school and further her education. Yes I ordered a pair of Thinx and don’t be surprised if I talk about periods next time I see you. 🙂

A panel discussion with Megan McDonough, Geraldine DeRuiter and Kae Lani Kennedy was a sobering and enlightening talk about the reality of travel and how it’s not always ‘sunshine and selfies’. They touched on the topics of death, depression and loneliness and how it effects the tone of our travels.

The day ended with a much needed wine hour where we could continue to peruse the booths and mingle with fellow participants and speakers.

Day 2
Sunday was a half day from 10:00 am-3:00 pm and was held at the Wyndham Garden Chinatown on the 17th and 18th floors, so the view was a little distracting. This was a casual format with smaller groups and a more intimate setting. Unfortunately we had to choose which workshop we wanted attend so I did miss out on a lot but the ones I chose were very informative.

Kae Lani Kennedy – At Saturday’s panel Kae Lani shared her struggles with her father’s suicide and how it effected her life and her travels. On Sunday she discussed the daunting and sometimes confusing world of social media.  Kae Lani is the Social Media Director for Matador Network, so she knows her stuff. Her warm and engaging presentation style made the topic a bit less complicated. She encouraged us to connect with her on Facebook and Twitter, email her with questions, tweet her–she pretty much did everything but give us her home address, probably because she doesn’t have one.

Nikki Vargas – As a fledgling writer, travel addict and wanna be entrepreneur, I had to listen to this talk on how to leave the 9-5 like she did and be successful.  She was very honest about her life, her struggles and how she found her passion and made it work.  She is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of The Pin the Map Project

Kirsten Alana – This discussion was about supporting women-owned business while traveling and how much power our dollar had when we are on the road. We broke into groups and brainstormed on ways to support women-owned business and also how to raise awareness about where we stayed, what shops and restaurants we gave our money to and how we could spread the word to other women travelers. It made me think about my home base of San Francisco and how I can highlight women-owned businesses in my area. I have some research to do. 🙂

Annelise Sorensen–UC Berkeley grad and NYC based writer, Annelise encouraged us to find our voice, get out there and observe, find our story and shared tips on how to write them. She gave us valuable information on how hone our ideas, frame the story and use a unique pitch.  And how to wander, write and woo.

And that was a wrap. My heart was full of gratitude for the women involved with this event and all the ideas that were shared. It was fantastic to see women of all ages, colors, shapes and sizes come together. 

Random bullet points from the notes I took:

  • Get out there and make it happen
  • You need to make peace with your loneliness
  • You can use toilet seats covers as beauty blotters
  • Find your travel tribe
  • The more you travel, the more you want to travel
  • People who have nothing give everything
  • 40% of the world does not have toilets
  • Give the right amount of fucks
  • You are the average of the five friends you keep
  • Be comfortable with what is uncomfortable
  • Plant milkweed for the butterflies

One stat that was quoted a few times from the Girl Effect Study: If you give an educated women a $100 in the developing world $90 would go back into the community and her family, as opposed to $20 to $35 if a $100 was given to a man in the developing world. As quoted in the study, “In the developing world women are our greatest resource to elevating those communities out of extreme poverty.” Something to think about as we conveniently turn on our facets, drive to work, wait in line at Starbucks, or purchase food at our local market. 

Can’t wait till next year. 🙂



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