International Women’s Day – March 8 – is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It’s also a call to action for equality in how women are paid, treated and their role in society. To celebrate, we’re featuring notable women all month—inspiring female adventurers, travellers, and activists who have a message to share.
Think of what the world would be without the Amelia Earhart’s and Nellie Bly’s of the world boldly saying NO to tired old stereotypes while paving the way for others to do the same. In that spirit, we wanted to shed our light on four women who truly embody the spirit of Women’s History Month.
Meet Lauren, Ray, Jakiya and Mahreen, and get inspired by their tales of how travelling changed their lives.
Meet Lauren: A grilled cheese lover and all around travel enthusiast
My story is a culmination of things, otherwise known as a life tornado. I was not happy. I was living a life where I was checking off all the right boxes, trudging along with what I figured I was supposed to do. Happiness would come later, I guessed? I had settled in most areas of my life, including an emotionally abusive relationship that lasted eight years too long. When that ended, the break-up of nightmarish proportions propelled a series of major life changes.
As a woman, certain things are expected of you, and societal pressures encourage those expectations. Travel opened my eyes to a different way of living. It showed me how small the things we fret about in our lives are, and taught me that I was actually kind of a bad ass!
Meet Ray: A photographer with a thirst for adventure
It’s important to be exposed to a variety of viewpoints from a young age on, and I believe I won the parental draw in this category. I was born in China to two parents, who were both very smart and hardworking, but had rather different approaches to life. As a result, I was raised to value education and pursue a respectable career, while also taught to appreciate and learn from other cultures.
I put in my time at work, but every chance I get, I go out and experience the world. I love immersing myself in new cultures and learning about what makes them tick. I love marvelling at stunning landscapes and indulging in exotic cuisines, and most of all I love being able to get away from the familiar and just unwind. It’s a crazy, beautiful world out there, with more beauty and humanity than we can imagine, and we will never fully appreciate it if we restrict ourselves to our little corners of the world. If you keep an open mind, I promise, you’ll love it.
Meet Jakiya: The fearless globetrotter who quit her 9-5 job to travel the world
I’ve always wanted to know more about the world around me. As a child, I was curious. I would always wonder about other places and things beyond my years. After taking my first trip to Africa in 2014 I was hooked on international travel and particularly to the continent.
I knew travel had to be incorporated into my lifestyle some way, somehow. It’s so important whether you’re a man or woman, to get out there and just see the world. Connect with other cultures, experience different things and go after your dreams.
I grew up in a single parent home. My mother did an amazing job raising my sister and I, exposing us to many different things, but international travel wasn’t one of those things. It wasn’t until college that I really started hearing people talk about travelling outside of the country. After seven years in New York City, I traded in the corporate world to see the real one, and for the last 15-months, I have been travelling the globe, solo.
I guess you could call me a digital nomad, but I can’t really put what I do in one category because my work (and life) is ever evolving as I continue to follow my passions for all things travel. The world is my office and my goal is to continue to build my career to be as remote and fluid as possible.
Meet Mahreen: A travel and fitness enthusiast with a serious case of wanderlust
“Toronto. Communications, Politics and Travel.” That’s me summed up in my Instagram bio. My account is a carefully curated collection of my life filled with loved ones, selfies, poems and an overwhelming number of photos of myself admiring a beautiful landscape. But more than that, it is a carefully curated reminder of all the memories I have created across the globe that have contributed to who I am.
The realization that I loved travelling came years ago. I always knew it. But this great epiphany of mine was actually more recent. In my early 20s, I used travel as a way to escape and recharge.
It wasn’t until I took a leap of faith and left to study abroad in Paris that I began to truly understand and value the gift of travelling and exploring. I was young and in a new city where I was no longer defined by my job title or the people I was associated with. People only knew me for who I was in the present and in the way I chose to present myself. It was truly invigorating.
It allowed me to re-define what it means to lead a fulfilling life and it subsequently contributed to my improved quality of life. Travelling forces you to get out of your comfort zone. You face problems that you may not be able to immediately find a solution to and you grow to be more resilient.
International Women’s Day: Why it’s so great to be a female traveller in 2018
What is one adventure or trip that every woman needs to take in her lifetime?
Lauren: I think it’s personal for each individual woman. I do think, however, that whatever destination or adventure you do choose to embark on, a solo trip should be put in the books. Solo travel is a serious eye opener and potential life changer.
You’ve got to do something that pushes yourself out of your comfort zone and tests your own limits. The surprise and freedom that awaits from doing something like that are better than that Christmas morning pony you always wanted. Kidding, nothing would beat that. But seriously, let your hair down and feel the freedom that comes with the thrill of travel; prove to yourself you can crush it. Maybe it’s something you’ve always wanted to do or something you never thought you could? No matter what, travel is always an adventure, so own it.
Ray: Everyone is different, so this also depends on the type of person you are. At a high level though, I would say any trip that takes you out of your comfort zone is worthwhile. By that, of course, I do not mean you should put yourself in danger, I just mean any setting that challenges you and shows you the world through a different lens is worthwhile.
For me, that experience came from travelling alone. It liberated and empowered me in the sense that it forced me to realize that I am more than capable of taking care of myself and making big decisions that affect my safety, well-being and general happiness without having to rely on a companion.
It also helped me form opinions of places without the fog of peer pressure. I, of course, enjoy having a travel companion or two, but I am glad I realized that with enough planning, I can do it by myself, and I do not need to align my schedule with anyone else’s in order to enjoy myself. It definitely made me more confident, and more open-minded.
Jakiya: One adventure that every woman should experience in their life is travelling solo. It doesn’t matter where you go, just go and go solo! I strongly encourage every woman to take a solo trip just once in their life. It will be life-changing. You learn so much about yourself and push yourself to limits you didn’t know you had.
It really gives you the chance to connect with yourself and open up more to others around you. Travelling solo has given me so much confidence and has made me stronger in so many ways. You truly learn things about yourself that you never knew. It is beyond empowering and will leave you feeling like the sky’s the limit.
I have so much respect for women of all ages that solo travel, but nothing excites me more than seeing older women trekking the globe alone. I’ve met a few on my travels and it just motivates and inspires me, knowing that we can truly do anything, at any age or time in our lives no matter what anyone says.
Mahreen: Live in another country. Learn about who you are when you’re away from family and friends and when there is nothing to define you except for what you put out there. You quickly learn more about your true interests and what makes you happy as opposed to what makes those around you happy. You learn how to do things on your own without asking for help. You learn how to take care of yourself and will find the strong, independent woman within you shining through.
You start to see who really matters to you back home and you also learn how to step out of your comfort zone and create real, fresh connections with new people.
Which woman in your life inspired you to take on the world?
Lauren: Is it weird if I say myself? Because you’re really the only one that can make the choice to facilitate changes in your life. Personally, I knew I wasn’t happy, so I dug deep and found the inspiration to take a risk and change things so that I could be happy. That being said, I’ve kept truckin’ on because of the really glorious team of ladies in my life that believe in me, even when I truly don’t. So for that, I am humbly grateful.
Ray: It’s, of course, easier to derive inspiration from those closest to you, but I always think it is more than okay to cast your net a little wider. My mother, the most prominent woman closest to me has been my inspiration for many things in my life, and I give her full credit for inspiring me to be confident, and independent, but travel is not particularly her thing.
My inspiration to travel the world thus came from many sources including seeing other women doing it on the internet or through some other medium. That is why I also decided to share my travels with the world. Maybe someone out there will see little ol’ me taking on the world, and realize that it is within her reach too.
Jakiya: All of the women who weren’t able to travel much in their lives due to other responsibilities or limitations like their skin colour, or financial status are who inspire me to take on the world. Specifically, my mother, her mother and her mother. I do this for them. They are dreamers and have always pushed me to dream big and to do big. They are strong hard working women that have given everything to see me succeed.
Without them I don’t think I would have the courageousness and strength that I have now to follow my dreams and reach for the sky, starting with travelling the world alone.
Mahreen: My mother. When my Mom was in her early 20s, she left everything and moved halfway across the world. She had to settle in a country where she barely knew the language and find a way to make a life for herself. She always reminded me how important it was to see the world and to learn how others lived.
She wanted me to understand different perspectives and was of the opinion that interacting with people in other countries would teach us to be humble and to appreciate what we have. She encouraged my sister and I to explore. This is why whenever I travel, I always try to spend quality time with the locals. My Mom inspired us to be constantly curious because the world truly is our classroom.
What is one quote that inspires you to travel?
Lauren: Tough choice! But I have one on a post-it note stuck to the wall by my writing desk by Jose Chaves: “Seek beauty in the world and you will discover your own.” It pretty much never gets old, and it’s so incredibly true in its raw simplicity.
Ray: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” I personally cannot think of truer words about what travel can potentially do to a person.
I have always considered myself an open-minded person, but I can confidently say that experiencing different cultures and interacting with different people has made me appreciate different cultures more, and realize that people are more than the basic caricatures they are portrayed to be in most media outlets.
Jakiya: “Faith over fear”. It’s my travel motto. It gives me the courage to do anything. Face my fears, put them to the side and just go after it. It is the one quote that keeps me going. Whenever I face down moments, doubt myself or face the fear I repeat this to myself; every flight, every new country, every new scary but exciting thing that comes my way.
Mahreen: It’s a close tie between these two. The first is from American author Pat Conroy: “Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” The second is from French novelist Gustave Flaubert: “Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
Ladies, this is our month. If you have an inspiring or empowering story to share, comment below and share the love.