Women In Travel Summit

On community. Women in Travel Summit 2014.

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The rehearsal room was packed with employees sitting in rows of fold-out metal chairs. I tapped my pen against my notepad remarking to a coworker next to me that I didn’t even know why I’d brought one.

I am currently just a temp at work. Though I’m filling in as the digital marketing coordinator, a role I held there for nearly five years before I quit to travel, right now, I’m just a temp. “Interim.” So attending a quarterly company meeting, when I knew I wouldn’t still be working there a quarter from now, had little to do with me. And yet, as the wig department discussed the challenges of producing a holocaust-themed opera, as the IT department introduced the new intranet, as the general director talked about initiatives to bring opera to the community, as everyone in the room clapped in unison, buzzed in unison, I felt that same enthusiasm. That coming together, gathering with colleagues, realizing that your individual roles all lead to one common goal, that feeling of community, makes staring at a computer 9-5 worth every minute of it.

A few days later I sat in a hotel conference room amongst a table full of women I had never met before, gathered for the inaugural Women in Travel Summit. The nights before, 180 women from all over the world, travel bloggers, travelers, mingled over cocktails at a happy hour and an opening night party. Over the next two days we would sit in conference rooms for sessions about writing, about making money, and about being the rock stars that we are.

“It’s better to fail in your own dharma than to succeed in someone else’s.”

Those words were written on a projected screen that morning as Jeannie Mark, Nomadic Chick, gave the key note speech. She talked about her travels, how she rejected the life her family, “society,” wanted her to have and sold everything she owned to downsize to a backpack. I scribbled those words down in my notebook. It was, at the moment, exactly what I needed to hear.

While I’m back at my old job in the interim, replacing the woman who originally replaced me as they search for someone new to replace her, I’ve struggled with the idea that I could just stay. It would be so easy. I could slip right back into my old life, have a job I know and love, have…a job, unpack all those boxes that I still keep at my mom’s place. I could have stability. An income. An apartment. A kitten.

“It’s better to fail in your own dharma than to succeed in someone else’s.”

Directly after those opening remarks I found a seat in an over-packed room for Gillian Duffy’s “No One Makes a Full Time Income Blogging.” I was intrigued by the title because I don’t ever plan to make real money with this blog. Sure I use affiliate links when I mention something I was going to mention anyways (Hey! Buy a book!) but the thought of selling links to websites I’ve never heard of or adding guest posts from people I’ve never heard of amongst my travel and love life, amongst the very personal details I probably shouldn’t be sharing with the internet world anyways, seems wrong. (Note: I don’t care what other people do with their sites, but since my blog is a pretty damn personal narrative, I just can’t do it.)

Gillian had us make three lists: leverage what we did in the past, recognize our strengths, and determine our future. As I wrote down columns of what I used to do, what I do now on contract, and the skills I have, I realized that I have pretty good backbone of experience for freelance work, freelance work I could do from the comfort of my laptop anywhere in the world:

Email Marketing.

Content Management.



Amongst a million other things. It’s not that I hadn’t thought of this before. I do do some freelance work already, handling the monthly email marketing for Meet, Plan, Go! and a sprinkling of other projects. But, if I want to sustain this travel lifestyle I really need to focus on doing more. Frankly, I need to realize that having over eight years of professional experience means I have a lot to offer.

The rest of the weekend was hit or miss. I attended two video sessions: one from Lisa Lubin, another from Bayyina Black. Both had great and practical tips that will be helpful for a side project I’m hoping to launch later this year. A session on “how to break into travel writing,” left me disappointed when it turned out to be more about starting blogging and whether or not you should accept guest posts, than about actually getting into travel writing.

In the afternoon of day two we all gathered once again amongst a group of women, who were no longer strangers, to watch Evelyn Hannon, the incomparable Journeywoman, give the closing speech. Evelyn is a woman who left a “normal” life to travel before that was even a thing for women to do. She is a woman who sent chain letters of travel tips to other women before the internet was a thing. And when the internet was a thing, she started her own website to inspire and inform other women travelers.

“Sometimes life takes you where you’re afraid to go,” she said in her closing keynote. And that is more than true. Whether you’re talking about travel or a career. Sometimes you just have to push yourself, leave your comfort zone, trust in yourself that you do have the skills, the knowledge. That you just need the courage and the faith. Sometimes you can’t settle for the easy way out.

But, it’s also good to know that whether you’re working full time or trying to make it on your own, there’s a community. Every woman in that room had her own goals with blogging. Some had had a blog for years. Some were thinking about starting one. Some wanted to tell stories. Some focused on budget travel, some about living in the arctic, some on Europe or Asia or backpacking or luxury. Some wanted to make money. Some wanted to be heard. But, coming together, every woman in that room also had a common purpose, something to unite and aspire to: to travel, to inspire, to inform, to support, to grow.

Happy hour for Women in Travel Summit Chicago

At the pre-conference happy hour. Photo by Jennifer Doré Dallas.

Opening night party for Women in Travel Summit Chicago

With Priya at the opening night party.

Opening keynote for Women in Travel Summit Chicago

Opening Keynote.

No One Makes a Full Time Income Blogging session at Women in Travel Summit Chicago

No One Makes a Full Time Income Blogging

Travel Massive party at Women in Travel Summit Chicago

Me and Katie at the Travel Massive party.


On community. Women in Travel Summit 2014.
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Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

  • Priya
    March 25, 2014at1:20 pm

    I’m the same way when it comes to freelance work. I’ve thought about it; I know it’s an option and I really want to break into it but haven’t taken any action steps yet.

  • Jeannie Mark
    March 25, 2014at6:30 pm

    Hey pretty lady, it was so great to meet you this past weekend and I’m glad you felt a sense of community — I did as well, tenfold. Remember your dharma! 🙂

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