After working in and writing about politics and parenting special needs children, some have asked me, "Isn't it kind of shallow to go into travel the travel writing industry?" My resounding answer is: no.
Seriously, when's the last time you knew a world leader who stayed in their corner of the globe and never traveled? And Obama's much publicized recent diplomatic globetrotting has even done wonders -- it's given us all a glimpse of how to use superpower in ways other than bombing the crap out of other countries.
Few would call his travels shallow. Nor do they scoff at a trek through the Himalayas, the semester a student spends abroad, the surprising self-discovery earned by truly experiencing another culture, or the work done abroad while in the peace corps.
Travel changes people. It widens worldviews and lays a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes to rest.
So why is travel writing, especially so much of the kind marketed to women still perceived as shallow? Probably because it is. Periodicals and (the few) travel shows targeting women travelers have thus far been not only been lackluster, they've sometimes been downright insulting. It's as if they think our feeble lady brains can't handle actual details or substantive information.
Just because I'm a woman, it doesn't mean I'm interested in reading fifty different ways to starve myself before the upcoming bikini beach trip the corporate media assumes I'm taking. Women don't only care about which is the hottest new spa retreat in any given destination. The reviews of ludicrously expensive resorts don't often help much. Watching a woman eat by herself at restaurants around Europe just doesn't represent everything about women's travel trends either.
In fact, most women don't travel in search of the world's perfect facial. And women without trust funds travel too.
A place to find budget savvy, worldly wise, non-condescending travel tips and compelling essays about other women's experiences is where I wanted to go for travel advice. Stuff about ethical tourism, volunteerism, protecting our planet and helping other women would be a big bonus. But it was nowhere to be found.
So, my co-editor and I built it ourselves. We launched our new online women's travel magazine this July to thousands of readers in our first week. We recruited a diverse group ranging from savoir-faire travel bloggers to random women with cool stuff to say from around the world.
In August, we'll go down to Costa Rica and shoot our first destination web video while doing what a lot of women are doing: seeking adventure and fun on a budget. I'll kiss my kiddos goodbye and Katy will lock up her urban studio apartment. We won't over pack. There won't be pillow-fighting, or dieting, or images of us grinning from ear to ear with huge shopping bags in each hand. But we might jump off a platform and take a zip-line tour of the Cloud Forest. We could even stay on a sustainable family farm that rents out rooms to travelers and is lit by candles at night.
Women-owned businesses and tour-operators whose proceeds benefit children's education might be on our short-list of vendors rather than four-star comped hotels. Egad, we may even provide a detailed itinerary and actual costs with a budget planner so our viewers/readers have information they can actually use.
Speaking of money, with the economic downturn, airline surcharges, and the ever-growing pockets of corporate-oil fat cats, one may wonder, who's still in the mood (or has the means) to travel?
It's us. Women make seventy-five percent of all household travel decisions. We're the ones saving up, researching the best spots, and figuring out how to stretch our dollars. As businesses move toward virtual meetings to save on airline costs, they make room for the groups of girlfriends on their way to Cancun or Budapest together. You know, the groups you see on every flight across the world. Or the mom who's budgeted the family's way to a great vacation, the NGO worker, the student who ate ramen noodles for six months to afford a trip to Asia.
Women are where it's at.
And by the response our readers have given to the first issue, women like us are still ready to travel and tired of being talked down to. Yes we're a large consumer market, but we're also travelers dammit, and we're just not gonna take the crappy travel writing anymore. We're going Galavanting.