Let’s talk travel safety for nine minutes

I’m standing at my [absolutely delightful] booth at the Boston Globe Travel Show this weekend, sharing some of the newest developments to our Wanderful community (including our biggest of them all, our woman-to-woman homesharing network). I look next to me smile. I’m surrounded by a group of amazing volunteers who are all members of our Wanderful Boston chapter.

3/4 of them are from outside of this country.

Two of them met at a Wanderful event and became roommates shortly after.

One of them has never even been to a Wanderful event before, but feels so passionately about the community that we’re building that she learned the pitch and is spending the whole day talking to new prospective members.

I realize how lucky I am to have this sisterhood of women helping women around the world.

It’s truly special to see that something you created is making the world a better place.

A small group of women approach our booth, and ask about the origin story. I talk about what initially caused me to start Wanderful (once a blog called Go Girl Travel Network), which was a real feeling of a lack of support for female travelers. Back then, if you looked up information related to women traveling on Google, most of the search results you’d find would have to do with stereotypical topics that didn’t feel relevant at all. I wanted to know how to travel safely. How to respect local culture. How to expect to be treated as a woman.

I noticed behind that group were two individuals who were enthusiastically smiling and nodding. They finally introduced themselves. They were members of the U.S. State Department, and were going to be speaking about travel safety at the show in a couple of hours.

That’s what led me to a private sit-down with Michelle Bernier-Toth, managing director of overseas citizens services at the U.S. Department of State to talk about some of the newest developments in travel support for American citizens.

I’ll admit: I used to not pay much attention to the State Department’s issuings.

I know, I’m terrible. In fact — and I’ll be totally honest here — I used to get a thrill traveling to places that were warnings on the State Department list. Most of the time, they seemed to be nothing. It was hard to know when you should actually pay attention to what they were recommending.

Now, every country has an advisory.

That’s right. Every single one. So now you can’t ignore them.

Of course, the advisories are all different. They’re actually divided into four very clear levels, with details on why the country was assigned which level. Plus, you can see recent messages issued from the embassy, a super-clear list of vaccinations you need and other considerations, and more. I mentioned Haiti in my video, so have a look at the detail of Haiti’s page here for a good example.

Advisory levels. Screenshot from the U.S. Department of State website, travel.state.gov.

If you haven’t dug into the video yet, have a look for nine minutes of really good travel tips and support, with questions curated from our amazing Facebook group (if you’re a lady traveler who isn’t a part of it yet, you’ve got to check it out — it’s a great resource for getting tips and advice from well-traveled women and locals around the world).

I had so much fun talking with Michelle that it gave me all sorts of ideas — I’m thinking we’re going to need to do much more of these interviews with experts around the world. Throw some recommendations in the comments — questions you have, topics of interest to you, people you think would be great to talk to, and more! I’d love to hear them.

Can’t wait to hear what you have in mind.

Originally published at Beth Santos.