The real reason why I started Wanderful
It’s been nearly nine years since I sat in front of a computer and started typing the first article of a blog that would eventually evolve into an international women’s community and sisterhood and my full-time career, Wanderful.
Back then it was a Wordpress site called Let’s Go Girl. Our tagline was “words from women on the run”. We published content everyday from contributors around the world who I found on Craigslist. I had no idea it would ever become a company.
People often ask me why I started Wanderful.
The answer is not so simple, because the reasons have changed over time.
I started blogging because I loved to write. I was living abroad in Sao Tome and Principe. I was in love with my new identity of being a global citizen. I went to Wellesley and felt strongly about women’s empowerment.
I saw a lot of content about beach bodies and glam travel and not a lot of content about real issues faced by real women who were exploring the world, so I figured I should contribute my voice.
I started blogging because there was a fire inside of me to experience the world and to share my story.
In 2012, we expanded beyond just the written word and began to plan events. We hosted fundraisers for women’s focused non-profits in Chicago. I wrangled up friends and friends-of-friends to help me plan.
We had fantastic turnouts, with women coming from around the city to support a cause, but then finding themselves making really neat friendships in the meantime with other women who felt this same fire to see the world that they did. They kept coming back. I realized I loved event planning, so I planned more of them.
In 2013, we registered as an LLC to better manage our cash flows. We started a conference to support other bloggers like us. We added chapters in two cities. I quit my job. The adventure began.
There was never a moment when I thought to myself, “I’m going to create a company that solves for X.”
It was much deeper than that. A fundamental need. An evolution. What started as a blog became events. Events became community. Community became sisterhood. It happened slowly, over time, like a stew growing to a thick boil. With every interaction, every event, I realized that this fire I was feeling to be more globally connected, to help other women, to make travel more a part of my life — that fire resonated with many other women, too.
These women were students, lawyers, programmers, non-profit managers, stay-at-home moms, retired, digital nomads,widowed. They came from all different places and professional backgrounds. But they also defined themselves in one other way.
They were travelers.
They weren’t looking for a once-in-a-while escape.
You see, for them, travel isn’t an escape. Travel is the reason for living.
As we evolved from blog to network to company to global community, I learned many things.
I learned that the women’s travel segment is enormous. We make 80% of the decision makers in travel. 2/3 of travelers are women. Solo female travel is now an $800B market.
I also learned that women travelers are largely ignored.
Yup, despite a commanding presence in all market data, decision making analytics and even sheer travel numbers, we are still considered a niche. When I share our story, one of my first questions is always “why women?” or “is the market big enough?”
We are not a niche. We are not even an exception to the rule. We are the rule. Women are traveling more than ever before. We are making the decisions; we are spending money. Yet the world has never been designed for women.
But it can be. That’s why Wanderful exists.
Wanderful exists because I fundamentally believe that travel is not just an activity, but a medium through which we live. It is the way many of us frame our understanding of the world, and for us to create a more understanding world, we need to get as many people traveling through it as possible.
Wanderful exists because sisterhood is one of our most powerful assets. Because when language, culture, geography, and politics fail us, our mutual global experiences as women connect us. And that very small detail, that shared human experience, is everything.
Wanderful exists because there are still places where women feel unsafe or threatened in the world. It may be because of our race, our religion, or our sexual orientation. It may be because of our anatomy or our gender identity. It may be completely socially constructed — there is still an abhorrent amount of travel shaming that we women experience before, during, and after our trips. How could you possibly leave your children behind? Do you have a boyfriend traveling with you for safety? You’re crazy to go by yourself. Or worse, if she experiences trouble, this happened to her because she chose to travel alone.
Wanderful exists because travel is constantly changing. We can’t rely on static content to accurately represent a dynamic world. It is up to us as individuals to use our experience and knowledge to help each other.
This is where the sharing economy shines brightly. It allows us to offer our assets to others looking for them. In Wanderful’s case, that includes people to meet, places to stay, or just advice.
In fact, we’re right now running a crowdfunding campaign until Sept 30 to build a webapp that connects women travelers in real time, all around the world, with other travelers and locals.
But the biggest thing that I’ve learned is that this isn’t a travel company at all.
Yes, travel is what connects us. Yes, sometimes we go on trips. But what we’re not creating is a company that’s going to get you a cheaper ticket on an airline. We’re not going to find you a shorter bus trip, or necessarily tell you the best dinner to eat in Mumbai.
But what we will do is connect you with other people who can tell you these things.
For us, travel is the medium through which we experience the world. It is a means to the end. Expanding our global mindsets. Making lasting relationships. And in that way, travel helps us understand the world better.
When we empower women with the ability to be helpful to each other — when we create tools that transcend the barriers that exist between us — place, access, even language — we are are not just bringing ourselves closer to the rest of the world. We are bringing the whole world closer together with itself.
That’s why we are here.
Learn more about us and our crowdfunding campaign.