Have you ever dreamed of traveling the world, but you’ve found that you have no one to travel with?
Me too, girlfriend!
Growing up, my mom has always been the best travel partner, but somewhere inside there’s always this part of you that wants a group of gal pals to explore the unknown with, am I right?
Last month, I was absolutely over the moon when I connected with fellow adventuress, Jodi Wei, to learn about her female-led initiative, Travel Her Way, based in Chicago, Illinois. This adventure-seeking travel company is an avenue for women to not only book a dream trip, but it’s also an opportunity to serve the nations in a tangible way.
If you’re an avid traveller who is filled with a passionate desire to build community and experience the world around you, then today’s insight is just for you.
V: What creative process brought you to start an organization like Travel Her Way, and what all does it offer?
Jodi Wei: Born and raised in China, I grew up in an environment where women were expected to behave in certain ways and meet different cultural expectations. I was once very self-conscious and worried too much about what others thought of me.
It was my solo journey around the world that helped me build my inner strength and made me believe in myself. That I could do anything. I wanted to share my adventure and experiences with other women. My hope is to inspire them to take on challenges and do things they never thought they could do.
In this day and age, I truly believe women can do anything. Sometimes we just need some courage to make it happen. I believe the best way to empower and inspire others is by sharing authentic experiences. This was the basis of Travel Her Way and why I decided to do all female trips- to gather like-minded females and provide a space to encourage each other and themselves.
When you see your girl tribe able to trek to the foothill of the world’s highest mountain, you know you can do that too.
V: A cool component of Travel Her Way (that I love) is the giving back aspect of the company. What does sustainable tourism do to empower people from other parts of the world?
Jodi Wei: It actually started during one of my travels. I was doing a multi-day trekking trip in the Everest region (Nepal), where I had visited a village named Khumjung. It’s a beautiful village where you can see the Himalayas when the sky is clear.
I was wandering around the village and saw women doing farm work and building houses. Usually those types of jobs in Nepal were considered men’s work. I asked my guide why and he told me that those women were widows. Their husbands were expedition staffs and had died in an avalanche when summiting the Everest.
Fortunately, women living in this village are able to learn essential skills to make a living and they help each other.
Women living in the developing countries, such as Nepal, have little or no education, no land rights or independent income. They are voiceless and they need help. I was really touched to see how strong those women are and how they support each other to survive. It’s not an easy job for them.
After seeing the world, I truly wanted to find a way to help those in need.
Travel Her Way has built the Care Her Way program to launch different charity projects. I am currently working with a local NGO, Volunteers Initiative Nepal, to develop a charity trek that will combine the Everest base camp trek and women-empowerment volunteer program.
Volunteers will teach Nepalese women different kinds of skill sets and knowledge, including life skills, leadership skills, English speaking, and women’s rights. We are also trying to support local children’s education. For every trek group we bring to Nepal, we will cover a year’s of education for one child.
V: Sometimes the most intimidating thing about travel is traveling alone. As women, why should we not let this hold us back from experiencing life overseas?
Jodi Wei: When I excitedly announced that I had quitted my job and was going to travel solo around the world for a year, everybody thought I was out of my mind. My friends started to tell me horror stories about how dangerous the world was - kidnap, rape, human traffic, etc.
Plus I have never traveled alone before, people thought I would not be able to accomplish my trip. Even my husband believed that it was a mission impossible and I would return home in one month. However, 14 months later, I visited 27 countries and 7 continents and successfully accomplished my dream to travel around the world.
I am not going to lie. It was not all fun traveling solo.
You will feel lonely and sad at times; you won't have your loved ones to take care of you when you were sick; and sometimes you will receive unwanted attention in places where your physical appearance is different. However, none of those should stop you from traveling.
After staying on the road for a year, I discovered that being a female solo traveler has many advantages. People tended to trust me from the start and offer me help because I am a girl. When I almost got ripped off by a local driver in Morocco, a stranger stood up and saved me from trouble.
When I couldn't pay for my stay in Easter Island because every ATM machine on the island rejected my card, the host still drove me to the airport and kissed me goodbye. When I sprained my ankle badly in Tibet at 16,000 feet above sea level, my teammates took turns to carry me on their backs to help me move around.
Traveling alone is not a vacation. You have to step out of your comfort zone and be your own master.
I hope every woman would have the chance to travel alone at least once in their lifetime. It was the best gift that I have ever given to myself.
It was not easy at the beginning, but I soon realized how powerful, strong and resourceful I have become throughout my trip.
V: Being an avid sightseer, what bucket-list destination has been the most breath-taking to you?
Jodi Wei: I have say it's really a tough choice as there’s something to love at every destination I have been to. However, if I have to pick one, the most breathtaking bucket-list destination has to be the white continent - Antarctica. So far it’s been the adventure of my lifetime. We did a 10-day expedition that challenged me every step of the journey.
From severe seasickness across the roughest waters in the world to exhausting hikes to the top of glaciers in extreme cold, to sleeping in an ice hole that I dug for myself with a ridiculously tiny shovel, to finally a polar plunge! Which I still don't understand why I did that to myself.
The adventure was both a physical test as well as a mental one. I conquered my fear and in return, I was treated to a truly unforgettable travel experience.
V: How can readers connect with you for more information?
Jodi Wei: You can find me on Instagram and Facebook. I love to meet fellow adventuresses. If you would like to ask me a question - it can be anything and not just travel-related, feel free to send me a message on our website. If you’re ever in Chicago, let's grab a coffee and chat! I will pay for your drink if you are willing to share one of your travel stories with me. :)
So what are you waiting for, ladies? It’s time to book the flight and cross off destinations from your dreamy bucket list.
I want to hear from you! What city or country do you wish to visit next? Share in a comment below.
Images: Jodi Wei/Travel Her Way.