travel

Why Travel with GirlFriendCircles?

Michelle Scott-- the beautiful GFC TravelCircle host and author of this guest post.
Michelle Scott-- the beautiful GFC TravelCircle host and author of this guest post.

Welcome home to the 15 women who just returned from our 2nd TravelCircle to Cuba!  And a huge thanks to Michelle Scott for not only being the GFC ambassador on this trip, but also for writing this guest blog that gives us a glimpse into the amazing experience you all had!

Also, Michelle is leading TWO of the 9 scheduled TravelCircles in 2014-- GirlFriends Eco-Adventuring in Nicaragua in August and the Women Dancing & Sipping through Argentina & Chile in November. Check them out--you'd be lucky to be in her care!  (All trips are highlighted at the end of the blog and can be found at www.WomensTravelCircles.com)

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by Michelle Scott

Planning an adventure is an interesting thing. You can spend months preparing an itinerary, but you never know when those magical moments will occur, or how, and with whom connections will develop. Such was our experience in Cuba.

Our first morning in Cuba, we sat in a circle, looking at 15 unfamiliar faces. Who were these women, who had made group travel to Cuba a priority?

One of many amazing meals we shared, talking and laughing, with the yummy Cuban drinks!
One of many amazing meals we shared, talking and laughing, with the yummy Cuban drinks!

Each of us had chosen to invest and engage in this particular adventure at this specific time. Most came to learn, some came to be inspired or to find direction, and at least one came to honor the memory of a loved one, who valued travel and culture. All were united in our value of friendship and adventure.

GirlFriendCircles (GFC) began TravelCircles this year. While each trip is unique, all focus on two main components. 1) We travel together with the intention of connecting with each other in a meaningful and honoring way. 2) We learn about the lives of women living in that particular country/region.

Our Travel Through Cuba

Because GFC teams with Altruvistas, we are able to experience Cuba or any country we travel to in a deeper, more connected and invested manner. In other words, we’re not there as passive tourists. We show up, ready to engage and build relationships with the people we meet.

A dance class where we got a chance to watch the best perform and then learn to do some of the steps ourselves!
A dance class where we got a chance to watch the best perform and then learn to do some of the steps ourselves!

On this particular trip, we learned from Cubans with firsthand knowledge of history, architecture, politics, healthcare, literacy and education, music, art, community development, and social services. At times, our role was more like new students, soaking up information. Other times, we were colleagues, processing what we were learning and integrating it with previous knowledge. Because there was mutual respect and interactive conversations, it was an engaging way of learning.

We learned about The Cuban 5 and how Cubans view the U.S. embargo/blockade. We learned about diversity and prejudice. We gained new appreciation for murals and the value of art within a community. We learned how to make our own perfume. We learned to dance, laugh and fan our way through Cutumba. While much of our itinerary was full (because learning hours are required for our visas), there were times, when we practiced slowing down enough to listen, engage and experience. And we loved those moments that unified us with little to no effort on our part other than being present in the moment and accepting its gifts.

“Why are you glad you went on this trip?”

But don't just take it from me, I asked some of the other women on the trip to answer the question: “Why are you glad you went on this trip?”

  • Kate S. from Chicago shared, “I have never been on a trip where I connected with so many different people. This trip provided the ability to have personal interactions with Cubans in a way that would not have been possible had I traveled independently. The stories we heard, the culture we experienced, and conversations we had will stay with me forever. The group of girls from GirlFriendCircles were the best people to share this experience with; I truly believe some of the friendships we made will last a lifetime.”
  • Our group!  We love each other.  What fun!
  • Amy from North Carolina responded, “I'm glad I saw Cuba just before what I anticipate to be a period of great change. It's amazing to be surrounded by such history and so little of our ubiquitous consumerist culture.”
  • Jennifer from Wisconsin replied, “I loved the feeling of truly being lost in another time. Some of my favorite moments were in Old Havana, with the bustling streets, amazing cars, music playing in the air, and the colorful patchwork textures and buildings all around. It was a treat for my senses. Cuba has a kind of raw energy that you don't see much elsewhere.”
  • Kirsten from British Columbia shared, “Cuba deserves so much credit for surviving as it has for so long against such overwhelming odds. I was grateful to be exposed to a different truth than the one many of us have learned. In the end I think there is truth on all sides. I was impressed by a different value system, one that places the emphasis on taking care of each other, rather than on individual achievement.”
  • Kimberly from Florida responded, “Mostly glad to meet such an amazing group of American women, but so glad to have seen the resiliency of the Cuban women and people. The countryside and architecture were beautiful!!”

Are you considering travel with GirlFriendCircles? Now is the time to express your interest. Many trips are planned for 2014. (See the list of all 9 trips below!) These adventures are full of great activities and opportunities to meet wonderful people, who also value friendship. What could be better than experiencing a new culture while building connection and friendship?

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travelCircle
travelCircle

Ready to Travel, GirlFriend? 

Scheduled TravelCircles that Still Have Availability in 2014:

GirlFriends Eco-Adventuring in Nicaragua August 2-11, 2014

For adventurous and active women this trip is filled with hikes, learning, and beauty! (Also, optional 2-day surfing lessons)

Women and Goddesses in Greece Aug 29-Sept. 9, 2014

Ready to explore the Parthenon, Acropolis, and the Temple of Zeus? This is trip with spirituality, myths, beauty, art, and the divine feminine.

Women of Compassion on Safari in Kenya September 27-October 6

Combine the best wildlife of a Safari with amazing opportunities to learn about social causes and regional issues affecting women in Africa.

Women & Current Affairs in Afghanistan October 4-13, 2014

Ready to understand a country in a more real way than just what we see on TV?  Watch history unfold in an intimate and local way.

Women Dancing & Sipping through Argentina & Chile Nov 1-11

Get ready to dance, cook, sip wine and inhale all the beauty, culture, and history of two amazing countries: Argentina and Chile!

www.WomensTravelCircles.com

brought to you by:

GirlFriendCircles_logo
GirlFriendCircles_logo

Advice & Encouragement from GirlFriendCircles.com Members

When I interviewed Shoshana a few weeks back about her personal experience in GirlFriendCircles.com down in the L.A. area, I discovered that a group of 11 women from GirlFriendCircles.com all went on an overnight trip together to San Diego, a couple of hours away. I was so thrilled at the idea of a group of women building their friendship in such a way that I immediately asked if a few of them would share their experiences with all of us so we might just see what is possible!  :) Not the best photo quality but at least all 11 of us are in this one!

How did this trip come about?

Shoshana: "I can't remember exactly how the San Diego trip came about, but after talking about going to Santa Barbara and maybe renting a house for the weekend, we ended up landing on San Diego since most of the girls could only do one night. I then created a Facebook page for the trip and invited everyone to join. Another one of the girls made the suggestion to take the train and we were off. I reserved rooms for us at the Hard Rock Hotel and for our dinner, collected everyone's money through Paypal or checks, and posted on our Facebook page all the info that everyone needed, including which train to buy their tickets for. We got seats together and talked for 3 hours the whole way there and back. It was definitely a great way to travel with 11 girls. I'm not so sure our neighbors on the train would agree!"

Dinner was so much fun after having talked all afternoon on the train!

What did you all do together on this trip?

Shoshana: "We hung out by the pool, had a great time eating dinner together, and basically just hung out together.  A highlight was definitely dinner! We were seated in front of a big window on a busy street so a lot of men enjoyed dancing for our big group of women in front of the window or ripping their shirts open which produced a lot of fun laughs. (We were in San Diego's Gaslamp district so it's a very fun scene.) After dinner we went to a place for dancing for a little while before hitting up a rooftop bar. But my favorite part of the trip was getting to know the girls better during the train ride down and back where we could all just talk.  The going out and pool part was fun, too, but the activities mattered less to me than the time I got to spend connecting with these great women."

Okay, bringing in a few other GirlFriends-- tell me what you were feeling on your way home from this weekend!

Yana: (a member since Dec. 2012, who first went on a one-on-one and then started meeting others through ConnectingCircles)  "On my way home from San Diego as I looked around at this group of women, I felt..... like part of a community and grateful to have these amazing women in my life! Why? It was such a diverse collection of women of all backgrounds/ages/professions and yet we all took the initiative to get together and go on an overnight trip. Eleven girls traveling could be a recipe for disaster but everyone had such a good time eating, dancing, and socializing."

Kelly: My first event with GFC was last October. I signed up for the site after Googling "how to make friends in LA." Moving from another state, I found it really hard to connect with people in this city.  But on my way home from San Diego, I felt really happy knowing I'd met an awesome group of women who are all interested in making friends and sharing new experiences. Looking at the group of women that spans the age range of 26-44, its amazing we all met over the past 6 months and have become friends that hang out all the time.  I've finally connected!

Nina: I feel like I'm super lucky to have gotten to know such a lovely group of women. Each and every one of them has been committed to developing friendships. They are an open-minded, kind bunch of girls who simply likes to have fun and experience life together. I moved to LA 7 years ago, and up until this point... I had really struggled with forming close friendships with women in LA. I had girlfriends, but hardly any of them were local. Now I have this group of supportive SoCal women in my life that I couldn't be more thankful for.

As for specific memories from the San Diego trip....when we were eating dinner, we kept drawing attention to ourselves b/c we were such a big group of women sitting by a window. People kept waving at us. A little boy even kept coming up to our table to perform dances for us. It was super fun to get away and spend time just chatting/ really getting to know the girls that I roomed with.

A few of us waiting for the others while enjoying drinks!

Stephanie: My first event with GFC was only a month or two before this trip! I went to a happy hour in Venice, organized by Shoshana, in the first part of June and met half a dozen women, most of whom came to San Diego.  On my way home from that trip... as I looked around at this group of women on the train with me I felt a few things:  Very proud of myself that I had reached out, risked being vulnerable and asked for friendship, and also lucky to be in the company of women who are making their way with courage, openness and a sense of self that just nice to be around. We had all had fun in the group as a whole, but some of us had broken off into smaller groups and done our own thing.  It seemed like everyone was content with the weekend happening whatever way made everyone comfortable. We all had each other's backs at the clubs and if someone needed out of a situation, there was someone there to extract them.

Shoshana: Yes! One of the important things we learned about group travel was to give everyone the freedom to do things in their own way.  For example, the distance from the train to the hotel was about was a mile so some of us walked and some of us took a taxi. We then all had a late lunch all together, but then again some of us lounged by the pool while some went to go get manicure and pedicures. At around 6pm we all headed to our rooms to nap/relax/get ready. And again, a few of us were ready first so we went downstairs to sit outside and grab a drink before the others joined us. The wonderful thing about a group that size is that we don't all have to do everything together, but that we could break into smaller groups when appropriate!

So many of us would love to go on a trip with friends... what so you think specifically helped you build these relationships?  In other words, how did you get to this place?

Yana:  I moved to L.A. due to a long distance relationship and a year and a half later still found myself unable to make the city my home. I took the initiative to search for websites to find friends and dove right into making connections and going to events.

What specifically had to happen to create these friendships? Not being afraid of rejection and making the time and commitment to nurture and grow these relationships. I feel like at this point in my life (engaged, new puppy, planning wedding, working in finance) I just don't have the luxury of being in high school and surrounded by people also ready and willing to make that connection. As I didn't go the traditional going away to college and living on campus route, I don't have those 4 years to go back to for friendships. As I get busier and busier it's important to make time for building a foundation of friendship in a new place without the luxury of old friends and family to have my back.

Kelly: We got here because a lot of the girls in the group were proactive in creating their own group events on the GFC CalendarCircles. That made a huge difference. People started inviting other girls from the site they had met individually and pretty quickly there was a larger group of girlfriends.

Nina: My first event with GFC was a Connecting Circle in November at Cafe Gratitude in Venice, CA. I believe there was 5 other girls present, 4 of whom have become close girlfriends of mine. My first impression was something like "Wow! these girls are really nice and normal!"

I was pretty skeptical going into the whole process since I had previously tried to meet some girls in LA via craigslist and had some issues with flakiness, lack of commonality, etc. I was assuming GFC would be more of the same.  But I knew from the very first night that my experience with GFC would be different. The girls were intelligent, sweet, funny and truly open to making friendships. I reached out to a couple of the girls right away after my first Connecting Circle to meet up for coffee or dinner. I think this was the most important step I took, because it ensured that I began to form relationships with some of the girls.

Stephanie: I could see myself being friends with some of these women for a long time.  Some I will perhaps get closer to, and some will come and go.  I think acceptance of each other for who we are is very important, not having too many rules for others to follow, and knowing what my own expectations are from the friendships are important.  I didn't expect to come away with a new BFF - but I may have found a friend or two who I would like to travel with in the future or have other adventures with.  I really loved that so many of them were like me - okay doing things on their own but also happy to be in a group.  It's been a long time since I've had a weekend with women that I came home and felt like the whole thing was a great time.  A very nice memory and (hopefully) the beginning of some new friendships.

Any advice would you have for other women just joining GFC?

Yana: Sign up and reach out to people out of your age range/economic background/likes. It's a bit more difficult to do that in L.A. due to the city being so big and traffic dictating what one does during the week, but weekends are the best. Go to events and make events of your own and don't be afraid to mix your "GFC" friends with connections you've made outside of the website.

Kelly: Try to go to as many of the CalendarCircles and ConnectingCircles as possible because you will meet many different kinds of people and are bound to eventually find one or more new girlfriends you really connect with.

Nina: Even though I met amazing women at the first event, I also continued to attend ConnectingCircles to meet more girls. Once I started to get to know the girls more, I simply made sure that GFC and these ladies were a priority in my life, by attending as many group/ individual get together's as I can.  I even set a specific goal to make sure that I got together with at least one of my new GFC friends at least once/ week and chatted with other girls in between. After awhile, the friendships became more natural. I would definitely recommend taking initiative in reaching out to girls you click with. I also would make sure you make time/ prioritize your new friendships as well.

A huge thanks to Stephanie, Yana, Nina, and Kelly for being willing to share a little of your experiences, and a HUGE thanks to Shoshana for being a catalyst.  What a gift you gave, not just to yourself, but to all these women.  May we have more women like you who are willing to put events out there to help women connect.  There will be friendships formed because of your initiative.  THANK YOU!