I love travel. And I love women. So several years ago I decide to combine those two things into TravelCircles! And it's been magical! :) Each year, I pick 1-2 countries to visit (this year we have Peru in June 2018 and New Zealand in January 2019! And I'm already starting to think about where to go in the fall of 2019! Yahoo!) and I open it up for anywhere between 6-12 women to join me.
For someone who LOVES bringing people together and helping facilitate connection, conversation, and laughter-- these trips-- whether to Cuba, Greece, Nicaragua, or Rwanda--have been such a delight. Every time. It's truly amazing that a group of strangers can come together and have such a memorable time! But instead of taking my word for it...
As a group of us were traveling through Rwanda together this last summer, we realized three of the women had each been on three TravelCircles-- Miriam (age 60) from California, Courtney (age 33) from Maryland, and Angie (age 47) from Iowa! So, of course we had to take a photo! And I had lots of questions for them!
THREE trips already!?!?! And you're all signed up for a 4th trip this year! What inspires you to keep signing up for TravelCircles?
Miriam: I keep signing up for them because the trips are so well planned, involve much more than sightseeing and I feel safe traveling with a group that takes my wants and needs seriously.
I have a passion for learning about people from around the world. Learning about religions, cultures, history, food and beautiful places. And this is all covered in these trips. The itinerary is active, busy, well balanced, fun and beautiful exposures to the places I have never seen before.
Finally, connecting with the women from my own country, getting to know them and share in such wonderful adventures is priceless.
Courtney: I keep signing up because I've wanted to travel internationally but have lacked travel buddies and the know-how to plan all the details and get the most out of these locations. Also it's been an excellent way for me to expand my comfort zone and safely travel to places I never expected to go. These groups are special because of the unique experiences I never could've done on my own, like Making halva in the middle of the street in Ithaca with two Greek women that didn't speak English, or learning an African dance outside an art gallery with Rwandan kids laughing at us! These are fun experiences I'll never forget and likely very few people will get to have.
Angie: I'm thrilled that I found TravelCircles, I do believe that what really makes these trips so special and unique is the travel partner that TravelCircles uses to plan these adventures. AltruVistas focuses on locally owned hotels, restaurants, and sightseeing partners. They also make sure we meet local people and agencies. Depending on the country we are visiting we've met with people to discuss local farming practices, cooking lessons, immigration policies and women's rights. Ive learned a lot and met people that I never would have met had I traveled on my own.
When you first signed up-- you didn't know anyone else who was coming. What advice do you have for our first-timers?
Miriam: That’s part of the adventure! We are all a little nervous at first but we end up friends. An experience like travel forms a very special bond. If you take responsibility for expressing your needs and keep an open mind and a spirit of tolerance and compassion, you have nothing to fear. And having a person in charge, moderating our interactions is also a strength about these trips. Shasta is on top of things all the time, so I don’t have to ...(lol)
Courtney: I'm introverted and before I did my first TravelCircle to Greece, I was extremely nervous about not fitting in and not getting enough alone time. Much to my surprise, for the most part I really enjoyed hanging out with the other women, and if I needed a break, it was usually easy to opt-out for an evening or whatever I needed. I'm also not adventurous when it comes to food, but I was always able to make it work. Try a few bites of something, then order what makes you feel more comfortable.
Angie: Even though you may bond easier with one person than another, we don't let that prevent us from getting to know the others. We all make an effort to spend time with each traveler, sitting with different people in the van or at restaurants etc. and really feel like one group rather than separate little cliques traveling together. We all have always tried to help each other out, whether it's borrowing something or all of us trying to find a particular item someone needs.
Courtney: To that point, ask for what you need. Always. I freaked out a couple weeks before going to Rwanda and sent a panicked email to Shasta and Malia and they both responded with care and love and compassion. If you don't feel well, if you're uncomfortable with something, if you need a break from the group, if you really need to see something specific in-country, just tell someone. No one can help you if you keep your needs to yourself. And everyone will want to help and support you any way they can.
So what country will I see each of you in next? :)
Courtney: Peru! I'm most excited about Machu Picchu and the paragliding option. Oh, and the weekend in the Amazon.
Angie: Peru for me, too! In fact, it's funny because Courtney and I have become good friends through these trips but we've never even see each other in our own country. And I'm probably old enough to be her mom (ha!) but I absolutely love her and am so glad we met in Greece!
Miriam: New Zealand for me. I've always wanted go there! I am so grateful for the opportunity to be part of these trips. I would never be able to have these experiences on my own. My world has become much bigger and yet I feel much closer to women across the ocean and in other countries because I have seen how much we have in common and how interesting our differences can be. I’ve learned so much and I hope to continue to be able to participate in many more adventures.
Well I can say it has been such a joy to travel with all of you. And we've together made some amazing memories and met such inspiring women along the way! See you abroad! xoxo