Female Empowerment Through Travel

On this day as we celebrate women, our accomplishments, our struggles and our joys I want to acknowledge the role that other women play in our journeys. That may sound like stating the obvious. Of course other women support us! We are all in this together after all. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. There are many women who do not believe in equality and many more who will not fight or support the struggle for it. Then on the other hand, there are those who dedicate their entire lives to it.

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Tânia Trevisan is such a woman. She had been fulfilling her dreams of seeing the world and returned to her native Brazil in 2014. During her travels and as a professional events planner she had noticed the spectacular outcome produced by bringing women together. This single thought gave birth to a whole new idea.

Integral Woman

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The Concept

On 8th March 2014 Tânia set up Integral Woman . It is a project where women from one country could travel together to a new one and exchange skills, knowledge and ideas with local women. The project was a huge success. By 2016 it crossed the Atlantic and Integral Woman reached entrepreneurial women in Portugal and Spain.

Integral Woman Ambassadors

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The idea expands through Integral Woman Ambassadors who play a key role in spreading the good word of the concept. The ambassadors are locally based and are responsible for aligning Integral Woman’s principles with the local culture whilst identifying the needs of women from their region.

The Integral Woman Tour then brings these women together through bespoke, well planned travel itineraries. Since 2014, Integral Woman Tour has explored different parts of Europe, South America, Caribbean and the United Arab Emirates with further trips planned in 2018:
April – Portugal and Spain – North
May – Portugal and Spain – South
July – Portugal and Spain – North
July – Croatia and Slovenia
September – Portugal
September – Portugal and Spain – South
October – Costa Rica

As her simple idea expands beyond anything she could have dreamt of Tânia Trevisan has this to say: Traveling creates unforgettable memories. It increases our cultural baggage, opens our mind to understand different people and help us to make new friends. It also strengths every woman’s self-esteem.

As a woman who loves travel and has made it her life, I for one, couldn’t agree more. So on this special day I wish to thank all the women who have supported me on my journey. I acknowledge those who fight the good fight so that we may all walk a little more freely each day.

 

For more information visit: www.integralwoman.com.br
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/integralwomanbrasil/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/integralwomanbrasil/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUA0Ef7iVbdBjNU3Xb3CR_g

Seven invaluable lessons for conquering solo travel

After several journeys of travelling alone, with friends, family or colleagues I categorically conclude that nothing beats travelling alone. It is the only path to genuine adventure and the only way to make a natural connection to a place. If you’re considering a solo trip here are seven useful tips to consider:

1. Create yourself an alternative identity

When travelling alone create yourself an identity that has nothing to do with your personal life. Many people can only exist in social circles of their own design. They are accustomed to comfort zones with no risks attached and find it difficult to understand why anyone would choose to travel alone. Add to the mix  female solo traveller and you become an object of envy, intrigue, fascination, admiration and even bravery (I have experienced all of this).

When I travel solo I become Girl Travels World. Her story is interesting and adventurous enough to keep curious folk on all inclusive holidays intrigued for hours. It’s perfect if, like me, you loathe intrusive personal questions.

2. Talk to locals

Local people who live in a place know a great deal more about it than you, your guide book and travel agent all put together. Talk to locals. They will offer the best advice, give you insider tips and negotiate a better deal than you ever could.

This was how I discovered motorcycle taxis in Bangkok over 10 years ago. I made friends with a girl in the local beauty shop (we are still friends) while getting a head massage. During our conversation about all things Thai I mentioned that I’d love to watch a Muay Thai fight. She sprung in to action and organised a motorcycle taxi (it belonged to her cousin) to race me through rush hour traffic in Bangkok to Lumpinee Boxing Stadium. A fight was scheduled to start in just 40 minutes. My bike taxi got me there in time to watch the spectacular traditional Thai ceremony that precedes a fight. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric and it turned out to be one of the most memorable travel moments of my life. There was no way that I could have been so spontaneous if I’d been travelling with a companion.

You must however, exercise good judgement in these situations and not risk your safety. This is something you will get better at the more you travel.

3. You do not need to be an expert navigator

Maps, apps and satellite navigators are great tools for helping us find our way around. I regularly use one or all of these. However, don’t forget to use your natural instincts. I often find myself with absolutely no idea where I am. It is not necessary to always know exactly where you are. Travellers live for these moments. They are pivotal to any story-teller. This is when (in my experience at least) something remarkable happens.

I was once lost on the cliffs of Dubrovnik, Croatia and found a tiny opening in a rock with steps leading down to a small beach. It turned out that this is where locals went to during the summer months. There was a make shift bar, a place to park bikes and a secluded beach which couldn’t be accessed any other way. The best part of this story? Drinks cost a fraction of what they did in my five star hotel. And no, it’s not in any guide book on Dubrovnik.

4. Notice the beauty in small things

It’s easy to admire a historic fountain, a majestic waterfall or an iconic sculpture. But when I’m on my own, I notice smaller things – brightly coloured petals strewn all over the pavement in Colombo, children in a class room as I walk past a building in Madrid, a charred kettle on an open fire in the desert in Doha. When you don’t have to share your time, accommodate different schedules, visit attractions or search for souvenirs you make a more authentic connection with a place. Give the next place you travel to your wholehearted attention and it will captivate you.

5. Don’t go to places where your experience is created for profit

Experiences such as shopping malls, party places with never ending revelling or theme parks  do not cater for solo travellers. If you go to these places on your own you will feel isolated because they are geared towards group travel. There is also little in the way of authenticity because the experience is contrived and run for profit. As a solo traveller, you’re likely to be bored and a great deal out of pocket.

6. Do go to distant places which are well explored

Begin your journey in places with well established travel communities. Many parts of Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) and also parts of Europe remain popular and you are likely to meet others on a similar journey. I travelled from Monaco down the coast to Cannes, Marseille and all the way to the border of Italy on a solo trip a few years ago. I met hundreds of solo travellers on that trip – a Canadian yoga teacher, a Texan school teacher, a Taiwanese musician and many other interesting travellers. We ate, socialised and partied together. I am still friends with most of them all these years later. So even though I was alone I had the assurance of others around who were doing the same.

Moreover, these established routes have been welcoming lone travellers for generations and cater well to their needs. Eating alone, drinking alone, walking around on your own are unlikely to warrant a second glance. Once you master well trodden paths you will build confidence for exploring more remote places.

7. Enjoy it while it lasts

Everything is temporary. It is not always that I will be able to throw a few clothes into a suitcase and hail a taxi to the airport. The same applies to you. Relish the time you’re able to book a flight on a whim and go forth with no real plan. It may not last forever.

*This post was inspired by Kate Maxwell’s “Seven Excellent Rules for Solo Travel”.

7 Invaluable Lessons for Conquering Solo Travel.

After several journeys of travelling alone, with friends, family or colleagues I categorically conclude that nothing beats travelling alone. It is the only path to genuine adventure and the only way to make a natural connection to a place. If you’re considering a solo trip here are seven useful tips to consider:

1. Create yourself an alternative identity.

When travelling alone create yourself an identity that has nothing to do with your personal life. Many people can only exist in social circles of their own design. They are accustomed to comfort zones with no risks attached and find it difficult to understand why anyone would choose to travel alone. Add to the mix FEMALE solo traveller and you become an object of envy, intrigue, fascination, admiration and even bravery (I have experienced ALL of this).

When I travel solo I become Girl Travels World. Her story is interesting and adventurous enough to keep curious folk on all inclusive holidays intrigued for hours. It’s perfect if, like me, you loathe intrusive personal questions.

2. Talk to locals.

Local people who live in a place know a great deal more about it than you, your guide book and travel agent all put together. TALK TO LOCALS. They will offer the best advice, give you insider tips and negotiate a better deal than you ever could.

This was how I discovered motorcycle taxis in Bangkok over 10 years ago. I made friends with a girl in the local beauty shop (we are still friends) while getting a head massage. During our conversation about all things Thai I mentioned that I’d love to watch a Muay Thai fight. She sprung in to action and organised a motorcycle taxi (it belonged to her cousin) to race me through rush hour traffic in Bangkok to Lumpinee Boxing Stadium. A fight was scheduled to start in just 40 minutes. My bike taxi got me there in time to watch the spectacular traditional Thai ceremony that precedes a fight. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric and it turned out to be one of the most memorable travel moments of my life. There was no way that I could have been so spontaneous if I’d been travelling with a companion.

You must however, exercise good judgement in these situations and not risk your safety. This is something you will get better at the more you travel.

3. You do not need to be an expert navigator.

Maps, apps and satellite navigators are great tools for helping us find our way around. I regularly use one or all of these. However, don’t forget to use your natural instincts. I often find myself with absolutely no idea as to where I am. It is not necessary to always know exactly where you are. Travellers live for these moments. They are pivotal to any story teller. This is when (in my experience at least) something remarkable happens.

I was once lost on the cliffs of Dubrovnik, Croatia and found a tiny opening in a rock with steps leading down to a small beach. It turned out that this is where locals went to during the summer months. There was a make shift bar, a place to park bikes and a secluded beach which couldn’t be accessed any other way. The best part of this story? Drinks cost a fraction of what they did in my five star hotel. And no, it’s not in any guide book on Dubrovnik.

4. Notice the beauty in small things.

It’s easy to admire a historic fountain, a majestic waterfall or an iconic sculpture. But when I’m on my own, I notice smaller things – brightly coloured petals strewn all over the pavement in Colombo, children in a class room as I walk past a building in Madrid, a charred kettle on an open fire in the desert in Doha. When you don’t have to share your time, accommodate different schedules, visit attractions or search for bargains you make a more authentic connection with a place. Give the next place you travel to your wholehearted attention and it will captivate you.

5. DON’T go to places where your experience is “created” for profit.

Experiences such as shopping malls with indoor skiing, party places with never ending revelling or theme parks  do not cater for solo travellers. If you go to these places on your own you will feel isolated because most such experiences are geared towards group travel. There is also little in the way of authenticity because the experience is contrived and run for profit. As a solo traveller, you’re likely to be bored and a great deal out of pocket.

6. DO go to distant places which are well explored.

Begin your journey in places with well established travel communities. Many parts of Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) and also parts of Europe remain popular and you are likely to meet others on a similar journey. I travelled from Monaco down the coast to Cannes, Marseille and all the way to the border of Italy on a solo trip a few years ago. I met hundreds of solo travellers on that trip – a Canadian yoga teacher, a Texan school teacher, a Taiwanese musician and many other interesting travellers. We ate, socialised and partied together. I am still friends with most of them all these years later. So even though I was alone I had the assurance of others around who were doing the same.

Moreover, these established routes have been welcoming lone travellers for generations and cater well to their needs. Eating alone, drinking alone, walking around on your own are unlikely to warrant a second glance. Once you master well trodden paths you will build confidence for exploring more remote places.

7. Enjoy it while it lasts

Everything is temporary. It is not always that I will be able to throw a few clothes into a suitcase and hail a taxi to the airport. The same applies to you. Relish the time you’re able to book a flight on a whim and go forth with no real plan. It may not last forever.

 

*This post was inspired by Kate Maxwell’s “Seven Excellent Rules for Solo Travel”.

10 Ways to Navigate Marrakech if You’re Flying Solo.

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Marrakech is a major city in Morocco on the edge of the Sahara beneath the snow capped Atlas mountains. Picture that if you will. Not that it needs any introduction. It is surely Morocco’s most memorable experience. Jemaa el-Fnaa, the main square, is a UNESCO heritage site. It’s densely populated and the locals are multi lingual – speaking a mixture of Arabic and French. The moment you touch down on this baked red city your senses will go into overdrive. So here are a few tips to help you get the best out of your time in Marrakech:

  1. Be respectful of local culture.

    Morocco is a Muslim country which follows Islamic traditions. I visited Marrakech during the holy month of Ramadan. Almost everyone I met was fasting. So, during my stay I did not eat and drink in public. When I had lunch, I sat inside a hotel or restaurant away from windows as a mark of respect for those who were fasting. Ramadan falls on the 9th month of the Islamic calendar (not the same as the lunar calendar). So, check your travel dates and be mindful if you are travelling during Ramadan or any other times of cultural significance.

  2. Carry a scarf.

    I found Marrakech to be liberal in terms of dress. However, if you’re a female traveller, carrying a scarf is a failsafe for many places in the world. It comes in handy when you least expect it. You do not need to cover your hair. I mostly use my scarf to protect my skin from the sun. In Marrakech I used it for covering my shoulders whilst out and about during the day. It’s a great way to communicate that you are aware of local culture which is always appreciated by locals. It also makes you look like less of a novice – useful for avoiding unwanted attention if you’re travelling alone.

  3. Download Citymapper.

    This is a brilliant app that works well inside the Medina (where you are most likely to get lost). Citymapper allows you to navigate walking routes via your smart phone. It also offers alternative routes to get to your destination. So if you like exploring on foot then this is a must and you will not be at the mercy of the locals to find your around.

  4. Remember landmarks.

    If you have no access to wifi or are unable to use apps for any other reason you can still navigate the city. It’s dotted with various distinctive landmarks. However, each narrow lane looks remarkably similar to the next. Try to remember names of particular hotels, a distinctive stall or a coffee shop and use them as landmarks to navigate your way through the medina and find your way back. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for directions – shop keepers are your best bet. Avoid faux guides who will offer to direct you as they will always expect to be paid for their trouble.

  5. Be Assertive – not rude.

    Some touts in Marrakech can be aggressive and aggressive begging is common. While 95% of locals are mild mannered and friendly a handful of touts were an annoyance. The three best ways to deal with aggressive touts are: a) Ignore them as you keep walking by. b) Don’t stop to talk as this will be taken as a show of interest. c) Always be polite but firm and avoid confrontation.

  6. Trust your instincts.

    Never follow anyone to a ”friend’s shop”, “best restaurant”, “cheap carpets/silver/leather”. Rule of thumb in travel is that if you follow someone to a place you don’t know, you will at best, have to buy something don’t need/want. At worst, this is too big a risk to your safety. No bargain in the world is worth this risk. If it doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t – just don’t do it.

  7. Make friends with other travellers.

    I made friends with two solo female travellers whilst dining al fresco in Jemaa el-Fnaa. It meant that after dinner, instead of heading back to my hotel, I was able to stay out a little later than planned, soaking in the atmosphere. It’s a great way to get more out of a trip if you’re flying solo. You may also be able to go on join excursions making it safer and cheaper to travel.

  8. Let your hotel staff know your daily itinerary.

    Excursions should only be booked through an operator who has an agreement with the local authorities. They must be able to display an official badge. Leave the name and contact details of your guide AND details of the company with hotel staff / concierge. If you are braving the trip on your own be vigilant and keep your valuables safe. Also inform hotel staff of your itinerary and let them know that you are travelling alone and get their advice. However, trekking alone is not advisable and you should consider joining a group.

    Guides can be hired through most hotels and riads. A basic guideline of costs is approximately £12 for half a day and £30 for a full day. However, private operator and riad charges may range from £50 – £90.

  9. Write down your hotel’s telephone number, address and location in Arabic.

    English is widely spoken in Marrakech. As you venture a little further outside the city, it will definitely be useful to have the name and address of your hotel AND directions written down in Arabic in case of an emergency. Always carry this with you to make yourself understood in an unexpected situation. It is unlikely that people outside the medina will have heard of your hotel no matter how reputable a chain it may be.

  10. Relax and enjoy!

    Marrakech is a breathtakingly beautiful place. It has a magnetism and allure that is hard to describe. It will charm the most ardent traveller into a spell. So be prepared to soak in all this wonderful city has to offer. Over 600,000 Brits visit Morocco each year and most visits are trouble free. So be safe, relax and enjoy!