Featured Image: Carolyn’s dream view on the Costa Brava, Spain (Shutterstock by Oleg_P)
Making my dream of full-time travel real
By Carolyn Ray, JourneyWoman Publisher
I started downsizing about three years ago, when I sold everything I owned. “The Plan” was to travel full-time, learn the local language and connect authentically with people and cultures. Living in Spain was – and still is – at the top of my list. I fell in love with Spain years ago, and have spent months exploring the country by train. Plus, I’m a Florida girl, so the desire to see, smell and swim in the ocean is compelling.
The pandemic obviously stopped my plan in its tracks, but I haven’t given up. If anything, I’m more determined than ever to make my dream of full-time travel real. But there is a big barrier: How can I afford to live this dream life? Is there a way to make it more affordable? Planning a life of full-time travel means exploring new options, including homestays, hospitality exchanges, house-sitting, and volunteering. To that end, I’ve been talking with women around the world to gather and share their insights and advice with you.
Three trends in women’s travel
We regularly conduct pulse surveys with our readers to align our editorial with your needs. Along the way, we gather insights about how women are feeling about travel. Thank you to those who participate!
One: Women are planning farther ahead
In a recent pulse survey of our readers in March, we noticed that women are firming up their travel plans as compared with January data. In March, 32% of women said they are planning to travel internationally in 2021 and 48% are planning to travel internationally in 2022. Many of the tour operators in our Women’s Travel Directory are sold out this year, and some are even selling tours into 2023.
Two: Travel will be more expensive in the short term
All indications are that travel is going to be more expensive than it was before. Airlines are cutting capacity which is going to mean higher costs for us. We also know from our global Risk and Reward Survey last summer that those who can afford it will pay more to feel safe – that might mean traveling in business class or choosing a higher-end group tour than in the past.
Three: The definition of safety for women has expanded to include cleanliness and hygiene
Not only is the destination important, but women are evaluating the entire journey from start to finish with an eye for cleanliness and hygiene. This includes transportation (airlines), where we stay (accommodation) and everywhere in between. The question of ‘how do I know this is clean’ will factor into our decision-making. I think this will result in us choosing accommodations from other women we know, rather than a generic website we don’t have a connection with. I’d rather stay at JourneyWoman’s house, wouldn’t you? (For more on travel criteria, read “Travel Her Way, Women’s Post-Pandemic Travel Criteria.”)
Why slow travel is for me
“The very act of slow travel is a money-saving initiative, in that the fewer times that you are changing your location, and getting on planes, trains, buses, taxis and whatnot, the less money you’re spending. Also generally speaking, the longer you stay in a place, the more discounted that accommodation will be.”
– Nora Dunn, The Professional Hobo (Nora was a guest on our Travel Lifestyles session on March 11, which also includes tips on protecting your identity and data with VPNs and RFID-enabled accessories. (You can watch the session or read the transcript!)
Exploring new ways to travel
I plan to embrace longer stays and for that I need some alternative, cost-effective strategies.
Most women will still travel solo, but traveling with a friend or partner is appealing too
While solo travel still leads in preference, our surveys give strong indications that women will travel with a partner or friends, or take a group tour. This opens up opportunities for home-sharing or even creating custom trips with friends and family.
Embracing a slow travel mindset
We want deeper connections when we travel. With a slow travel mindset, we spend more time in one place instead of less time in more places. It also helps us reduce the cost of accommodation, one of the biggest expenses of travel.
Women prefer small over large
Most women say they prefer smaller accommodations like boutique hotels or homestays, where they feel they have more confidence and control over cleanliness. This also has safety benefits. At a large hotel you may not be remembered, but at a smaller place you can get to know the owner. With women-friendly alternatives to Aribnb, there are more ways to connect with other women before you travel and have local insight.
For the past two and a half years, I’ve been on a downsizing journey. Now that all the hard work is done preparing for travel, I’m thinking not just about where I will travel, but how.
Nine ways to travel more cost-effectively
While women prefer boutique hotels as the ‘safe’ option for travel, there are other alternatives to consider. Here are nine ways recommended by JourneyWomen that can help women reduce their travel costs, including hospitality exchanges, house-sitting or volunteering in trade for free accommodation. While many will continue to use homestays like Airbnb, new alternatives for women have emerged that are focused on providing women with safer options.
5W: Women Welcoming Women Worldwide (Hospitality Exchange)
Long-time JourneyWomen will know 5W, as it’s called, with fondness. Founded in 1984, 5W is a ‘friendship-based’ model where you can visit or host other women in their homes. There are over 2,000 members in every continent except Antarctica.
Recently, I spoke with Caroline Stevens, who has been with 5W for 22 years and is based in London. Caroline says that the community is still mourning the loss of beloved founder Frances Alexander, who passed away in September 2020, but that member-only gatherings are being planned by local chapters in Italy and Seychelles for 2022.
An essential condition of membership is to sign the promise of confidentiality, and agree to rules of general courtesy, consideration and common sense. If you can’t host another woman, there is a ‘day host’ option. To join, there is an annual fee of £37 ($51USD/$67CDN) and a renewal fee of £27 a year, with an option for a friendship donation.
To learn more: https://www.womenwelcomewomen.uk/article/home.aspx
Servas (Hospitality Exchange)
Servas International is an international, non-profit community of hosts and travellers was founded in 1949 in the aftermath of WWII. Now with 20,000 members, it aims to help build “world peace, goodwill and understanding” by providing opportunities for people to connect with others of different cultures, backgrounds and nationalities. Members can be both hosts and travellers; hosts do not charge for accommodation but there is a maximum of two nights, after which payment can be requested.
To join, you must submit a letter of introduction, provide references and participate in an interview and orientation process. Annual fees are based on country, but range from $10 to $85 per year. For example, in Canada, an annual membership is $24 per person plus a $70 Travel Fee. Each traveller must have a Letter of Introduction with an e-stamp, valid for one year, which must be made available to your hosts. Traveller e-stamps are valid for 12 months from the date of receipt of payment.
“Check out Servas Peace School in Turkey. I taught English to the kids in a small village close to the Syrian border 12-13 years ago and have stayed in touch ever since. Currently, they are doing some interesting things online with kids from all over the world.” – Marilyn
To learn more: https://servas.org/
World Packers (Volunteer in Trade for Accommodation)
World Packers connects travellers looking to exchange their skills for accommodation by matching volunteers and hostels around the world, and offers placements with internationally recognized NGOs and non-profits in more than 130 countries. The website is free to join/make an account on initially (you can sign in with Facebook) but once you find a host you’re interested in messaging, the fee is $49 for the year.
“This is my go-to now, and provides a wide range of volunteer opportunities where you can volunteer in trade for free accommodation.” — recommended by Nora
To learn more: https://www.worldpackers.com/
WorkAway (Volunteer in trade for accommodation)
WorkAway is a similar site to Worldpackers that lets travellers volunteer on farms, hostels, or social projects around the world in return for free accommodation. It’s the largest work exchange website in the world, with over 1 million hosts available. Most projects listed on WorkAway are in Europe.
“You can go all over the world and for something with a family or school or hostel or farm in exchange for room and usually board. Most are a few weeks or months.” — recommended by Nancy
To learn more: https://www.workaway.info/
Trusted Housesitters (Home and Pet Sitting)
Trusted Housesitters connects home and pet owners with sitters to solve a common problem – how to travel cost-effectively, and have your pets looked after when you do.
There are memberships for owners and sitters, and a combined membership. Pricing for owners ranges from C$139- $299 and a sitter membership is from C$139 to $189 a year. A combined membership, which includes both pet and house sitting, is C$189 to $349 a year. This gives you unlimited pet & home care from verified sitters at no extra cost and other benefits. Unlike some other websites, TrustedHousesitters does not require that you have a police background check in order to house sit.
To learn more: https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/
Semester at Sea (Long Stays on a Ship)
Founded in 1963, Semester at Sea (SaS) is a study-abroad program that takes place on a cruise ship. The current academic sponsor is Colorado State University. Nearly 73,000 undergraduate students from over 1,500 colleges and universities have participated in Semester at Sea. During the semester the ship circumnavigates the globe, docking at 10 or 11 ports from North America east (across the Atlantic) or west (across the Pacific) and visiting 10 to 11 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, and North America.
Our founder Evelyn Hannon wrote about her Semester at Sea experience as life-changing. Learn more from Marillee on our JW Advisory Council. Marillee also hosts our West Coast Community Call on the second Thursday of each month.)
For more information: https://www.semesteratsea.org/
Golightly (Women-Only Homestay and Home-Sharing)
Launched in January 2020, Golightly is an invite-only private club providing a vacation rental and home-sharing platform for women. To join, you can be a ‘friend of a friend’ or go through a verification process (as I did when I joined!) To book, you must be a verified member to book or view listing details. During the pandemic, the membership fee of $100 is waived, and membership has risen to 1,500 properties, and 6,000 members worldwide. Golightly’s advisory board is comprised of experienced advisors from VRBO and Homestay.
CEO Victoria O’Connell has many years of experience in the vacation rental sector. She says that approximately 40% of members are women over 50. Trust and accountability are the cornerstones of Golightly, which offers an online concierge service has helped women find long-term stays, relocations, or places to isolate near family during the pandemic. She also wants women to give back to communities where properties are, by volunteering when they travel or other acts of generosity. There is also a networking aspect where you can search properties by industry, such as education or film, and get local recommendations and invitations from the hosts.
“Our focus is on women’s safety so we take extra precautions to make sure the property is valid – we walk through properties virtually with owners and make sure the property is what the host says so there’s no bait and switch,” Victoria says. “If you are staying within a trusted network, and you’re part of a community, you’re not just staying at someone’s else, you’re doing things as part of a community.”
For more information: https://www.wegolightly.com/
femmebnb (Women-Only Homestay and Home-Sharing)
Based in Toronto, this home sharing and rental service has been three years in the making. Founded in November 2020 by entrepreneur Yaa Priscilla-Birago, the idea began after Yaa had a bad Airbnb experience on a solo trip in Rome in 2017. Through her own research, Yaa discovered that many women have experienced horrific situations, ranging from hidden cameras, sexual assaults, sexual/street harassment, microaggression and many more when they travel or use alternative accommodation.
Membership is currently $4.99 a year, which includes a social networking platform to alleviate safety issues associated with women’s travel by helping them rent spaces from other women, connect and find friends within a private women’s travel community to maximize safety.
femmebnb plans to offer AI-based itineraries and is using crowdfunding and government grants to start the business. The company targets women 18 and older as travellers and is hoping that older women will join as hosts. There is currently a two-year waitlist.
For more information: https://www.femmebnb.com/membership
One of the silver linings of the pandemic is that we have learned to live with less. Spring is the perfect time to downsize our possessions and prepare for future travel.
Women-Friendly Small Group Tours
For women who prefer to travel with others in small groups, there are many women-friendly tours to choose from. These are women-owned small businesses that need your support. You can see a listing of these women-owned small businesses in our Women’s Travel Directory.
On International Women’s Day, Insights Vacations announced its new women-only Wander Women series of 12-and 13-day itineraries to India (October 2021) and Croatia and Venice (Summer 2022). Every trip will include a wellbeing director to ensure that every part of the journey is clean and safe.
“We have left no stone unturned to help women have a wonderful and seamless experience,” says Insight’s Global CEO Ulla Hefel Bohler. “Our guests are on holiday, and the wellness director will ensure there is proper social distancing at restaurants, sanitized buses, help with PCR tests or any other needs they might have.”
Insight has also designed purposeful #MakeTravelMatter experiences into these tours. For example, the Dubrovnik tour includes a visit to the DEŠA Regional Centre, a humanitarian and peace organization founded in 1993 to help women and their families by promoting traditional cuisine and small handicrafts through their workshop. TreadRight “Planet” Ambassador Céline Cousteau will also join the Wander Woman Croatia journey.
TreadRight “Planet” Ambassador Céline Cousteau speaks about the Wander Woman Croatia journey.
Which option will you choose?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on other options to travel full-time and live your travel dreams. What can I do to help you live your travel dreams?
And if you’re still trying to figure that out, join an upcoming Travel Vision workshop where we help you align your values with your future travel plans.
Advice from Libby Wildman, JourneyWoman Advisory Council: How to save money for travel
In a recent JourneyWoman pulse survey, 50% of women said finances were a barrier, followed by getting the vaccine (40%) and age – 30% (not enough time to do everything I want).
Libby Wildman, our financial services expert on our JW Advisory Council, suggests some ways to start saving now. You can also watch our Travel Essentials webinar on financial planning with Libby from January 2021.
1. When you get your tax return this April/May, set it aside for your next trip.
2. Set up a no-cost bank account ( some banks will even give you $200-$300 to open a new account – worth the research time) that you use only to save for travel, and make a monthly contribution that you can afford every month.
3. Instead of gifts on your birthday, ask family and friends to contribute to your travel fund.
4. Check with your airline – many are now offering refunds, not just vouchers.
5. When renting a homestay, don’t accept the price listed on websites, particularly if it’s low season. Offer half price and see what you can negotiate.
6. Use your credit card points to pay for your credit card-eligible expenses and put that amount of money into your travel fund account.
Do you have more questions for Libby? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.