Solo Travel Wisdom: The Transformative Power of Travel (Webinar Transcript)

Featured image: A solo woman hiker in Crested Butte, Colorado / Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash 

Three Women Share Stories of Renewal

Each month, we host a livestream talk show called Solo Travel Wisdom, interviewing a selection of women who are avid travellers and have a wealth of wisdom to share. Like the experienced traveller you once sat next to on a plane, train or boat and learned a ton from, our guests dish on their life lessons, wrong turns, detours and unforgettable experiences February’s show featured three incredible women who shared their wisdom on our monthly theme of Renewal and the transformative power of travel. From a walk on the Camino to sacred soul trip in New Mexico to trekking the Himalayas, these women divulged valuable insights and tips for those looking to give solo travel a go. Missed the show? No problem. You can watch it here or read through the below transcript.

Our Guests

Andrea Sullivan headshot

Andrea Sullivan

Andrea is CMO for Vayner Media, a full-service global marketing agency, and board member of the United Nations Association of New York, helping to take a stand on issues including human trafficking. She’s built a school in Kenya with our own Carolyn Ray, trekked with gorillas in Rwanda, white water rafted in the Futaleufu Class 5 River in Chile and has made three trips in her ongoing ambition to complete the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Jeanne Weingart is a founding member of Wild Women of the Wilderness & Chief of the Warrior Clan

Jeanne Flaherty

Jeanne Flaherty is a retired RN and member of Sisters on the Fly; a women-only global community who support one another to get up, get out and become more adventurous. Sisters on the Fly members have found they have a more fulfilling life in the company of like-minded women camping, fly fishing, kayaking, and having travel adventures in the US and abroad. Jeanne’s hobbies include travel, astronomy, art, art history, history, visiting sacred places around the world, jazz and world music, drawing, watercolour and working with soft pastels, as well as cooking ethnic cuisine and entertaining friends.

Jeanne Weingart is a founding member of Wild Women of the Wilderness & Chief of the Warrior Clan

Jennifer Haddow

Jennifer Haddow is owner of the world’s largest women’s only adventure travel company, Wil Women Expeditions, founded in Canada in 1991. Jennifer joined WWE in 2020 and has developed an adventure program that spans 30 countries around the world – from expeditions in Antarctica to kayak tours in British Columbia and walking the Camino in Spain.

Host Amanda Burgess:

What kind of traveller would you say you are, Andrea?

Guest Andrea Sullivan:

So, I’m definitely a free and open traveller.  I’m desperate to break out of my corporate shackles, if you will, and try to explore things in a way that gives me a lot of hope and spirit and creativity.  I get a lot from just engaging with the people in the ground and learning directly from them. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

Jeanne, what’s your favourite travel quote and what does it mean to you?

Guest Jeanne Weingart:

My favourite travel quote is from Freya Stark who’s a seminal female solo journeyer. “One can only really travel if one lets oneself go and takes what every place brings without trying to turn it into a healthy, private pattern of one’s own.” I suppose that is the difference between travel and tourism. 

To me, taking what it brings means being fully open to the culture and the experiences that you’re going to be having there. And to learn about the culture so that you are prepared, even your wardrobe is prepared, to function fully, immersed within that culture. 

What I take from that is never to impose my own ways on other people, even in my home. This is something that was a difficult transition for me. You know, I was a head of a household, I always had my way, and this really recentred me and restructured how I interact with my world. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

I get a little taste for what kind of a traveller you are from that, but can you expand on that a little bit and tell us about what kind of traveller you are?

Guest Jeanne Weingart:

Sure, I travel with great purpose. I have a tendency to study where I’m going to be going. I like to study the geology, and the cultures that arose within that geology, and the history and the events, the architecture, art, art history, and incorporate all of that into my travel experience, so I can fully immerse myself in the landscape. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

Beautiful, thank you, Jeanne. Jeannifer, can you share your favourite travel quote with us and what it means to you?

Guest Jennifer Haddow:

I would have to say poet Mary Oliver’s famous line: “What is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” That really connects to how I view travel, which is about appreciating deeply and not taking for granted those really precious moments that we can have when we don’t travel, but I think that when we’re in a new environment, our senses are tuned in in a way that allows us to really focus on these precious moments that we have in the place that we’re visiting.

Host Amanda Burgess:

That’s beautiful, Jennifer. Thank you. And can you tell us a little bit more about what kind of traveller you are?

Guest Jennifer Haddow:

I’m always looking for connections with nature and with wild nature, especially. Whenever I travel, I go out of my way to get as deep as I can into wild places, so that’s really my focus. I tend to avoid cities and civilization. So, this time that we’re in is fantastic for me, because I’m looking forward to travelling and being as far away from the crowds as possible. 

I used to fancy myself this kind of rough backpacker. I wanted to do everything myself, and I was really looking for the edge, and now I actually am really appreciating having space held for me. I’m not a diva at all, but I love having someone else organize the details. 

It allows me to really focus on the experience and I don’t have to be in my busy brain trying to figure out logistics all of the time, which is how I’ve travelled my whole life. So, I’m appreciating this time of being supported as a traveller.

Host Amanda Burgess:

Sometimes it’s nice just to show up [laughs]. 

Guest Jennifer Haddow:

It is, it is. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

So, Andrea, I want to go back to you. Can you tell me about one trip that has had the biggest impact on your in terms of mind, body, spirit renewal? That is the theme for us in January: Renewal. 

Guest Andrea Sullivan:

That’s beautiful. Yeah, I had just an incredibly transformative experience when I had the chance to go on a mission trip to Indonesia, to this really tiny island called Flores. I actually had the great fortune of doing this trip with Tom Zara who is Carolyn Ray’s partner, and we went to go and help and inoculate kids. 

We thought we were going on this mission to teach them, and what happened was they ended up teaching us more about the world than anything else. I learned a lot about fear and vulnerability. These children would line up for shots, and they were excited to get them. They were excited to get to know us. They took me all around the little communities and although I didn’t speak their language and they didn’t speak mine, we sang songs together. The kids would want to hold my hands. 

Tom was doing some interviews with some of the community members, and he was also host – holding the roosters that were given to us as community presents. He had a rooster in one arm and a rooster in a second arm, and eventually, he became united with these children, and we were sort of parading around.

We were able to give back in terms of helping the health of these small communities, but there was so much joy, even though all of these communities are incredibly impoverished. They had next to nothing, but they were some of the happiest children I’ve ever met. And the mothers were just so engaged, because we were helping their children.

Even if you don’t speak a language, one mother can smile at another mother and tell her she’s beautiful. She can tell by your intonation. We all celebrate that universality that we want our kids to be safe, and joyous, and all those kinds of things. It taught me all of that and more.

Host Amanda Burgess:

And you may not have gone with renewal in mind, because sometimes we go on a trip because we’re burned out and we need to renew ourselves, but how did you experience renewal on the back end when you came back?

Guest Andrea Sullivan:

I think it was just a very deep sense of gratitude. Ironically, we went during the Thanksgiving period, and I was feeling guilty leaving my family behind. Yet going through this experience gave me this deepened sense of who I am as a mother, as a global citizen, as someone that can actually contribute so much more.

The world is such a big place, and my eyes were certainly opened. At the same time, it just made me realize that every single person can contribute something in a way that’s truly magical. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

Absolutely, it’s all about the exchange. Thank you so much, Andrea. Jeanne, how about you, what’s one trip that was the most transformational for you in terms of mind, body, spirit renewal?

Guest Jeanne Weingart:

It was northern New Mexico to a natural hot springs and mineral springs called Ojo Caliente. I had been through a very toxic, great hardship in my life, and rebuilt, and with all the toxins and stress of all those years had built up, I really needed space I needed solitude to think and process and heal, and I wanted this to be connected with the sacred somehow. I wanted a sacred journey. 

Years before, I had been driving through New Mexico and I saw a sign for Ojo Caliente, and I had a premonition I was going to go there one day. I looked into that place, and it turns out that the local Puebloan peoples there, to this day, and over eons, have considered this a very sacred space. The people who own, operate and work there also consider this sacred. So, I went and it was unbelievable. The experience of soaking in hot, deep water, sometimes at night under the stars alone, was the most primal experience. 

This is not a part of the ordinary world when you’re there. It’s like you are outside of the world, you are outside of yourself, looking down. I began to see the lessons of the hardships. I began to understand the motivation, the dynamics, and the pain of people, how that drives them to say and do cruel things, and that the only way to overcome that is to forgive. I was able to integrate some lost pieces of myself to heal and reintegrate neglected things, and lost things. 

I think one of the most primal things to do is to go to the mud baths. You cover yourself, hair, head, feet, everything, in mud, and then, you lay in the hot desert sun and you let it bake into a shell around you. It’s like all the toxins just pull out of yourself and you can feel this holy, sacred, warm peace enter your soul. You really connect to that divine spark in there. After it’s hardened, you crack it and peel it off, and then you take a shower outside. It is completely a rebirth experience. It is unbelievable. 

And if this sounds familiar, it’s because I based this journey on the mythic hero’s journey. I don’t know if you’ve ever read Joseph Campbell, but I did it with an intention set for healing. I had my allies, I had love and compassion and forgiveness, I had my enemies. One was ego. Any time your feelings are hurt, that is your ego. You didn’t get what you wanted. Self-doubt was also an enemy, and especially poor self-esteem. 

I had a talisman that was really special. It was my long past grandmother’s rosary. And through that, I truly felt the ancestral women whose shoulders I was standing on with me and supporting me.  I felt a healing presence, and I just felt like it was Archangel Raphael’s healing presence. My mentors were Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, and Wayne Dyer’s book, The Shift. 

I was reading that periodically, and even listening to it on the car – in the car on the way there. So, you entered the water, and your pain leaves, and your muscles turn into joy jelly, you go through this rebirthing process, then you go to the spa. There’s where you really heal and pamper. I would recommend some massage of your choice, but they have an herbal wrap, and then they wrap you in a warm blanket, and you’re like a big love burrito. And I was really able to make some interchanges that really shifted. I felt an inner shift right there. I can identify the moment.

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Host Amanda Burgess:

That’s so beautiful, Jeanne. And you’ve gone back to Ojo Caliente many times over the years with your husband. 

Guest Jeanne Weingart:

Yeah, about every year. I’ve taken my sister there when she went through a tragic breakup and had to start over very quickly with just what she had in her car basically. She definitely found healing there. My husband had never been to a spa and thought it was very foo-foo. He loves it, and he likes to go back with me now. As a result of my experiences there, I’ve begun taking other women on sacred journeys. Just once for each woman, because after that, she has to do it alone.

Host Amanda Burgess:

Beautiful, I love that.  Thank you, Jeanne. Jennifer, tell me about your most transformation mind, body, spirit renewal trip. 

Guest Jennifer Haddow:

Wow. It was hard to choose one. Because I feel that I almost always bring that deep intentionality to my travels for renewal and for holistic experiences. But the story that I’ve shared publicly before that I feel was really the turning point for me, where – perhaps it sounds dramatic – but adventure travel really saved my life, I believe. About 15 years ago, I was walking with a limp, I couldn’t lift my hands above my head, and I was going downhill pretty fast. I had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. And, you know, I didn’t really believe that there was a future for me that wasn’t in a wheelchair. So, I had a lot of fear at that time, and a lot of just confrontation with my own fear that I wouldn’t be able to do all the things that I dreamed I’d be able to do. And so, someone I trusted, who was very close to me, was going on this trip to Nepal to trek to the base camp of Mount Everest a few months after I was diagnosed. And they were going on a trip to Nepal to trek to the base camp of Mount Everest. 

And it was just in a passing conversation, this dear friend said: “Hey, why don’t you come?” And my first response was: “No frickin’ way, because I’m a sick person. I’m walking with a limp. How can I trek to Mount Everest?” That was the craziest idea, it was just completely off the table. And so, days and weeks after that conversation, it just kind of stayed like a little thorn in my mind. One night I did a long meditation, and I got this message that felt like a calling. And the message was: “Do what a healthy person, not a sick person, would do.” And the idea just completely dominated my mind, that if I did this month-long trek to the base camp of Mount Everest, I would be okay. I latched onto this belief, this hope, right? It wasn’t rational. There was no good reason why I would be able to do this. I trusted my experienced friend who invited me. I allowed myself to be held and supported.

A few months later, I went. I told myself that I didn’t have to finish it. I didn’t have to make it to the destination. I just had to get on the trail and show up. Whatever it was that was pulling me there might pull me to the next step, and the next step, and who knows? I was just going to show up and let life move me. So I did, and it was really hard [laughs]. I was giving myself injections of drugs the whole way up the mountain [laughs], because I was taking the medicine for the disease. I was having quite a time getting myself up there. I wasn’t fast [laughs], but I did it, I did it. I had an experience when I hiked to the top of Kala Patthar, which is pretty much the highest place on the planet you can walk without strapping on crampons and climbing Mount Everest, which I wasn’t about to do. I was on top of the world, as high as I ever imagined I would get. 

And I saw the sun rise over the top of Mount Everest with my own eyes, over the mountain that is called Chomolungma, the mother goddess of the world. I had this epiphany that my story was changed in that moment, that I wasn’t a sick person. I was badass. I was strong. I was standing looking at the top of Mount Everest with my own eyes, and I got myself there. When my narrative changed, and when I let go of the ego, the victim consciousness that I’m just waiting to go downhill and end up in a wheelchair, suddenly, I had a completely different story that I owned. I was going up, I was getting stronger, and I was impressive.  I felt this confidence. 

I consider myself to be in remission, I’m very healthy, and I’ve climbed many mountains since and done lots of things that I never really thought that I would do. 

So, for me, that trip was hugely transformational and renewing. And I really believe that if I hadn’t had done that trip, and just showed up, and let myself take the next step towards the mother goddess of the world, I think that I would have a very dark fate. So, yeah, I just feel really grateful for the renewal that came from that trip, more than anything I think I’ve done. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

Jennifer, that story is amazing and you are amazing. It’s proof positive that when you shift your perspective, you can shift your life. Whenever you think something is impossible, it’s really about thinking, “I’m possible,” and that’s exactly what you did there. 

Guest Jennifer Haddow:

People say: “Oh, this is crazy.”  I hear it all the time, “It’s crazy, I can’t.” That’s a sign that it’s good, you know. Do crazy. We should all do more crazy things, because it was absolutely irrational and crazy for me to take that trip. Listen to that inner yes, yes, yes, and if you feel it, that means it’s for you. Go for it. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

Absolutely, scared and excited, that’s what you should always be [laughs]. Thank you. My next question ladies, is this: If you could go back in time as the traveller you are today, and give some pieces of wisdom and advice to your much younger self, what would you say? Andrea. 

Guest Andrea Sullivan:

I would say, learn every foreign language you can, even if it’s just a little bit, to be able to converse and have that door open slightly. One of my favourite travel friends and greatest friends ever is here with us tonight, Janelle. We had a chance to do one segment of the Camino de Santiago, and we share a love of language. We both speak French, we both speak some Spanish, and I think that the experience that we had together in all kinds of places has been so much more enriched because we were able to meet people where they are and share stories and history. And the [comments] that both Jeanne and Jennifer shared about looking at all of the things that make up culture, they’re just that much more rich having had a chance to learn a little bit of the language. So, even if it’s jus, learning from some of the apps that are out there, just that intentionality around opening the door helps.  

Host Amanda Burgess:

And how do you think you’ve grown as a traveller since you were younger to now?

Guest Andrea Sullivan:

So, I think that I definitely was afraid to travel in particular by myself, at the beginning. And then, I made this leap that allowed me to realize that it’s the things that scare you the most that are probably the ones that are most transformative at the same time. And in some ways, it’s a blessing to be able to travel on your own and to be able to make those decisions, meet new people, change your plans, be open to the universe – all of those kind of things. And yet, it can be scary at moments, as well. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

Thank you, Andrea. Jeanne, how about you? Words of wisdom to your younger self. 

Guest Jeanne Weingart:

My advice to my younger self would be the same I would give to any young woman now. It’s really easy to find these very low-cost vacations that are all-inclusive. But if there’s any kind of an emergency, these young women have no backup, they have no ready cash. Always fund your trips with an extra funding. Never underfund a trip. Have a charge card that is dedicated as your emergency fund and understand that your health insurance isn’t going to be accepted at a hospital wherever you’re going. You’re going to need to pay for that. And always have enough money to get home. Worst case scenario, you no longer have a place to stay, you no longer have a ticket to get home, something happens, your phone disappears. Be prepared for that. Be ready. Think of the worst-case scenario and prepare for it before you go. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

Absolutely. Words of wisdom to any traveller and not just the younger set. We can forget these things as adults, too [laughs]. Thank you so much, Jeanne. Jennifer, how about you? Words of wisdom to your younger self. 

Guest Jennifer Haddow:

[Sighs] I feel like when I was younger, I was a bit too preoccupied with what I felt like I should accumulate, what I should have. I should have a nice house, nice things, and a nice car. I think I felt this societal pressure. I was living in the city and I was trying to keep up, you know, have the clothes. My priorities weren’t as much towards spending my money on experiences. In the last 15 years, I don’t care about having nice things. Material things.  I will go and spend whatever money I want on travel, because that’s actually what I value the most.  I just don’t have jewellery [laughs], I don’t have, a fancy house. 

I really feel like my advice to the younger Jennifer would have been: Just do it. Do all the things, and enjoy it. Don’t apologize because your credit cards are being used or you can’t afford that that fancy wardrobe. Just get out there and live. Live your one wild, precious life now. And that’s what I’m going to remember. And, yeah, I think I would have given her more of a talking to. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

Beautiful, thank you Jennifer. My next question for you guys is, when is a time that fear has kind of held you back, or you were afraid on a trip? How did you handle it? Andrea. 

Guest Andrea Sullivan:

So, I travelled for a month around Europe by myself after I had lived in Spain for my junior year abroad, and there were a number of times where I was afraid. I realized that I needed to always be in control of my things, and to make sure that I looked like a confident badass traveller. even if I was feeling a little shaky. I wanted to make sure that my backpack was sort of half full so that I was always in control of it and I didn’t ever want to have a situation where a guy was coming over and saying, “Do you need help with that bag?” 

But I think that, you know, there’s a solidarity in sort of meeting other women, certainty, as you go on trips. Some of my favourite times has been meeting complete strangers that have become my soul sisters, and especially on that trip in particular. I stayed in some convents and I would meet other solo women travellers. And sometimes we’d continue on a journey that was maybe started by one of the other travellers. Other times, I would just get their recommendations and want to go off again and meet others. 

But I think there’s power in the pack, for sure. So, the more that we can find other soul sisters, there are any number of reasons that we can draw strength from one another. Whether it’s protecting ourselves from evil, or liberating ourselves from the evil that sort of resides inside of us. There are tremendous learnings when you’re on the road. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

Absolutely, definitely power in the sisterhood. Thank you, Andrea. Jeanne? 

Guest Jeanne Weingart:

Well, I think my lesson was learning to be resourceful. I was on a journey through Wyoming and wanted to take a little side trip up into the Bighorn Mountains to see a really sacred place with a medicine wheel. I got there and I was the only person there. 

You have to walk about a half-mile to get back to it, and as I was walking, my hackles rose. It was like the hair was standing on end, I felt like something was looking at me, and I realized it was a predator in the area. So, I turned around and started walking back to my car, and I took my coat, made myself big, did wild animal calls [laughs] and looked over my shoulder and all the way back to my car. I started to see mountain lion tracks, and then, right before my car, I saw my boot print with the mountain lion track on it. I got in my car and I started it. It was an old Bronco, and it broke down. 

So, I had to wait until it stopped steaming and I had to actually get out and see what I could do. There’s no cell service there. I’m on my own. So, I thought: “Okay, what would MacGyver do?” [Laughs] So, I took pantyhose from my suitcase and wrapped it around the torn hose, and I went into the bottom of my purse and I found paperclips. I was able to wire back down and twist tight that hose and started my car. I was able to write my AAA number and the 800 number and hand it to a passing car. Ninety minutes later, a tow truck showed up, and by noon the next day, I was back on the road. It taught me to think calmly and use my inner resources. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

Wow, Jeanne, talk about women being creative, resourceful and whole!

Guest Jeanne Weingart:

[Laughs] What choice did I have? Stand there with my hood up about to be jumped on by a mountain lion [laughs]?

Host Amanda Burgess:

Kudos to you for that. Wow. Jennifer, time you were afraid and how you handled it?

Guest Jennifer Haddow:

I think that my style for a long time was just to jump into the deep end. After that trip to Nepal, I became really, really risk oriented [laughs]. I felt like this inflation of confidence, but I started to do things that I look back on and think: “Oh, my God, I’m lucky that I survived that.” I started doing kayak expeditions and hiking in really deep, deep wilderness. I remember a lot of experiences where I thought: “Wow, I’m really surprised that it didn’t go bad.” I didn’t really have a solid enough skillset at times, or safety net, a plan B. Now, I think I’ve matured enough [laughs], because it’s also my work, to create that safety net and plan B for the women who come on our Wild Women tours. I appreciate so much more risk management. Whereas 15 years ago and before, I think I did a lot of crazy things. 

Just as an example, my second time kayaking was on the Nepali coast in Kauai. It was about 11 hours straight kayaking. It was in the end of October and it was not a smart time to be kayaking there. I was riding white tips for hours, and I was an absolute beginner kayaker. And I had this: “Oh, I’m going to do it because I’m brave!” There are no roads along the Nepali coast, so if you tip, I mean…it’s cliffs and there are very few places where any kind of rescue could be mounted. I just kind of jumped in and said “I want to do this, so I’m going to go for it,” and I’m very, very grateful that I didn’t get into more trouble. I had a lot of enthusiasm, but I just didn’t have the groundedness at some times to be safe. So, I’m over that now [laughs]. The pendulum can swing too far.

Host Amanda Burgess:

Absolutely. At least you swung it back the other way into having a risk management plan in place [laughs]. 

Guest Jennifer Haddow:

We’re all here to tell the tale, but, yeah, there are many times where I think, this could have very easily gone another way and I wouldn’t have made it. Which is why I think I feel so passionately now about having a plan B. Be supported, have the people who are skilled with you. There’s no shame in that. I think I thought it was shameful to ask for help. Isn’t that a woman thing? “Oh, I can do it myself, you know.” I felt like there was something wrong with me saying, “I need to be supported in this,” and it was kind of a reflection of my strength and independence as a woman.  I’m over that now [laughs]. I love being supported by other women. I mean, that’s kind of a big shift for me. I love going out and doing those really extreme kinds of adventures, and I do that still often, but now I do it with women who’ve got my back. And I love that. It’s ego, right? That’s what gets us in trouble. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

Thank you so much, Jennifer. So, my next question focuses on how sometimes our best adventures end up being the misadventures, the times when something went wrong. So, can you tell me about a time when something did go wrong on a trip and how you handled it? Andrea?

Guest Andrea Sullivan:

So, I think I went against one of the things that I shared earlier, which was learn a little bit of the local language. I was in Germany and I was trying to find my way back to the train station, having gone to Dachau and having a pretty emotional experience. So, I was a bit of a damsel in distress already [laughs], if you will. I was trying to find the station and I didn’t know the word for station. 

And so, I went up to a group of people and I was trying to use my knowledge of Spanish or French and hoping that would help me through. I was trying to pronounce anything that sounded like station, not realizing it was bahnhof. I went to the extreme of acting like a train saying, “chugga, chugga, choo-choo!” And people thought that was very funny, but it was not helpful at all in my mission. I actually don’t remember how [laughs] I actually found it. I think someone finally just gave me a map and said, “Here you go.” It’s one that sort of sticks with me. I find this definitely with my family: You can plan all these extravagant, marvellous things, but the only experiences that we talk about and really remember are the ones that some kind of a failure, twist or turn to them. So, I guess some of that’s good, as well. 

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Host Amanda Burgess:

Yeah, it’s important to mess up sometimes. That’s what memories are made of [laughs]. Jeannie how about you? A messup that turned into something wonderful. 

Guest Jeanne Weingart:

It was my first solo journey overseas. I flew into Heathrow and I was very tired and jetlagged. I went over to the car rental station and rented a car, and they gave me a brand new, never-been-used-before Mercedes SUV. So, I took out the maximum insurance on that, because this was going to be my first time driving on the left side of the road, and all those roundabouts in London. The gentleman came, and I had him show me everything in the car. I was very thorough, and confident when I pulled out. It was in a minute and a half or two minutes that a lorry was barrelling at me and I pulled off to avoid being hit. I hit a curb and went off onto the side of the car and then rolled back. All of the bags went off and I take Coumadin for a blood clot disorder, so I had the most spectacular bruises immediately. 

The bobbies, the police, were amazing. The people who were working in the car rental place saw the whole thing and came out to me. I went inside and we had tea [laughs] with all the agents. The hard thing was, they gave me another car. I had to walk back out, again, with the same gentlemen, go through the things, and I was fine from there. But that was a very, very hard thing, to get back in that car. I ended up being just fine within a day. I was so used to the roundabouts and driving on the left side, and those tiny little one-lane roads over bridges with another car coming at you. I got really used to it. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

Wow, that’s incredible [laughs]. Jennifer, how about you? A misadventure. 

Guest Jennifer Haddow:

It’s kind of a misadventure, but I guess I wanted to talk a bit about when I go on certain trips, I have this story of how everything is supposed to go and feel. It’s usually about pleasure. It’s usually about wanting to have the eat, pray, love story. I can think of experiences in my travels where it really hurt and brought up some deep emotional stuff. It’s hard to let that in, because the whole travel industry is about telling you to go on vacation and feel good. I went and did a yoga teacher training and everyone always talked about Mother India. If you enjoy yoga, India is a must. I resisted going to India for a long time because I felt like when I go to India, it is going to ravage me, right? It’s not going to be fun. I had this sense that if I went to India, I was going to confront some things that were really uncomfortable for me to deal with. And so, I did end up going for work [laughs]. 

Part of what was coming up for me was about my privilege. I have a background in international development doing anti-poverty work. I feel really uncomfortable with a lot of my privilege. I had confronted this in other places, but India felt like it was another level. I went to this project being run by women who were survivors of acid attacks. You may have heard of it, it’s called Sheros. And so, I was going to l earn about the project and how Wild Woman Expeditions could support it. And I met this beautiful – there’s no other word – beautiful girl named Nero, and we had this lovely, lovely connection. We sang to each other – she loved to sing, and I told her I love to sing. I don’t speak any of her language, she didn’t speak any English, but we sat and we sang for an hour together, holding hands. I could see that her face was very disfigured, but I looked at her and I felt this beauty, and I felt this trust in my own beauty.

I felt like I connected with something that went much deeper than I ever really allowed myself to see. I wanted to share that, because often, when I think of the challenges of travel, it’s easy to think of the near misses of logistics. I was really afraid, and I think I was at risk of going to India and not allowing myself to really see the beauty within some of that struggle. We have it in Canada, we have it everywhere, but I think India’s a deep, deep, deep place. And I knew that going there would bring up some emotional work that I needed to do about my sense of self, about my sense of beauty and self-worth. When I had this exchange with her, it absolutely shattered me and broke my heart open. It was the best part of the whole trip, just that, singing a song with her. These kinds of emotional kind of challenges are really important to acknowledge, too. It’s not just about, you know, the practical stuff. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

Absolutely. And it’s a lifechanging thing when we can experience the joy of someone who has gone through so much. It adds to our own joy. Thank you, Jennfier. So, I want to move on to some travel tips, because our community loves tips. So, Andrea, can you share your best travel tip with everyone?

Guest Andrea Sullivan:

So, let’s see, my best travel tip is to do something that I typically don’t do, which is celebrate practicality. I know Jennifer was talking before about logistics and things like that. I feel like if you don’t think through some of the many different options, that it can get in the way of all the liberating parts of travel. So, the more that you can kind of get those elements out of the way, you can go crazy on your own playground. It’s not something that I typically talk about, being practical. In fact, my family won’t believe that those words came out of my mouth. But especially if I’m doing some solo travel, it helps me. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

Perfect, thank you. Jeanne, your best travel tip?

Guest Jeanne Weingart:

I think the STEP program, the Smart Traveller Enrolment Program through the US State Department. Your Embassy and Consulate is available to help you if you have an emergency, or if there was a National Emergency where you’re travelling.

Never overlook your trip insurance, especially the kind that has evacuation and field rescue with a medical evacuation home. Understanding that your health insurance isn’t going to be any good and being prepared for that. The other thing is so simple: Have an extra pair of glasses and your eye glass prescription with you [laughs]. I really need glasses, and you can’t count on your contact lenses every day. 

Imagine that your wallet, your phone, your backpack and your luggage are missing. Prepare for it. It could happen. The last one I think would be having an international driver’s licence. They’re starting to expect that in more and more countries when you rent a car. That’s kind of a shift that’s occurred a little more recently. Have those 220-watt appliances to do your hair [laughs].

Host Amanda Burgess:

Those are a wealth of good tips, thank you for those, Jeanne. And Jennifer, how about you?

Guest Jennifer Haddow:

I would say there have been many years where I was really stubborn and independent. I booked my own flights. I thought: “I’m not going to spend $40 on a travel agent, you know, I can go online and book my own.”  I could and I did. The experience that we had in the early part of last year with the pandemic, as quickly as it escalated in March changed things. I’ve had so many experiences where I’ve been in the airport 2:00 in the morning, my flight got bumped, and I’m on the phone crying, talking to my travel agent at the flight centre, who we partner with at Wild Woman Expeditions, saying: “Meaghan, get me the hell out!” I was on the phone at 3:00 in the morning while we had women in Ecuador and in Morocco and a bunch of places where they wanted to get the hell out because things were starting to turn. 

I’m not against solo travelling at all, go for it, do it – but having those connections with professionals who have your back is key. I know that I played a major role in getting some women home, and so did our partners, our professional agents at the Flight Centre, who were on the phone, working their connections in the middle of the night trying to make things happen. 

I never appreciated it so much. Solo travel is great, but book your flight through a travel agent, because you never know. A lot of people say that they can’t get Air Canada or Delta or whatever airline on the phone. They’re getting the runaround. I have my agent’s, home phone number [laughs]. I’m getting responses and I’m getting refunds and I’m getting service. If I was just talking to some person at a call centre, I’d be waiting months. I really think that it’s worth it to get a travel agent to book flights and get that professional support, depending on what kind of travel you’re doing. It could make all the difference. And I’ve seen many examples with that. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

Thank you, Jennifer, good reminder that travelling solo doesn’t mean going it alone. 

We want to open it up to questions from the audience. If you have a question, type it in the chat or use the raise your hand feature, and we will address it as we go. We’ve eaten a little bit into the Q&A time, but we can go a little bit over if you do have questions. We’d love to hear them. 

In the meantime, I want to close off and ask each of you: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from travel and maybe you can keep it short so if questions come in, we have time to answer them. Andrea?

Guest Andrea Sullivan:

I think the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is just that the world is very big, but we can all make an impact. One of the trips I haven’t had a chance to talk about is the one that I did with Carolyn in building schools in Kenya. The love that we got from the women there, and the students, was just beyond, beyond, beyond. I always try to encourage my kids to look out for every opportunity that they can make a difference. Sometimes we might feel like we’re too small to make a difference, but we really can. And it’s powerful to feel it through travel. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

We had a question come in from the community. Where’s the first place you’ll go when you can travel again?

Guest Andrea Sullivan:

Mine will be the Camino, for sure. It’s a very simple experience. Although I’ve gone three different times to the Camino, it’s a six-week endeavour, so I’m only halfway there. I’s taken me three years to get halfway there. Let’s hope that it only takes me another three years and it’s going to start this summer. That’s my goal.

Host Amanda Burgess:

Thank you, Andrea. Jeanne, biggest lesson travel has taught you. 

Guest Jeanne Weingart:

Acceptance with empathy and compassion and not to expect home away from home in someone else’s. That country is their home, and to be very respectful of that home. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

And the first place you’ll go when travel is a thing again?

Guest Jeanne Weingart:

Actually, I’m going to northern New Mexico, but this time I’m going to Ten Thousand Waters in Santa Fe, and I’m meeting a friend there. Then I’m going to go from there back to Ojo Caliente. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

Beautiful. Thank you, Jeanne. Jennifer, how about you? Biggest lesson travel has taught you?

Guest Jennifer Haddow:

To learn how to be a guest and, as you just said, to recognize the privilege of travel, and to be humble in that you’re going into someone’s home, this is their community, their land, and just to check the diva [laughs] at the door. To come in as you would go into someone’s house and be grateful and just keep that open mind. We don’t always get to have our way, and that’s perfect. It’s perfect. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

And what’s your next travel adventure, Jennifer?

Guest Jennifer Haddow:

[Sighs] I have many lined up in the next year. The one that I think is going to come up sooner, the biggest one is where Wild Woman Expeditions is doing a series of small ship expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica. I really should [laughs] experience the Arctic, if I’m promoting it to everyone else. So, I’m planning on going to the high Arctic above Baffin Island on a voyage from Greenland across the Arctic Circle to Baffin Island later this summer, I hope. 

Host Amanda Burgess:

That sounds like a great adventure. Who would like to go to the Arctic? Raise your hand everybody [laughs]. That brings us to the end of the show. I want to thank Andrea, Jennifer and Jeanne for joining me on the inaugural episode of Solo Travel Wisdom tonight. I want to thank you for sharing your stories, your experience, and yourselves with us for the past hour. 

To our viewers, thank you for tuning in and choosing to spend your time with us. There are many things that you could be doing and we’re glad you chose to spend your hour with us. I’m walking away from this hour feeling inspired, and I hope you are as well. 

We are starting a new thing with our events, it’s a pay-what-you-can program, with all proceeds going to charity. For this episode, if you’d like to buy us a coffee, if you enjoyed it, you’ll be given a chance to do that. 

Carolyn, I believe, is going to pop a link in the chat and we’ll send out a post-event survey that will include the link, as well. This event is going to support the butterfly project, and maybe Andrea you can tell everybody a little bit about that. 

Guest Andrea Sullivan:

 

Absolutely. Although I have not been to Nepal, I’m dying to go, and part in support of the Butterfly Home, which is a home that was created for the children of imprisoned mothers. It was started by a woman who was a security guard in the prison and she found that a lot of these young children were imprisoned with their mothers.

 

She set up a home that was right next to the prison so that the kids could be raised in a home environment, and it’s continued to grow and flourish. The older kids take care of the younger kids, they also get to see their mothers and gain a lot of respect. When the mothers do come out of prison, they’re reunited. They always have a relationship with the Butterfly Home, but it’s such a beautiful gesture for all of you to be donating to this cause, because the money goes a long, long way. 

 

The founder is definitely in need of funding, especially during the pandemic. A lot of the funding that she’d gotten from other places in the world has sort of stayed more local, which makes sense somewhat. But it’ll go a long way there. So, thank you so very much. 

 

Host Amanda Burgess:

Women supporting women is what JourneyWoman is all about. So, we hope you will support that project. 

Until next month, this has been Solo Travel Wisdom by JourneyWoman with your host Amanda Burgess. 

Good night everyone, and thank you for tuning in! 

Journey Woman

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