Last updated on November 19th, 2023
Featured Image: Kelly Lewis/ Photo by Kelly Lewis
Note: This series profiles of women authors who have written travel memoirs. Industy research shows that female authors, particularly women of colour, LGBTQIAP+ individuals, and people with disabilities are underrepresented in the literary world. The intent of this new feature is simple: to provide a place where women’s wisdom can be shared with other women. This is not an advertising feature – we select our authors carefully, through a series of interviews, to ensure our philosophies on travel are aligned with JourneyWoman’s ethos to seek, learn and teach. If you have a book you’d like featured please write [email protected] to be considered. To see our recommended books please visit our Book Club page.
A Badass Vision to Change the World
by Carolyn Ray, JourneyWoman Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
Kelly Lewis is a powerhouse of badass feminine energy, and one of the most fearless women I know. In 2016, she co-founded the boutique tour company Damesly, a boutique tour company that offers professional and creative workshops for women. . She’s also written a series of travel guidebooks for women, called Go! Girl Guides, and started the Women’s Travel Fest conference, which is now in its eighth year.
When I first reached out to Kelly in the spring to say hello, she responded with such enthusiasm I couldn’t help but feel connected to her. Her positive energy, warmth and curiosity was just what I needed in a moment of mid-pandemic self-doubt and reflection. When she told me about her book, I was even more excited.
The pandemic has had a major effect on all of us – but it’s through open, honest dialogue that we’re able to rise above our fears, together. These days, there is no shortage of fears to talk about – as entrepreneurs, as writers, as women – the list goes on. In fact, when Doni Belau of Girls Guide to Paris hosted a webinar on Fear of Travel, Kelly and I found ourselves together again on the panel. (You can watch that session here.)
Inspiring stories that go beyond travel
Kelly’s new book “Tell Her She Can’t: Inspiring Stories of Unstoppable Women,” isn’t just about female travellers, although there are profiles of several women who travel, like Jessica Nabongo. The thing I liked best about her book was that the 35 women profiled in it are ‘regular’ women – no celebrities, no rock stars, just women like you and me. Over a period of about a year, Kelly spoke with over 100 women and profiled 35 – women she calls Changemakers, Champions, Visionaries, Trailblzers, Prevailers, Adventurers and ‘Warriors.’ Kelly also exposes her own childhood trauma, something I could easily relate to.
“You don’t always have to know why you’re being called to do something-your only obligation is to walk down the road of doing it. What could your life become if you followed through on that nagging idea that won’t leave you?” – Kelly Lewis
Kelly’s advice for writers
Writing a book has been the most beautiful prescription for my soul. Sharing my travel stories with the world is the biggest gift! I would encourage any woman to let out that story they have within them. It’s not always a fast road, but writing a book is truly a one-of-a-kind experience!
I’m a big fan of inspirational non-fiction. So books like Wild and Eat Pray Love and Tales of a Female Nomad are the first that come to my mind.
“Society has been telling women what they can and can’t do, who they can and can’t be, and what they can and can’t look like, ever since Eve took a bite out of what I’m sure was a delicious apple. With that, women have been punished for eternity for their choices.
Where does it end?
Trying to live your life by someone else’s standards is a losing game, so I propose we change the rules. What if we started to hear “can’t” as an invitation to do exactly that thing? What if we lived our lives exactly the way we want to, authentically and unapologetically?”
“Don’t let anybody ever tell you that you can’t. And when they tell you you can’t, you just keep right on keeping on.”
– Miss Kittie Weston-Knauer, the oldest female BMX racer in the world,
a woman who is still racing on the tracks at age 73
My Q&A with Kelly
Tell us about the storyline. Is there any special significance to the title?
Tell Her She Can’t is the anthem for women who have been told they can’t do something – and who did exactly that thing anyway. The book features stories from my own life, as well as stories from the lives of 35 incredible women who refused to believe anything was off-limits – especially if told otherwise.
Who or what inspired you to write this book? How long did it take?
This book is based on my own life. I grew up in a hostile environment, always being told I was too fat, slow, unworthy – I heard every day that I “can’t” or that I wouldn’t make it. To get through this, I had to make the conscience decision that those words would not hold me back, and in fact, that I would turn them into fuel to prove everyone wrong.
Why is travel the foundation for change?
The book is full of travel stories, because travel is one way that I have shown myself my own personal power, and just how capable I am, again and again.
In writing this book, what did you learn about yourself that surprised you?
In doing interviews with other women who had overcome adversity, I realized just how common this is, especially for women. We are so often expected to fit into the roles that our friends or families prescribe for us. But when we don’t conform to their limiting beliefs, incredible things happen.
The other thing I didn’t expect to happen, but did, is that my own relationship with my mother healed. My trauma healed. It has been a beautiful project.
What wisdom do you want to share with other women? What’s your overarching message?
Go after every little dream in your heart. Don’t listen to none of that nonsense about how you “can’t!
What is your favorite destination and why?
I think a part of my heart will always be in New Zealand. Do all the adrenaline activities in Queenstown!
Our Video Interiew: Getting Real
Recently, Kelly and I talked about her book, how to overcome adversity, particularly in childhood. She says that this book was a healing process for her and gave her purpose during the pandemic, at a time when she couldn’t travel.
YOU CAN BUY THE BOOK HERE
About the JourneyWoman Book Club
Have you written a book you’d like to see profiled on JourneyWoman? Sharing our travel stories is an important part of the cycle of travel, where we seek, learn and teach. It is through our stories that we share our wisdom with other women.
There is no charge to be profiled, but it is at our discretion. Our overarching objective is to support women storytellers and help our voices be heard.
LOVE BOOKS? JOIN THE JOURNEYWOMAN BOOK CLUB!
Every month we recommend a different book that takes you on a new adventure. Book club meetings are held on the third Wednesday of each month at 8 pm EST.
Learn more here.