Celebrating Evelyn Hannon and 30 Years of Solo Travel For Women

by | Jan 11, 2024

woman standing near floating gate in Japan
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Last updated on February 5th, 2024

Featured image: Evelyn Hannon, the world’s first female solo travel writer, who told us ‘you can do it!’

The world’s first female solo travel writer — and the power of an idea

by Carolyn Ray

Ideas have power.  And powerful ideas have the potential to inspire and motivate people to take action. They can also shape beliefs, influence behavior, and create change. When Evelyn Hannon started JourneyWoman 30 years ago as the world’s first solo travel publication for women, she had a simple yet powerful idea: that we, as women, can support each other in the journey of life, with travel as a unifying experience.

While Evelyn is recognized as the world’s first female solo travel blogger and JourneyWoman as the first solo travel website for women, those who have been a part of JourneyWoman for decades know that it is much more than that. JourneyWoman is both a publication and a community, a safe place where women can express their hopes and fears, share experiences that shape our world and discover new qualities within themselves.

That idea is what compelled me to continue JourneyWoman when I was invited to do so just before Evelyn embarked on her biggest solo adventure into the unknown, following a three-year battle with cancer.  I will never forget being in the hospital with her days before she passed away. Together, with her daughters Erica and Leslie, I sat with Evelyn, held her hands and told her about my plans for JourneyWoman. I’d like to think that that gave her comfort, to know that someone would be carrying on her legacy. She knew then, what I have learned — is that JourneyWoman is unique and special. There is nothing else like it in the world.

To JourneyWomen around the world, Evelyn was a sage guide and trusted resource.  She was a woman ahead of her time, and a trailblazer whose confidence and courage for solo travel inspired thousands of women around the world to take the first step. She inspired not only travel adventures but also journeys of healing and self-discovery. Over the past four years, I’ve come to understand the qualities that make JourneyWoman so beloved, while understanding the ways in which travel – and our world – is changing. These changes require that we, as travel’s most important decision makers, use our influence to help advocate for a more responsible future for generations to come.

“For those who aren’t familiar with the work of Journeywoman, it is no exaggeration to say that Evelyn didn’t just revolutionize the travel blogging industry – she created it. She was tireless, generous and so forward-thinking. I travelled with her to Istanbul and the crowds hanging around Topkapi Palace actually parted and there was a bit of mini-mayhem as word went through the different assorted groups and tourists that the Journeywoman was there. People kept coming up to her and telling her that they booked such and such guesthouse or hotel based on something she wrote and how much they loved it and they were in Istanbul because of her.” —  Vanessa C.

Evelyn in Ushuaia, Argentina
Evelyn Hannon at home
Evelyn at home in Toronto

Memorable moments over the past four years

Celebrating Evelyn

Erica and Leslie were incredibly generous, allowing me to choose items from Evelyn’s enormous book collection, photographs and travel memorabilia. Erica also gave me her mother’s iconic red boots, cape, yellow Antarctica jacket, scarves, her beret and many other items. I spent hours at Evelyn’s apartment, listening to stories, looking through photographs, books and travel knick knacks.

I also spent time with two of Evelyn’s childhood friends, Marilyn Lightstone and Sunny Holtzman. The three were friends from grade school in Montreal and often travelled together. I am so appreciative of their overwhelming support and kindness, despite the irreplaceable loss of their lifelong friend.

Smiling through our tears: Leslie Ehm (L) and Erica Ehm (R), with Carolyn in July 2019 
Carolyn with Sunny and Marilyn, Evelyn’s childhood friends from Montreal

“Evelyn was a truly remarkable and generous lady with a kind soul who inspired so many women to take their courage in both hands and broaden their horizons. None of us will ever know how many people she touched and inspired,” —  Fiona R.

Announcing the transition in August 2019

When we announced that I would be taking over JourneyWoman, Erica and I spent all day together, taking calls and answering emails. We received at least 800 emails the first day alone and thousands after that. It took me weeks, but I personally responded to every one of them. I started doing community calls, which allowed me to meet hundreds of JourneyWoman readers virtually. It was then that I realized there was more to JourneyWoman — it really was the sisterhood of women I had heard about.

In our announcement email, Erica wrote: “When our mother started JourneyWoman over 25 years ago, she unknowingly became the world’s first female travel blogger and built a sisterhood of women travellers. Not only does Carolyn share many of our mother’s values, we believe her passion for travel and her strategic mindset will enhance Journeywoman’s brand as a trusted source for women. We can’t imagine anyone better suited to extend our mother’s legacy.”

Journey Woman acquired by Carolyn Ray

Planning for the transition in 2019: Carolyn and Erica with Evelyn’s red boots and an original JourneyWoman newsletter from 1995

“When I learned Evelyn Hannon had passed away, I was in Tibet, standing atop the 5,200-meter high Geu La Pass and gazing at Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. Evelyn would, no doubt, have been proud of me. She lived her life doing what she loved and encouraged so many of us to do the same. To this day, I believe that my blog might not even exist had she not been there to provide that initial boost.” — Barbara W.

Extending Evelyn’s legacy for generations to come

The JourneyWoman Award for Lifetime Achievement

In honor of Evelyn Hannon’s achievements we created the JourneyWoman Award, in partnership with Wanderful.  This award celebrates Evelyn’s legacy and dedication to empowering other women through travel. We can acknowledge women who have broken barriers, challenged the status quo and followed their hearts. Women who have told us – you can do it – and show it through their own actions.

“Evelyn dedicated her life not only to helping others find themselves through their travels, but to lifting and supporting other women,” said Beth Santos, CEO, Wanderful. “To me, this is what the lifetime achievement award is all about — a lifelong dedication to travel, yes, but also a higher purpose that is manifested through the travel industry. It’s why I’m so pleased to name our award the JourneyWoman Award, to honour the astounding women who have placed stepping stones on the path to a better travel industry, starting with one person who affected so many of us creators and entrepreneurs.”

In the past three years, JourneyWoman Award winners have included Alessandra Alonso, CEO, Women in Travel CIC, Anna Pollock, CEO, Conscious Travel, and Rue Mapp, CEO, Outdoor Afro. 

This year’s finalists will be announced shortly and the awards will be presented at the Women in Travel Summit in Utah in April 2024.

Presenting the JourneyWoman Award at WITS in 2022, with Bessie Awards host Jessica van Dop

Evelyn’s Boots in the Bata Shoe Museum

In 2021, the Bata Shoe Museum accepted Evelyn’s iconic red boots into its permanent collection. As one of the world’s most renowned museums, the Bata Shoe Museum holds over 14,000 shoes and shoe-related artefacts in its collection.

Evelyn’s boots are a powerful symbol of female empowerment, First, they are red – which was Evelyn’s trademark colour. She wanted to stand out as a woman. They are well-worn (from travelling to (almost) every country in the world). Perhaps, most importantly, the boots are about following your passion, reminding us that when we find the courage to take a first step forward, amazing things can happen. Today, women are the primary influencers in travel, and the JourneyWoman community represents some of the most well-travelled, experienced women in the world.

“We appreciate the story of Evelyn’s boots and how they manifest one woman’s dream to inspire and empower women,“ said Nishi Bassi, Manager of Exhibitions and Assistant Curator, the Bata Shoe Museum. “We strive to showcase footwear that is unique, memorable and leaves its mark on the world, and we are excited about this donation.”

We’re planning something special in 2024 at the Bata Shoe Museum. Get your own boots here in our JourneyWoman store! 

Carolyn outside the Bata Shoe Museum with Evelyn's boots

Donating Evelyn’s boots to the Bata Shoe Museum in 2020

The symbols of JourneyWoman

Evelyn’s red boots, now in the Bata Shoe Museum

ourneyWoman Luggage Tags
JourneyWoman Luggage tags, designed by Evelyn (Get yours here)
The backpack girl – always ready to go!

Some of Evelyn’s Iconic Articles

What to Do About Doo Doo

What to Do About Doo Doo

It’s JourneyWoman’s job to help you travel the world with the least bit of discomfort. Here, then, are tips to keep your body running like a well-oiled machine.

As the CEO and Editor of JourneyWoman, Carolyn is a passionate advocate for women's travel and living the life of your dreams. She leads JourneyWoman's team of writers and chairs the JourneyWoman Women's Advisory Council and Women's Speaker's Bureau. She has been featured in the New York Times, Toronto Star and Zoomer as a solo travel expert, and speaks at women's travel conferences around the world. In March 2023, she was named one of the most influential women in travel by TravelPulse and was the recipient of a SATW travel writing award in September 2023. She is the chair of the Canadian chapter of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC), Women's Travel Leaders and a Herald for the Transformational Travel Council (TTC). Sometimes she sleeps. A bit.

2 Comments

  1. Mihal Indyk

    I was fortunate to meet Evelyn in Tel Aviv with my twins now they are 20 and was shocked she had Cancer, i jist recuperated from Cancer and i remembered having my head shaved fir fun and met her as it was growing back. One day she rang me from Canada unexpectedly offering to help me and , i was very torn when she passed away but i stayed with journeywomen because of her vision and love of travel. Thank you Evelyn z”l from Israel!

    Reply
  2. Lora

    Thank you Carolyn for providing us with a deeper understanding and appreciation for who and how Journey Women got started. Evelyn was truly fortunate to have found someone as caring, talented and skilled to carry on her legacy. I am touched by the effort you put into getting to know her while she was alive and how well you honour and continue her ‘powerful idea’. We all benefit from your strong leadership. You are doing her and her daughters proud.

    Reply

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