Women’s Travel Fest 2019 – Day 1

Women’s Travel Festival is a celebration of females who want to explore, who are curious and who create. This year marked the sixth year of the event which aptly kicked off with a pre-party the day before which happened to be International Women’s Day.

The first day the panels and speakers was led by founder Kelly Lewis in the beautiful space that is the Angel Orensanz Center, a synagogue with gothic revival architecture, in New York City.

The first panel “The Future of Travel Is Women” was curated by Lewis and had speakers such as traveler, TV Host and producer Rachel Rudwall, travel editor of Unearth Women Magazine Nikki Vargas, Girls LOVE Travel founder Haley Woods founder and Uber’s Tracey Breeden.

Unearth Women Magazine is the first feminist travel magazine on the international market with global distribution and is edited by Lewis and Vargas. The publication focuses on women’s travel, feminist city guides, food and culture and women who are making an impact internationally.

Girls Love Travel, founded by Woods, is an online community and Facebook group where women can connect and socialize about their travels. There are currently 737,000 members of the empowering resource that is Girls Love Travel.

All of these women had an open conversation on sharing their personal story as female travelers, empowering others to share their own stories of travel.

“Fear is the greatest barrier to freedom,” this was a statement by Breeden. Those words bounced off of the stained glass and fastened on the minds of hearts of women in attendance.

Breeden is the epitome of badassery; she was a former sex crimes detective and is now the senior program manager of safety and insurance at Uber. She is a champion for women’s safety and spoke about initiatives that Uber was implementing for women worldwide for female customers and drivers.

The next panel “How Travel Actually Enhances Your Career” featured journalist, Travel Channel host and media personality Oneika Raymond, travel blogger Sherry Ott, and Erica Virvo who is the director of global operations at Nomadic Matt.

Traveling isn’t cheap, so the women on this panel shared tips on working abroad, balancing travel and work and ways of making money to travel or while traveling.

 One of the best panels of the weekend included an inspirational speaker, Nigerian photographer Lola Akinmade Åkerström. Her work has been featured in National Geographic, CNN, BBC, and many other publications. “What was denied to me, I decided to give to others,” she said.

She spoke freely about discovering, amplifying and maturing one’s voice. Her moving words resonated throughout our curiosity, wonderment, and need for exploration as we held on to her every word, every pixel of her photographs as they showed only a segment of her many experiences.

Her story of immigrating from Nigeria to the United States and then to Sweden and how that influenced her photography, her work, and her voice was nothing short of encouraging.

After lunch, there were many fascinating panels for the second half of the day.  “How I Became a TV Host” featuring Mickela Mallozzi of the PBS series Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi. She shared her story of dreaming big, hard work, frustration and resilience.

Other panels included Tenny Ostrem and Claire Wernstedt-Lynch who decided to walk the thru-length of the United States and Mexico border and last year they became the first ever people to complete the task.

The last panel of the day featured Annette Raymond, Amanda McCullough, Samantha O’Brochta, Chantel Loura and Bianca Karina Vaccarini. These women spoke about representation in the travel industry how we “view” travel and “who” travel is for in the mainstream.

The after party of drinking and networking took place at Jia, a speakeasy, at the Hotel on Rivington. Stay tuned for our recap of the second day of this year’s sixth annual Women’s Travel Fest.

Article by Liz Ramanand

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