It’s always a great feeling to know you’re witnessing the start of something big. That’s how I felt earlier this month when checking out the inaugural Women In Travel Summit (WITS) in downtown Chicago the weekend of March 14-16.
WITS 2014, as it’s called, was the brainchild of fabulous young entrepreneur Beth Santos. She and her fellow organizers billed WITS as “the first and only travel blogging summit by and for women.” The weekend event was a wonderful outgrowth of Go Girl Travel Network, a resource and online community for women travelers, of which Ms. Santos is founder and CEO. See her describe WITS in all its glory in the video below…
I first wrote about Go Girl for “TCW Travel Connection” last year, telling you about a fabulous networking event that Ms. Santos and her team were hosting. But by launching WITS – and by drawing more than 180 women from around the world, including from the Canadian Arctic, Beijing, and Mexico City – they seriously took this travel thing to the next level.
Headquartered at the downtown Palmer House over St. Patrick’s Day weekend, the three-day fest gave participants a chance to “meet other female travel bloggers, connect with brands, build expertise and engage in the global sisterhood of traveling women.” And that they did! Keynote speaker Jeannie Mark (aka “Nomadic Chick”) – a former Bay Area corporate girl who sold all her earthly possessions in 2010 for a one-way ticket to India – kicked things off in inspiring style. Extolling solo travel as “the best education,” she encouraged these globetrotters to make global connections, seek out adventure, and follow their own paths. “It is your sacred duty to be authentically yourself, and no one else.” Amen to that!
A wonderfully diverse group of women showed up for WITS – everyone from Millennials to mid-lifers to retirees, and from a range of ethnicities. The same was true for the impressive lineup of speakers and workshop panelists—everyone from Chicago’s own Emmy Award-winning Lisa Lubin to Evelyn Hannon of Journeywoman.com, one of the largest online travel resources for women. What united us all was an undeniable passion for travel, for reaching across and beyond racial, cultural and national borders. And a determination to experience the world on our own terms.
Recognizing these ladies were on different journeys – and different places within their journeys – Ms. Santos and team created different tracks of seminars and workshops. Some were designed specifically for bloggers who enjoy capturing and sharing their travel adventures; others targeted Entrepreneurs who long to monetize their blogs and make money from their globe-trotting. The Traveler track was designed for those who just want to get up and GO for the love of it. Many of us crossed tracks, sampling topics that appealed to us on various levels. And with a weekend that included everything from a Chicago chocolate tour to a Networking “Power Hour” to exhibits from WITS’ travel and blogging-related sponsors, it was simply fabulous.
I sat in on “No One Makes a Full-Time Income from Blogging: Creating a Diversified Income Portfolio,” a session chock-full of advice helpful to both long-time and newbie bloggers. Lisa Lubin’s “Creating Kick-Ass Videos” offered tangible tips on doing just that. “Cultivating Your Personal Travel Brand with Social Media” contained a rich smorgasbord of advice from an incredible range of travel bloggers and entrepreneurs. And in the interactive “How to Be a Rock Star,” Brooke Roberts of Yoga Travel Tree inspired us all to find our inner fabulosity. And that’s just a taste.
Read what other women at WITS had to say about this incredible weekend on the Go Girl Travel Network blog. And a super shout-out to Go Girl writer and contributor Kayti Burt for sharing her great photos from this month’s conference.
Ms. Santos and her traveling sisterhood plan to make WITS an annual event – and next year, they’ll reconvene in Boston. Can’t wait to see how it continues to grow and evolve, just like these globe-trotting women themselves.