I started this trip with a text message: “Hello from Milwaukee! Never thought I’d be saying that.” And four, crazy, beautiful, whirlwind days later, I’m sitting in terminal D of the MKE airport and I have to say — I’m a little bummed to be leaving.
Milwaukee was never on my bucket list, but this year’s Women in Travel Summit (WITS) was hosted in the city, so I booked my airfare without hesitation. After a weekend of exploring, connecting with old and new friends, and soaking up lessons on entrepreneurship, travel trends and more, here are my biggest (life) lessons from the conference.
Be open to the unexpected
As I said, I never expected myself to end up in Milwaukee — but I’m so glad that I did. Milwaukee is filled with amazing people, charming shops, incredible restaurants, and oh my goodness, let me tell you about the beer scene… I have a serious crush on the micro-brewery selection in Milwaukee. Bars are filled with an eclectic selection of local crafts, and they’re curated alongside east and west coast favorites of mine, including Avery, Stillwater and Founders. I also spent an afternoon in the Milwaukee Art Museum, and I’m head-over-heels enchanted. The lesson: Say yes to new adventures — you never know where they’ll take you.
Don’t be a perfectionist
I spoke to a lot of women this year who are just starting out (or even just beginning the planning phases) to launch a travel blog, and my single biggest piece of advice would be to start now. You are a constant work in progress, and nothing is ever going to be just right — so jump now, and learn to swim as you go. My blog (and career) have gone through so many iterations, and if I had waited until everything felt just right, I would never be where I am today.
Empowered women empower women
One of my favorite things about the Wanderful community is how inviting it is, and how willing everyone is to help one another. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned traveler — women come into the community and are welcomed with open arms by daring, free-spirited, inspiring women. It is so powerful to be surrounded by incredible women who lift you up to celebrate your accomplishments, and offer a shoulder to lean on when you’re down — and it is such a beautiful thing to be able to return the favor. Seek those who fan your flames.
Seek out diversity and open dialogues
Travel has a beautiful way of building empathy and understanding, and I cannot stress the importance of seeking out the opinions of those with views that differ from your own, or who were raised under different circumstances. I’m very grateful to be part of a tribe made up of badass women who search for opportunities to learn from one another. As a white, American-raised traveler, I am very grateful for the opportunities to connect with those who challenge and expand my beliefs. In her keynote, Oneika the Traveller had some incredibly eloquent points about diversity and inclusiveness (go read her blog!). My challenge for you, which you can start right now — seek out experiences and communities to connect with anyone who is outside of your current social sphere. You can even start online, because chances are, if you’re not specifically taking the time to search for and read articles written by non-white, straight individuals, you’re not being exposed enough.
You can speak your dreams into reality
As soon as you make a commitment and start speaking about where you want to be, even if you don’t know exactly how that vision will come to life, little miracles will start to manifest. In an interview in the New York Times, I was recently asked how I find a sense of home when traveling. My answer? Through connecting with friends of friends, and with the help of communities like Wanderful. It wasn’t until after this interview that I serendipitously connected with Wanderful women while on a trip to NOLA (thank you, Beth!), and then in turn, was connected with my amazing roommate for my stay during WITS. The same truth can be applied to your career: As soon as you start speaking about what you want, then the details fall into place in unexpected ways.
The universe has your back — don’t worry about the how, just focus on the why, and little miracles will fall into place.
Were you at Wanderful? What were some of your key takeaways, whether life lessons or next steps for your career?