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Truth in Travel: How Hiking with Mansplainers Taught Me to Hit the Trail Solo

“Milk powder is the most complete form of protein,” said Jakob nodding sagely. Just the day before he had tried to argue with the same air of authority that Trump was a feminist. “I’ve brought 2kgs of it with me to give me energy, you should have done the same.”

He shovelled spoonful after spoonful of cement-like gruel messily into his mouth. His stomach was visibly bloating and straining against his down jacket; milk powder was crusting around the corner of his lips. Jakob was a very good looking boy (and he knew it) but watching the powder crusting around the corners of his mouth and dribbling down his chin was more than a little repulsive. He spoke with the pompous, unfounded confidence unique to white males.

It was the second day of the four day Huemul Circuit in Argentinian Patagonia. Although not particularly long hike it is lauded as one of the most difficult, but also most spectacular, in the whole of Patagonia. It involved ziplining over gorges, hiking over a glacier, near vertical climbs on slippery ground and breakneck descents. The views were some of the most mind blowing I’d ever seen.

What had also been mind blowing had been the amount of bullshit spouted by the two boys accompanying us. Patronising comments, dubious ‘facts’ and a grotesque amount of mansplaining.

“That’s not how you pitch a tent,” said Noam dictatorially on the first evening, hovering over us both like a gangly praying mantis. “Hammer the pegs in at more of an angle. You want them at about 70 degrees.”

We were both seasoned campers. Anne was travelling on a strict budget and had virtually lived in her tent over the winter. But Noam always knew best.

“I know a better way to roll up your sleeping bag,” he said condescendingly. “Adjust the straps more on your backpack like this to spread the weight more evenly. What brand are your hiking boots? You’re going to struggle. I’m amazed that your feet aren’t covered in blisters already. I thought about buying that sort of stove and then decided this one would be much better.”

Of the other 20 or so hikers on the trail at the same time as us, a good three quarters were male. One or two girls were hiking with their boyfriends and there was one other mixed group of four like ours with two women and two men. There were several pairs of boys, and boys hiking solo. No girl groups and no girls hiking alone, although the other girls that we met seemed to be as experienced or more so than their male companions.

I read an article once which claimed that statistically women tend to only apply for a job when they have 100% of the qualifications whereas men will confidently apply with 60% and it always stuck in my head. I wondered whether this was the same when it came to hiking, whether women would only set off if they were 100% sure of their capabilities, and that the only reason that there weren’t many girls on the trail was due to a lack of confidence.

“We should tie our food to trees so that the mice don’t get it,” said Jakob one evening. “We can use your dental floss.” We were camped by the side of a glacier and wildlife, even the huemul deer that the trek was named after, had been noticeably absent. The wind was so strong that at moments it had snatched our voices as soon as we opened our mouths, leaving us bellowing wordlessly at each other. We’d lost a plate and pan lid to the fierce wind whilst washing up in the river and we had had to duct tape together one of Anne’s tent poles that had snapped under the strain. But sure, Jakob’s suggestion of tying all our edibles to a tree using a piece of floss seemed like a great idea.

Anne and I stowed our own drybags of food safely inside the tent and watched half amused, half exasperated as Jakob constructed an elaborate cat’s cradle of dental floss and made several futile attempts to attach his box of milk powder to a branch.

On the final day of the trek we rose before the sun. We were camped at a place known as the Bay of Icebergs. The early morning light illuminated icebergs shaped like enormous chess pieces which calved and flipped over in front of us with thunderous bangs, exposing turquoise underbellies. It was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen.

“Why are you hiking with those idiots?” asked a Dutch boy we’d met on the trek, perched on the rock next to me. “You know that you could do this without them.”

The day before we had only just made it to camp before the sun set. We’d ended up waiting for several hours for Jakob who had eaten far too much breakfast, suffered from indigestion and had to wait for his stitch to pass.

It made me think. Anne and I had been waiting for the boys the whole time. We both hiked and camped regularly. So why did we need two not particularly big and not particularly strong men who certainly had no more than 60% of the skills required to survive in the wild to chaperone us?

That morning we ran naked into the lake underneath the rising sun and swam amongst the bergs. We made coffee and sat on the pebble beach watching the slow yet steady progress of an iceberg shaped like a slug making its way across the bay and as we sat there we made a pact with each other that from that point forward we would hike with other girls or we would hike alone. We had had enough of male ego.

The first time that I set off on a multi day hike alone I was filled with self doubt but I was determined. Of course hiking with someone else is always safer, but there is no reason whatsoever why I need a man to escort me on a hike. Since I’ve been hiking solo or with other girls I’ve met far more people, enjoyed myself so much more, and I’ve been able to pitch a tent without having the angle of the tent pegs scrutinised.

All that I needed to do was take the male ego out of the equation.

 

Featured Insider Tips Journal Solo Travel Stories

Check Out Our Hardcover Book, Dame Traveler: Live the Spirit of Adventure

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This book has been the ultimate goal (and absolute dream) since Dame Traveler’s creation many years ago. Seeing it come to life in print is a feeling BEYOND words can say. We simply cannot wait to see it in your hands and in your homes. It’s a dream to imagine seeing copies of it out in the world, creased and filled with bookmarks and notes, loved and worn, passed on and gifted to fellow female traveler friends.

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At A Glance

Combining breathtaking collection of the unseen images of the women within the Dame Traveler community, empowering messages and planning tips for female travelers and secret recommendations – “Dame Traveler: Live The Spirit Of Adventure” is a coffee table photo book you’ll love to sift through to collect stories, inspiration and more. Each page is filled with some of the most thrilling, awe-inspiring photos made by women boldly traveling the world and sharing their stories. It’s a collection and celebration of the diversity and bravery of women who are not afraid to think (and live) outside the box.

Featured inside:

  • All female contributors – With a serious focus on diversity, you’ll find women of all abilities, races, religions, sizes and identities inside each chapter. Each woman included into the book showcase their discoveries, artistry and inside knowledge acquired through their individual experiences.
  • Over 200 breathtaking, full color images – 80% of the photographs included inside are never before seen on Dame Traveler’s Instagram.
  • “DT Insider Tips” – A resource list of recommendations  straight from Dame Travelers’ experiences, including favorite neighborhoods, specific locations of photo vantage points, hotel recommendations and historical tidbits.
  • History of Dame Traveler’s creation – An in-depth backstory of the brand’s creation, as well as the triumphant story of Nastasia Yakoub, founder and author.
  • Safety tips for women – A curated list of our best and often overlooked safety tips specifically for women traveling solo.

Chapter Preview

When planning the structure of the book, we wanted to bring to life the four core themes of  travel experiences- architecture, nature, culture and water. Each category features travel information, plus tips, resources, advice, unique solo-travel experiences, and wisdom from contributing Dame Traveler found on each page. It’s glance into the stunning beauty and discoveries made around the world, organized by the four desires most of us set to find when we depart on our next trip. Here’s a quick preview of what you’ll find in each chapter!

Architecture

Ranging from the ancient tombs of royalty of the past, to the intricately designed spaces of the French Nouveau, to the minimalist, futuristic buildings in today’s metropolises… our Architecture chapter features some of the world’s most storied and mind-blowing spaces around the world. Explore the world through its ancient and modern spaces alike through the lenses of women who have uncovered some of the coolest spaces with the most legendary pasts.

A Special Look Into Our Upcoming Dame Traveler Book

Nature

The sparse and open spaces of the driest deserts juxtaposed next to dense, lush jungles… when creating our Nature chapter, we set out to feature the astounding beauty of the natural world. Inside, you’ll find the best inside knowledge outdoor enthusiast Dame Travelers have learned from their many treks around the globe.

A Special Look Into Our Upcoming Dame Traveler Book

Culture

If it’s connection you are seeking in your travels, our Culture chapter is sure to enthrall you. Expect purpose-driven explorations, hallowed spaces, stories from friendships made with locals and thoughtful itineraries that educate just as much as they excite.

A Special Look Into Our Upcoming Dame Traveler Book

Water

There’s nothing more peaceful and rejuvenating than the beauty of water, is there? Inside our Water chapter, we delve into the world’s fascinating forms of water. From refreshing, undiscovered swimming pools, to the pristine beaches of far off islands, to the natural hot springs used for restoration… this chapter is a deep dive into the power and the peace that water brings.

A Special Look Into Our Upcoming Dame Traveler Book


Thank you so much for supporting our biggest and wildest dream! It goes without saying that this would not have come into life without the amazing community of women within Dame Traveler. We thank you so much and hope you love the book as much as we do!

 

 

Solo Travel Stories

Traveling While Deaf: My Triumphs & Message To Hearing People

Traveling While Deaf: My Triumphs & Message To Hearing People

Growing up in audio-centric world, Hearing people* were instilling fears in me, even questioning how would it be possible for me to travel due to being Deaf. And I once believed their fears were the sole truth. 

How is it that I could navigate alone at the airports or communicate with local people without a Hearing companion?

Living like a turtle in the shell, I often wondered what the world has to offer. yearned to be out of the shell, because I’ve always love adventures. Even as a child, I’d often seek out adventures independently before I believed their fears. One day, I began to realize that I have so many potentials than what many Hearing people believed about me. I knew that I had to take a leap of faith, a leap that I just have to do. 

Traveling While Deaf: My Triumphs & Message To Hearing People

When I first started my backpacking journey, I couldn’t help to have some fears and expectations about some Hearing people. I was ingrained to become accustomed to discrimination, isolation, rejection, and impatience from several Hearing people. But several local people that I’ve met during my travel really changed my life. One of the most meaningful experiences I had as a Deaf traveler was meeting my very first Couchsurfing host who is Hearing (I’ll call her “Min”). I already anxiously prepared myself for the possibility of getting discrimination from Min. When I finally saw her, to my surprise, she already had a pen and notepad ready with her. I was taken aback because I never once told her that I prefer the written communication method but she already prepared this herself. 

Once I felt comfortable enough with her, I sometimes used my voice despite my Deaf accent. Min never once pressured me to talk or gave me pity looks. Without hesitation, she’d switch to different communication techniques with me: written/typed communication, gestures and verbal communication. This experience may seem very simple but it was relatively huge for me, and one of the most memorable travel experiences I had. 

Traveling While Deaf: My Triumphs & Message To Hearing People

Because of Min and several local people that I’ve met during my travel, I’ve not only gained a better faith in them but trust in myself. I’ve learned a huge lesson from them: fear, itself, is often a product of our imagination. Traveling has taught me to face fears. I then no longer let that hold me back while traveling. I learned to navigate this audio-centric world, such as trying several different communication techniques, including but not limited to written/typed communication, using gestures, and using Google translation. Like my experiences with Min, it is one of the prime examples of inclusivity, and we need more in the travel industry. 

There are over 1 billion people with disabilities around the world, including 466 million of people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. Yet, it is still lacking in many areas in the travel industry. Inclusion is especially important. It isn’t just about enabling Deaf people or Disabled people to travel independently or helping different businesses. Inclusion means we are being heard/seen. Inclusion means that we are being treated as human beings, not a person just to be pitied upon. 

*Hearing people refer to those who are not Deaf or Hard of Hearing or affected by any type of hearing loss.

Advice Solo Travel

Business Travel Safety Tips For Women

Not so long ago, business travel was reserved exclusively for men, while women mostly waited for them at home. Fortunately, times have changed, and women are taking over important roles in different industries, which often requires traveling for work. Unfortunately, we shouldn’t be fooled to believe that the terms and the conditions of the trip are the same for both genders. 

A survey done by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) found that more than 80 percent of women who traveled for work more than four times in a year had a safety-related issue that impacted their productivity.

If you’re planning a business trip anytime soon, you need to be aware of these differences and do everything within your power to avoid unpleasant situations.

While There Are More Women Business Travelers, Safety Remains An Issue

Nearly 50 percent of women who travel do so for work, which makes them the fastest-growing demographic in business travel. We’ve already mentioned the number of safety-related incidents women encounter. Some of them are random, such as break-ins, but some are very personal such as stalking, harassment, and sexual assault. 

On top of that, there are also the various forms of micro-aggression we, as women, still have to deal with when traveling alone

Women Rarely Get Adequate Support & Training

Also, there’s a clear gap regarding the support and training provided to female travelers. There is an obvious lack of gender-specific components that will help women feel safe and prepared for their trip. 

Employers need to research safety issues for each destination, but they should also address these risks in formalized training. 

Of course, not all parts of the training should be gender-specific. Some need to be location-specific because of cultural norms that are different in various parts of the world and can have a lot of impact on women’s safety.

Accommodation Booking Is Different For Women

Surveys show that women are highly concerned when booking accommodations for their business trips. In fact, 70% of women would rather book a traditional hotel over a hostel or a motel, precisely because of safety.

It’s also recommended for women to stay on the third floor or higher to minimize the chance of break-ins. Most importantly, it’s best to choose a hotel with 24/7 security.

Getting Around The City 

More than half of women traveling for work include some leisure time in between their tasks, which is a normal thing to do. However, depending on your location, the part of the city you’re in, and the time of the day, you need to take precautionary measures.

Because you can get robbed in any country, taking theft-prevention measures should be a given for any trip. Many women find that wearing anti-theft accessories such as a money belt makes them feel more secure during their travels. 

Keep your laptop and other valuables in a safe in your hotel room. If your destination country is particularly risky for women travelers, try to move in the company of your business associates and stick to the well-lit, populated streets.

Using Transportation

In many ways, the way you get from point A to point B will depend on the country you’re visiting. For example, if you’re traveling to Saudi Arabia, using public transport can be complicated. You need to sit in the front two rows in buses, and you can travel unaccompanied only if you have a passport or a residence permit. However, in a taxi, you are forbidden from traveling without company. 

Even in countries that are more “female-friendly,” transportation is an important safety concern. Although ride-sharing services such as Uber are relatively safe, we still need to remind ourselves to always check for the license plate or the driver’s name before entering the car. 

The best option would be renting a vehicle when you arrive or hiring a professional driver.

The Support Back Home Is Important

Most companies offer their employees mobile messaging options and mobile check-in capabilities when traveling for work. However, it’s imperative that the organization also offers an assistance hotline. Hiring female operators on the hotline could make the process of reporting safety issues, especially the personal ones, much easier for female travelers.

This is something you should discuss with your employer before even taking the trip. It’s crucial to establish safety procedures beforehand and, if possible, have one person who will be in charge of communicating with you while you’re away.

Technology Can Help 

Many safety tips for women travelers advise using the available technology. For this, you will need to have your phone with you at all times, and your battery charged. Here are some useful apps and gadgets to have:

  • Tourlina matches you with another woman traveler at the destination.
  • The RedZone Map App helps you avoid high-crime areas.
  • TravelSafe PRO lists the local emergency services and your country embassy contact.
  • Nimb Smart Ring follows your location and gives you quick access to emergency contacts.

Being a woman on a business trip has many challenges, but it is also a great career opportunity – and it can certainly be a lot of fun. Unfortunately, we live in a world that’s not always kind to women, so you and your employer need to take precautionary measures to keep your safety uncompromised. 

Advice Australia / New Zealand Solo Travel Travel Planning

What Traveling Solo With A Newborn Taught Me

What Traveling Solo With A Newborn Taught Me

One of the things I feared the most when deciding to have a baby was that I would lose my freedom, my own sense of self.  I mean, motherhood is exactly glamorized in the most positive way sometimes. I was scared of the “mom” label. Did that suddenly mean I would go to the supermarket in sweatpants, with a screaming baby who I would yell at all day.  Would it mean I was confined to my house, leaving behind my wanderlust and desire to see the world? Were my best years behind me?

When my first child Nathan was born, I was determined I wouldn’t be one of “those” moms.  I decided I would just carry on with life, with a baby in tow. I always knew I wanted to have kids, but I wasn’t one of those overly maternal people.  I never crumbled into ooohs and ahhhs when a young child was around and wasn’t one of those people who everyone said “aww you will be such a great mom one day.”  But I really had no idea how much you could love something so little and grow so selfless overnight. Literally overnight.

So rather than jump on my mission to naively prove that I could be my own person, and have a baby, it changed to taking him everywhere because I just loved him so much that I wanted to share him with everyone.

What Traveling Solo With A Newborn Taught Me

In New Zealand, we are lucky enough to get paid maternity leave.  When Nathan was born, it was 12 weeks of paid leave and now it is 22 weeks (going up to 26 weeks in 2020)  This bonding time is amazing to have, so I decided to use this time to visit my parents who lived in the USA.  So at 8 weeks old, I took my first trip with a newborn baby, solo, on 24 hours of travel. To be honest, people thought I was crazy.  But my husband was going to meet me there later on and come back on the plane with us, so I figured, “if it’s a nightmare on the way over, at least I’ll have help on the way back.”

So how is flying with an 8 week old baby on your own?  Totally doable. As a mother of 3, looking back, it was a piece of cake.  But at the time, it was still pretty good. My number one piece of advice is to have a baby carrier of some sort, so that you can have your hands free.  I have an Ergobaby soft shell carrier (which means no metal frames) and it can be used as a front pack and a backpack. He snuggled in there through all the security and customs in our connecting flights and loved the movement from walking between terminals.

As much as possible, I tried to keep him on schedule with feed times and sleep times, similar to at home and he was no more unsettled than he would usually be.  I got a bassinet on our 12 hour international flight from Auckland to San Francisco and it was awesome to have somewhere to put him and get an hour of sleep here and there.

Perhaps the first thing I learned on this trip, was how much empathy other people can have, and how easy it is to go the extra mile and make such a difference to someone.  Let me give you some context… New Zealand has a real “tall poppy” syndrome, meaning we hate when anyone thinks there are better than someone else. We think everyone is the same no matter what.  And naively before travel, I would have seen parents with small children, and barely have given them another look. Now though, I can’t help but look for ways to help them. Whether it is to pick up a bag, hold the door, give a kind word of support, I feel such empathy for these other parents who are basically juggling ticking time bombs and trying to hold everything together.  

I never expected extra treatment for traveling with a little baby, as I am just like everyone else, but it was just the little things that made a difference.  The family line through customs, the extra glass of water when you usually had a pay for a bottle (on a cheap airline), the priority boarding etc. They sound like little things, but they made so much of a difference.

While we were in the USA, we took a trip to New York City.  Another one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time. It was just after New Years, it was 1F (-17C) in the middle of a blizzard, and we took our 8 week old on holiday.  I mean, what were we thinking? Well, we rugged up wee Nathan in winter gear, in a sleeping bag in the stroller, with a weatherproof cover so he was toasty and warm and we pushed him around the city sightseeing.

Again, people were so incredibly nice.  We were in a store on 5th Avenue and store clerks offered us space in the changing room if we wanted to feed him.  We went up the Rockefeller Centre Building to get a view across the city, and the lovely people there offered us to skip the queue since we had such a little one.  On the way down the lift, they offered an alternative exit that wouldn’t be so busy. I just had no idea that people could be so helpful. Perhaps it was always happening around me and I was too self-centered to noticed.  I mean I don’t think I was a narcissist by any means, but I never had any reason to wonder about the parents, nor any context on how to help them. Everyday people were going out of their way to help little old me, traveling around a foreign country, with a baby I was still figuring out how to program.

These beautiful acts of altruism have continued as our family has grown.  With three children, we hike around New Zealand and show them the beauty of our surroundings.  On a recent 7.5 hour hike up to Little Mt Peel,(where I took all three kids by myself), members of the local tramping club, held my kids hands as they traversed a ridgeline.  They slowed their own trek down through this narrow section, just to give us a hand.  

So here I was, trying to prove to the world (or myself) that I could travel with a baby and life could be amazing… but that actually wasn’t the lesson at all.  It was opening my eyes to the kindness and the love from other people. It was learning in practice how a little kindness can go a long way. It was understanding that, in the context of the tall poppy syndrome, that sometimes, other people are more important, and that’s okay.

Now when I travel, I look for opportunities to pay forward that kindness, because I just know how much it helped me.  I offer to hold or look after a child while their mum goes to the bathroom, we bring extra small toys and encourage our kids to share them while waiting, and we try to offer kind words of encouragement and support to those that really need it.   

As I stand in the sausage shaped queue with little chatterboxes littering the air with their thoughts, I don’t just ignore and carry on.  I think of the community I have joined, I understand how we are all one people and I bend down and look into their eyes and know its not about me, it’s about all of us.

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