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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Extended travel is one of the most exciting things a traveler can take on! Whether you’re about to take on your study abroad experience for a semester, temporarily living and working remotely or about to take on an epic adventure of your lifetime… long term trips all face one problem – PACKING.
I’m pretty sure all of us have struggled with overpacking. Especially those of us who adore options in our wardrobe! However, when on a long term trip, there’s really no room for extra alternatives. Our suitcases need to be filled with the good stuff and nothing extra!
As an adventurer who has primarily traveled long term, I have a few tricks up my sleeve. Here are my simple tips and tricks for living out of a suitcase for over a month (while still still looking stylish and polished)!
Understand Your Staple, Flexible Closet Items
Investing in quality, staple closet items that go with everything is KEY. That means spend a couple extra bucks on a clothing item that can be easily mixed and matched, thrown on (no matter the occassion) and accessorized to change its overall vibe.
A great button down shirt, comfy jeans, a slick leather jack and casually-cool flats are crucial items in every traveler’s suitcase. Looking stylish with limited items to choose from simply comes from the practice of curating items that do it all and go with everything and every setting.
Limit Your Shoes
You read that right. Limit your shoes, ladies! The truth is, no matter how much you love your shoes… they’re the buckliest and heaviest items in your suitcase.I live and die by a three shoe limit. Deeply consider the activities you’ll be partaking in and pack those shoes accordingly. No more, no less!
Packing Cubes Are Your Friends
Organize your clothing items into packing cubes. There are lots of way to pack them up (by style, by occassion, by need, by day)… but no matter how you do it, I love how packing cubes keep everything in their place while also compressing them down!
Know Your “Airport Outfit”
Nailing your airport outfit is a sign of truly becoming an adventuress, if you ask me. Clearly knowing the outfit you love to pop on that keeps you cozy and comfy is key. And often, we can manipulate the system (and our outfit) to work in our favor.
P.S. Wear your heaviest shoes and jackets on your body (that way you won’t have to worry about exceeding your weight limit on your suitcase)!
If you’re a girl who loves a pop of color, embrace that! But just be sure all your pieces go together in some shape or form. Color clashing is fun and all, but it’s just a better idea to coordinate your clothing pieces so that they go together like peanut butter and jelly. So, pack those pieces that pack a punch… but just be sure that not all your pieces are statement pieces.
Coordinate your colors in your suitcase. Denim or a color scheme in shades and variations of similar hues will give you more flexibiilty when it’s time to get dressed!
Layering is the chicest way to dress for changing weather (and occassion) without overpacking. Keeping a suitcase filled with simple, classic layering pieces makes dressing a breeze.
Laundry On The Go
Eek! Some time during your adventures, there will come a time that you will need to do laundry. Don’t fight it. I’m a gal who hates doing laundry, even while at home. But let me tell you, after a while… there’s no avoiding it! Do a quick little search on your lodging’s website to see if they can offer laundry service (most hotels and hostels do). If not, buckle down and do it on a rainy afternoon in between sights. It may not be glamorous, but your clothing will thank you (and so will your travel companions)!
Looking stylish while living out of a suitcase comes down to a few simple yet steadfast tricks. I promise that with some intentional care and attention… you’ll be rocking some adorable looks that also serve their purpose while you’re exploring the world!
In 2018, my overarching resolution was to be more brave. Rather than write out a list of often unyielding resolutions year after year, I instead choose an intention that’s malleable enough to account for life’s ever-changing nature. In my mind, being more brave could manifest in a variety of ways: speaking up at work, setting boundaries within my relationships with family members, and simply being more comfortable with the idea of taking up space in the world. Professionally, I consciously strive to present myself as a confident leader, but at my most natural core, I am slightly fearful of the unknown, and prefer the comfort of routine and my partner by my side.
However, I’ve been through it enough times to know that true growth is really ignited when we step outside our comfort zones, and so, I made one of my more concrete goals on my list of bravery to travel alone for my first time.
I had started seeing a lot online about female solo travel and felt inspired by these incredible images I’d see and stories I’d read from strangers on social media.
Thus, I dreamt big. I proposed to my husband that maybe we take a trip to Japan, and he could do this workshop he was interested in while I traveled around by myself. I’d take pictures, meet strangers, meditate, drink juice, exercise, journal, and fully embrace the solo travel lifestyle. And while my husband found it a little humorous that I’d never even eaten dinner at a restaurant by myself let alone venture into a foreign country on my own, I had his full support.
The year went on and life filled up as it often does, leaving very little room for my very big dreams. As Fall turned to Winter, I surprised even myself by making the bravest choice I could by quitting my job of 5 years, with loose plans to freelance as a social media strategist while simultaneously pursuing photography more seriously. It was a huge leap of faith that occupied most of my time and energy, and so, needless to say, solo travel was pushed further and further to the bottom of my to-do’s and I didn’t quite make it to Japan.
As this year started, I still couldn’t shake the urge to see what all the solo travel hype was about. With much more time, though much less income, I planned a trip to visit a friend in Santa Cruz, regularly only a half day’s drive from where I live in Los Angeles. I decided against the boring straight shot drive and chose instead to take the long way; I arranged to stop one night on the coast in Cambria, and then take the iconic Highway 1 winding up the coast through Big Sur and Monterey the next day. Two days spent driving alone with spotty cell service in unfamiliar terrain, just me and my podcasts. Yikes.
Admittedly, I knew it was a vastly far cry from the wild, weeks-long Bali adventures I had seen many women take online. But still, the night before I was meant to leave, suddenly my mini road trip felt mega daunting. Why take the long way? Why go alone? Why not just cancel altogether? It felt absurd to get in my car all by myself for absolutely no reason and just start driving. The more thought I gave it, I realized a lot of my concerns were fear-based, and most of my fear came from an expectation I put on myself based on the overwhelming message about female solo travel I was absorbing on the internet.
The message was clear: independent, audacious, successful women enjoy solo travel. Not only do they enjoy it, they seek it out because it fuels their creative fire. I wanted to be all of those things too – independent, audacious, and successful – but what if I don’t like it? What does that say about me?
I came up with a little mantra to relieve some of the pressure. “You don’t have to like it for it to be important.” Grammatically, I’m not sure it’s a slam dunk, but to me it meant that regardless of whether or not I enjoy it, it can still hold significance, and it’s important that I at least try. I would try it with an open mind, but I could forgive myself if I didn’t like it. In fact, I told myself that I didn’t even have to feel happy while doing it. I could simultaneously hate solo travel and be independent, audacious, and successful. My identity is not defined by comparing myself to what other women do, don’t do, like, or dislike. And so, I got in my car, and I drove. Two days spent driving alone with spotty cell service in unfamiliar terrain, just me and my mantra.
Spoiler alert: I ended up loving it.
A mentor once taught me to see the significance in small battles. Each little victory would build upon the last, softening the steep path on the mountain to success. Isolated, little victories can feel inconsequential, but compounded consistently over time, they can be highly impactful. So while I didn’t go to Bali, and I didn’t meditate, journal, exercise or drink juice, I did get a little more comfortable being alone. I asked locals for tips on photography, chatted with the front desk at my motel for dinner recs, and even ate at a restaurant alone.
My newfound confidence has started rolling over into other areas of life as well – such as writing and sharing this story publicly. And so even though “BRAVE” may have been my word of 2018, I’m proud to say it’s here to stay.