It’s been about a year and a half since I started Suitcase Six and my Woman of the Week series, which was one of the first ideas I had for the blog. Today I’m celebrating a years worth of interviews (52!) and a years worth of meeting incredible and inspiring women from around the world.
My blog tag line is “sustainable travel for working women”. I write for working women because I love them, in a nutshell! Most of the people who have pushed me to travel and encouraged me along the way have been working women, who have shown by example that you don’t have to quit your job or travel for a living to follow your dreams of exploring. Having a career doesn’t rule out having adventure. You can have them both. It’s totally possible to pursue your passions in whatever field you work AND indulge your wanderlust. Have your cake and eat it too. And I think that’s brilliant, and women are brilliant and so capable of loving many things, working toward many goals, and changing the world in many ways.
I have to start with a huge thank you to the 52 women in the Woman of the Week series who gave me their time, their insight, and their photos to make these interviews happen. I literally couldn’t have done it without you all and I am SO GRATEFUL. It’s been an absolutely joy to talk with old friends, new travel buddies, and former-strangers and learn each persons story. Your passion for travel is infectious and so encouraging.
Some of the women I interviewed love their jobs, some are looking for new ones, and others are struggling to find the balance of work and travel. And all of them describe the reasons they love to travel in ways that I think resonate with so many of us.
Of the 52 women there were (at the time of their interview) 13 students. Seventeen women had jobs in their home country that were not remote, 4 had jobs that weren’t remote but often led them abroad, and 21 were working abroad or remotely. There are women in their teens and twenties, and women in their sixties and seventies. Women from North America, Europe, Africa, New Zealand. Women who love to travel for months at a time with and women who prefer weekend trips and short excursions.
My favorite “stat” of the Woman of the Week series is that of those who were not students, there were over 30 different professions represented, and most students studying different fields too. Pharmacists, scientists, writers, photographers, entrepreneurs, nurses, business analysts, recreational therapists, educators, advertisers, public relations workers, wildlife conservationists, models, counselors, accountants, speech pathologists, coaches…the list goes on. I’ve learned so much from this series and these women. The best takeaway though, as I expected and hoped to find, was that you can travel the world in almost any profession if you want to make it work.
To celebrate this year of Woman of the Week interviews, I want to share some of my favorite answers to the questions I asked and some of the best photos I’ve been sent. For a full album, head to the Suitcase Six Facebook page to see one photo from each of the women all in one place.
Woman of the Week Question: Why Do You Travel
I could summarize the answers from this question into one main sentiment – we travel to learn, expand our horizons, and push ourselves out of our comfort zones. It’s a trait that I think almost all lovers of travel share. Here are some of my favorite answers though echoing that and other sentiments:
I travel to see how the sun rises and sets in a different part of the world and appreciate how we are so very different and so very alike all at once. – Jasmine
I love the personal growth; as a naturally introverted person, travel really forces me out of my comfort zone by making me socialise with people I don’t know and do things I’m unsure of, which is extremely challenging but rewarding. – Holly
Travel makes me happy, inexplicably happy. Once I realized the positive impacts travel has on my mood and perspective on life, I started to make it a personal priority. Hearing a different language, meeting new people, trying new food and learning about other cultures is invigorating. It makes me realize across borders we are all just human and want to be happy. – Angela
Being in that place where everything is strange and different is just a humbling yet magical moment for me. It reminds me how small I am and how amazing this world is. – Jhanz
I travel to learn, to escape, and to find inspiration. I truly believe that people who travel consciously are more open, more creative, and more connected to the world. – Leslie
I travel because it keeps me grounded and broadens my horizons and perspectives of the world and in life. Getting exposed to different cultures, societal norms and economic standards have made me better understand how the world works – and the challenges and triumphs that come with it. – Christine
I travel because I firmly believe the world is too beautiful to stay in the same small bubble. There is too much to experience and see. A lot of people are scared to make that first trip and be far away from home, but what they don’t realize is the value gained in coming back a different person. The things you believe are right or wrong, the things you think about yourself, the way you perceive others, and much more are all questioned through travel. Honestly, I think people need that. – Laura
I’ve never really thought about why I like to travel, it’s more like I have some unexplained innate drive, and then there’s not a reason why not to do it. Of course, there are plenty of logical reasons – yeah, you learn new stuff and meet new people and become all wise and worldly, but to me it’s much simpler and subconscious than that. Leaving the country just popped in my brain one day at age 16 and since then I’ve always just had an insatiable desire to go. – Melissa
I remember, probably sometime in my mid-teens, realizing that my little network of people and culture is such a small speck on a constantly-evolving planet. It blew my mind. I slowly started realizing that there are so many places and cultures I need to experience in order to fully grow myself. I think that translates to some of my desire today. My normal isn’t everyone else’s normal. – Karlie
Woman of the Week Question: How Do You Balance Travel & Work
There was some variety in how these ladies balanced their work and their careers, largely depending on their jobs. Some major themes came out though, one of which was PLANNING. Some women confessed that they don’t really have a great balance yet and are still looking for it. Others shared that travel comes in seasons for them – some parts in their life have been filled with travel adventures and some parts have been focused more on their careers. Some took time off between jobs or took extended leave to travel long-term. Others took advantage of holiday time and natural breaks. Others still travel while they’re working, doing the fine dance of travel in the morning and work in the evening, (or whatever their particular schedule is like).
Woman of the Week Tactic: Planning, Planning, Planning
For balancing between work and travel, I would say plan ahead. Before I leaving on the weekends when I studied abroad, I finished my homework before I left. The same for teaching. I would plan lessons for the following week beforehand because I knew I would be asleep on the bus back to Logroño from the Madrid airport. As for blogging, which is my current “traveling,” I write ahead too. I like to put out a post a week and I do so by writing multiple posts at once. I also use Hopper and stalk The Flight Deal on Facebook to catch good prices for when I know I’ll have longer holiday breaks. Planning ahead is key. – Sojourner
I’ve always found that my managers do not mind my travel as long as I’m prepared, get my work done before a trip, and make sure I have a backup for when I’m out. – Sarah M
I guess I balance travel and work just by making sure I have things done before. That’s what I’m trying to do now for study abroad – I want to work at a specific university with a specific prof in grad school, so I’ve already contacted him because I know I’ll be gone for a semester in spring and won’t be able to really contact him while abroad. I usually just try to get things done early so I can be done and enjoy my time abroad. – Tyeisha
Work and travel, in my opinion can be managed if we travel knowing what we are going to do once we arrive to the place, so for example If I am planning to go somewhere I will make sure the place has good WiFi and also will plan to work in the mornings and afternoons and then go out and explore. I think the key is to be organized which can be challenging, I am very bad at time management but I write down my to do list every day and try to stick to it. – Karem
I only succeed in balancing school and travel when I am very organized and disciplined. I do this by setting goals every day of what needs to be done and I do not allow myself to do anything before those goals are met. – Gabby
Earlier in my career, it meant forgoing certain everyday luxuries to go on an international trip only every two years or so. As my career progressed in consulting, it meant learning the nuances of hotel and airline points and being diligent about when and where to use them. For example, I am generally location-agnostic, meaning, I often choose destinations based on their point value rather than for the destination itself. Eventually, I happened to stumble upon a career that is intricately linked to travel. – Vanessa
Woman of the Week Tactic: Holidays/Weekend Trips and Strategic Scheduling
Because I’m a PRN employee, and in the healthcare industry you often work 3-12 hour shifts a week, I have been able to go see friends and do other travelling in the U.S. by stacking my shifts together so that I have bigger parts of the week off. When I went backpacking last summer, I made sure to save up money so that I would be able to afford to request off three weeks. – Anna V
Living in isolated New Zealand I learnt early on how to use my annual leave to my advantage, maximising it as much as possible by combining it with weekends and public holidays. 5 years ago I quit a job to travel for 9 months and since then, most of my jobs have been contracts giving me a set period of employment to save, plan and then take an extended trip somewhere. It’s something which really works for me. – Sarah K
To make sure I’ve always got something to look forward to in the foreseeable future I try and split my vacation allowance evenly throughout the year with a few months in-between, which means that my travels mostly last a week or less. I could probably fit in a lot more city breaks if I used the weekends to travel, but however lovely visiting new places is, it is also quite tiring, and I have work to go back to. I prefer to spend my weekends at home and make the trips longer, ideally with at least a day to relax after the return flight before going back to work. – Helene
I mainly utilize weekends, work/bank holidays, and dedicate a lot of time in exploring my own backyard. I’m the queen of weekend road trips and have been known to sleep at truck stops in the middle of the desert to save myself a few hours in a new location. I’ve adopted the mindset that I don’t have to travel far to find a new destination and experience. – Rachelle
I utilize long weekends to travel around California (there is so much to see) and always try to club a few vacation days if I have to travel for work such as conferences (ethically and with full transparency of course). This helps me maximize my travel opportunities even with a grueling full time job. I also take my mandatory summer vacation (longest one) of 10 -14 days every year. – Paroma
Woman of the Week Tactic: Work WHILE Traveling
As a long time entrepreneur it is in my blood to multi task and work all the time. I have never been one to embrace 9-5 weekends off. I work consistently throughout the week, and go on a hike or go fishing or wander a botanical garden, when and where I want. If I have a laptop and wifi, I will travel and be happy. – Una
I’m a writer and currently traveling full time. It’s been a really interesting challenge finding that work/life balance on the road. What’s worked best for me for the most part is writing in the mornings and sightseeing in the afternoons. Or when that’s not possible, I’ll follow a few busy days of travel with a few down days focusing on writing. It’s takes a lot of discipline, flexibility, and self forgiveness, but I’ve found that overall I’m the most productive I’ve ever been in my life. – Carina
I work A LOT. Traveling the world and working remotely means pulling 10-12 hour days and dealing with massive fluctuations in pay and stability. There is no job security. I spend at least an hour to two hours a day hustling for work. When you deal with international clients, the hours are ridiculous, oftentimes before the sun rises or after it sets. To counteract this, I only work during the week and save my weekends for passion projects and ‘me’ writing. I balance work and travel by setting strict rules. No play (including Facebook or checking the news) during work hours and no work during play hours. I find that when I’m focused I can get more work done. I travel on the weekends or use a wifi hotspot to work on the road. – Elizabeth
Balancing work and travel has been much easier since moving to Vietnam, as I am within easy (and affordable) reach of many tropical destinations I have longed to see. At my language centre I get two days off a week and don’t work until the evenings, making a two and a half day long trip somewhere exotic relatively simple. I have also been able to save money easily as the costs of living in Vietnam can be kept low, which makes taking last minute trips possible. – Frances
Woman of the Week Tactic: Stay Present
When we are travelling, I try to limit my obsession with checking my emails to just once per day. I also vow to only read emails starting ‘Dear Lindsay,’ and if it is urgent, my team knows to contact me via WhatsApp. That way I can make the most of my adventure without worrying about what’s happening back at HQ. – Lindsay
Discipline, learning how to manage the time we dedicate to working and the time we dedicate to fully immerse ourselves in travel will allow us to not be overwhelmed. Sometimes work and travel are also entirely inter-connected, so it is important to rest, listen to our bodies, and explore accordingly. – Greta
I would consider myself part of the digital nomad hub of professionals. This means that life, work and travel are always intertwined. Though I have definitely pulled some all-nighters to meet deadlines or woken up at 4 a.m. for a call on the other side of the world, I do try my best to disconnect. This might mean having drinks with friends, taking a long bath, working out or giving myself a full day off from checking email. It isn’t always plausible with many clients or during a busy month, but since digital nomads are known for ‘always being on’—it’s important for me to prioritize my health with mini breaks. – Jess
Woman of the Week Tactic: Still Figuring “Balance” Out…
I mean honestly, I don’t [balance work and travel]. It’s basically a see-saw. When I decide I want to go somewhere, I GO! Whether that means telling my boss I need a personal day or letting my professors know I decided to take an opportunity to travel internationally (the day before class… whoops!), I FIND the time to do it, and a way to do it, and I make that shit happen. – Helena
Woman of the Week Question: Best Lesson & Tips
In the interview series, this was technically two different questions, but the answers have a lot of overlap. There are so many valuable lessons we learn from travel (which is one of the reason many women expressed they love to do it) and the lessons we’ve all learned from our travels form some of our best tips. Here are some of my favorites.
A great attitude makes a great trip. – Lilly
The things that scare the hell out of you will end up changing your life in the best ways. – Emily
I learnt how to talk to strangers, I learnt to try new food, I actually learnt that there is a whole world out there! – Natalia
I learned how to be minimalistic. I learned that experiences for me have bigger value than things. I’d rather live in a suitcase and move from one country to the next, rather than having a mansion, a designer bag, and a luxury car. I will never let myself being controlled by status and material things. – Kate
The little things are the big things. The details that stick with you when travelling are often things you haven’t paid for and haven’t planned; wandering along an empty beach with a magical sunset, being helped by the genuine kindness of a local, being mesmerised by a night sky, snapping that perfect picture, being caught in monsoon rain. I’ve certainly learned to take every opportunity to find the things I didn’t know I was looking for. – Melanie
Woman of the Week Lessons & Tips: On Relationships
Traveling is the best way to get to know a person. To date, I’ve traveled with all of my treasured friends and family, and because of that, I’ve seen them at their worst and at their best and vice-versa. – Christine
You will learn who your real friends are while you’re away. Prepare yourself that life won’t be the same when you return home because you won’t be the same. – Becca
Travel without your partner. Whether that means going solo, with your best friend, with colleagues, or all of the above, go for it! When I tell people that I’m going on a medical mission, I often get asked, “What is your husband going to do?” which I think is an odd question. I love my husband and we definitely travel plenty together, but I absolutely believe that our relationship is enriched by having individual experiences and chasing our own passions! And in order to make that happen, make sure to choose a partner who supports your wanderlust and isn’t afraid to let you go after your dreams. – Emily
Woman of the Week Lesson: On Going with the Flow and Leaving Behind Expectations
Never expect everything to go the way you planned, but go with the flow because it allows for so many new possibilities to come it. Trust that everything happens for a reason. – Stef
It has helped me understand that things will never go as planned and that when things go wrong, I can always turn it around. Stepping out of my comfort zone has always been a stressful thing for me, but traveling has taught me that it’ll never be as bad as I thought. – Jhanz
If I had to pick just one, it would be the value of knowing that the media often portrays the worst of different cultures and people outside of the US (and even within probably). Seeing for yourself that you can’t judge populations of people based on one news story is something that I think extrapolates to all things in life. In my field in particular, the need for culturally informed mental health professionals and programs is apparent. The biases of other people do not have to be your own – go and see for yourself and make your own judgements AFTER experiencing! – Laura
With air travel, we laugh and say we have to go into our “Zen” mode when we get ready to do international travel. You have to be flexible, and just prepare for whatever. It doesn’t always go smoothly and there are surprises along the way but it’s a part of the adventure! And the surprises sometime end up being great – a whole adventure that you hadn’t even expected, and that’s what’s fun about it. You have to have an open mind. You can’t get frustrated over a flight being delayed or you sitting on the tarmac for a while – you just kind of go with it. – Leana
The best lesson I’ve learned from my travels has been to expect the unexpected. Even with the perfect itinerary or picturesque destination, something can always go wrong. Go with it. Embrace it. You can’t let that deter you from living your best life! – Sojourner
Go in knowing that things will go wrong. You’ll have unexpected costs and you won’t always follow your itinerary. Just to keep an open mind and appreciate the adventure… even in the hard times. – Marie
Woman of the Week Lesson: We’re Not That Different
The more I travel and the more I meet people from different cultures, backgrounds, and circumstances, the more I realize that for the most part, we have a lot more in common than we suspect. No matter where we were born or what language we speak, we do what we must to fulfill our basic needs: feed our stomachs, clothe and shelter ourselves and our loved ones. Beyond that, we feed our souls, we nourish our curiosity about one another, we seek to love and be loved, and we chase joy where we can find it. – Vanessa
The most important thing is that all people are the same and they all want the same thing. If you’re courteous and you smile they will do anything for you. – Hazel
That everyone is the same. Regardless of their shape, background, religion or ideology….everyone has sad times, everyone can be happy. If we forget our differences and instead hone in on what makes us human, the world would be a better place. – Una
We are all a lot more alike than we think. Everyone on this planet has commonalities so don’t judge others. Everyone has their own life path and finds their way at different stages of life and at different paces, regardless of their age. And a majority of people on this earth enjoy good cheese and quality wine (or whatever alcoholic beverage is popular in the region) so you’ll generally always find friends. – Angela
Woman of the Week Lesson: But Sometimes We’re a Little Different…
Probably that when you go somewhere and you’re experiencing a different culture or a different way of life – to keep in mind that you’re there to learn and experience and not to judge. That culture belongs to those people, and it isn’t right or wrong and there is no best way to live. – Anna D
The best thing that I’ve learned from my trips is that my way of living and thinking doesn’t suit everybody’s situation and the way I see happiness is not the same way some people see it. I’ve met people that didn’t agree with the fact that traveling would make you feel free and would teach you different things about nations, people and places, as they thought time with family in their own house and getting to know better the members of their families meant more. I’ve met people that, what I considered little for them meant a lot and I’ve met people that what I thought is a lot for them was nothing. The best lesson I’ve learned is to listen and never judge or try to change a person or a place to your liking, accept them for who and what they are! – Cristina
Woman of the Week Tips: On Safety and Traveling as a Woman
Be ok with being scared. It’s a scary world out there! And if you are an American reading this, it is part of our culture to stay home and be scared so it’s not just you! It’s a lot of us. – Kelley
Do not stay at home fettered by fear. Photography drives me to get out of home and explore. Find your mojo, use common sense to stay safe and go see this big wide world! – Paroma
Don’t listen to the fear-mongering advice of people who hasn’t even stepped foot into that destination. Most people are influenced by media hype, and their advice will always be based off of that. However, it is still important to stay safe and do more research for advices and reviews. The best ones will be from the people who have actually been there. They will be the ones who will give you tips and warnings, but they usually recommend visiting the place in the end. Also, sign up for news alerts as well. Always be aware of your surroundings and be vigilant. – Kate
Don’t believe everything you read about how dangerous other countries are because a lot of it borders on hysteria. Find women that live or work in the country you want to visit and ask them what it’s like. I’ve noticed that sisterhood is huge amongst female travelers and we look out for each other. Ultimately, you’re much more prepared and resilient than you think. Don’t hesitate and wait for the perfect time to travel. Reach out to other women, make a plan and buy a ticket. – Elizabeth
My travel tip would be to stay safe but ignore all the people who try to scare you out of doing things. Often times I’ve had adults warn me against travels and how I need to be careful constantly, which I do, but I’ve found that people’s cautions aren’t necessarily based in fact and you can’t completely avoid all risks. Be safe and prepare for different risks, but don’t travel so cautiously that you miss out on opportunities. – Anna V
I have learned to give people the benefit of the doubt. Many times I was out traveling on my own and had to rely on an actual map to get me around, but I also had the help of local people to find my way around the city. – Abbey
Never think you can’t go somewhere or do an activity because you’re a woman or you’re traveling alone or you should be doing something else with your life (aka working). – Latifah
Woman of the Week Tips: Some Logistical Considerations
Hotels look and feel the same no matter where you are, so I almost always opt for Airbnb’s and I’ve had great experiences around the world. Staying in local accommodations gives you insight into how locals actually live and makes for a much more authentic trip. – Kim
I always get an international SIM card. It’s so simple to get one, and data is usually SO much cheaper than it is in the US. For me it just gives me peace of mind to not have to worry about finding wifi all the time if I need to use Google maps or Uber or make a call in an emergency. IT’S WORTH IT. You’re worth it. – Melissa
Women, there is nothing like travelling solo. Once in your life, you must travel somewhere alone. You would feel the ecstasy you haven’t felt before, ever. You will learn so much about yourself that you didn’t know. Apart from that, whenever you travel, make sure you always, always have your phone and your wallet close to you. They are always a life saver. And yes, don’t ever plan your trip down to each minute. Select your destination, make a list of places you would like to visit there and consult the map on the routes. Travel by foot as much as you can, the true beauty of any place is generally best explored by foot. – Bhavi
Pack light! I had my suitcase, my suitcase was over 50 pounds when I got to the airport – granted it was 3 weeks and the weather was supposed to be hot and cold so I had to pack for all of that. But that was difficult because we moved around a lot and I had to carry that around and take things out of it at the airport. I did feel well prepared, there was nothing I was really missing, but I definitely had a lot of extra stuff. So pack light, it’s easier. – Emily S
One travel tip I’d share is that it can be nice to disconnect and stay off of Wi-Fi sometimes. During the Guatemala program there were entire days that the Wi-Fi wasn’t working, and I felt like those were the times I was most productive and I did some reading and explored the area. I think it helps you live in the moment a little more. – Tahvi
I love to research my destinations and always have some sort of plan. I don’t always follow the plan but it gives me some kind of security. Listen to people and their advise but always go your own way and make your own discoveries – your experience will most likely be totally different from theirs. – Lena
Get out of your comfort zone. In order to maximize the time in another country I always try to do what the locals do, like taking the metro or going into less touristy areas. You learn a lot more about the people and the culture, and it’s so much better than only having photos of the tourist spots. – Veronica
You do not have to do the touristy attractions wherever you are travelling. I spent a week in London and I was so disappointed with it. I feel like this is because I was focusing my time and money on the places everyone was telling me I had to see or do like the London Eye and Madame Tussauds. These places were not normally what I liked but I thought I couldn’t not do them since I was in London. That being said, my biggest tip is only do what you are completely interested in and do not let anyone guilt you into doing things that you are not interested in! – Gabby
After a while, cities all start to look the same and they usually all offer somewhat similar experiences. It’s good to explore them, but don’t neglect exploring the countryside and the other natural wonders that are unique to the country you’re in. – Haley
Not only research things to do but also include research on what and where to EAT. Food can make or break a trip (in my opinion) and doing a little bit of research into finding out what the local delicacies are and where to try them can help make a trip truly memorable. – Frances
Take a jar of peanut butter! Because you never know – it’s good protein. You can usually find bread, or just stick your finger in it and eat it! – Leana
Woman of the Week Tips: Some Parting Inspiration
If you want to travel you have to make it your priority, which sadly means less shopping and going out. – Holly
Go with your gut feeling. That will never lead you astray. If you want to do something, do something for your own self, whether you’re in a group or not. If you’re solo that’s pretty easy, but if you’re in a group then don’t forget about your own wants and needs and what you want to see. – Stef
It’s ok to attend bars alone. I personally don’t go out much and I have a low alcohol tolerance, however, I would take my journal to the bar, grab a gin-a-tonic and people watch or listen to live music. You will more than likely be approached, but it is part of the travel experience to meet new people! For the most part, people don’t want to hurt you, they want to keep you company, and learn about you and your travels. – Lilly
Some travel experiences downright stink. Sometimes NOTHING goes your way. Items are more expensive than you intended, you lose your luggage, your personal belongings are stolen through customs (this is just downright terrible), DON’T let that stop you from travel! – Helena
Don’t be afraid to break a stereotype. I’m single, a Mormon, in my 30s, have a job, car, and all the debt that goes with it. I still make traveling a priority and so can you! – Rachelle
JUST GO! It seems scary but committing is the first and hardest step – it’s all easy from there! If you’ve been eyeing a country, book your flight and go – who knows who you’ll meet or where you’ll end up. – Alyssa
Just go. Don’t doubt yourself. Don’t overthink. Don’t overplan. Allow yourself to be surprised. Allow yourself to get lost. Even if it’s just for a day, or half a day, wander unfamiliar streets by yourself at your own pace. You don’t need to do a solo backpacking trips through Southeast Asia to be an independent female traveler. Start small, and then slowly expand your comfort zone. You won’t regret it! – Leslie
I would say probably to – especially if you’re somewhere where you don’t usually find yourself – not say “no”. Or at least be very judicious with your no’s. At home, I’m type A, a planner, I like routine. But it could be as little as trying that food, or “I’ve already eaten a croissant, do I need this baguette?” Yes, you do, you’re in the heart of France! – Maya
Again, a HUGE THANK YOU to each and every woman who helped create this “first season” of the Woman of the Week Series. I plan to continue with a “season two” but I’m working on modifying the questions and format just a bit. I want to continue to talk with inspirational woman, and hopefully learn from ladies from other countries, backgrounds, and professions not included in this first go-round. If you think there’s someone I need to talk with, please send them my way!
In the mean time, happy work, happy travels, and lots of hugs.
XX – Sarah
THANKS FOR READING WOMAN OF THE WEEK: A CELEBRATION!
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