#YoViajoSola: Pushing the Boundaries in Our Quito and Mexico City Chapters
Wanderful’s strength is in our community of kind, helpful, and globally-minded women from around the world and our local chapter directors are the driving force behind it all. They’ve been organizing events in cities all across the globe for women to build lasting relationships with their global sisters and to push the boundaries in all aspects of travel.
Elizabeth Wright-Veintimilla of our Quito chapter and Pamela Garcia of our Mexico City chapter have been hosting events under the hashtag #YoViajoSola (meaning “I travel on my own”) over the last few months. Solo travel for women is largely frowned upon in their home countries but Elizabeth and Pamela have been hosting these events to shift the conversation away from the dangers of solo travel for women and shed light on the inspiration, empowerment, and importance of this independent style of travel. They have been building a powerful and necessary community for women to support each other in their adventures, however near or far, and in spite of all social pressures.
Our founder and CEO Beth sat down to chat with Elizabeth and Pamela to learn more about what they’ve been doing and why.
Beth: What’s the purpose of #YoViajoSola? Why did you decide to put together this kind of event?
Elizabeth: The purpose of #YoViajoSola is to create spaces where women can share stories, information, and advice about traveling alone with other women who may or may not have traveled alone before. I decided to put together this kind of event because I noticed there are no intimate, dynamic, and safe spaces to share our stories.
I also realized that as women who travel alone, we are touched and affected by all sorts of experiences and conditions: mental and emotional health, harassment and violence, motherhood, immigration, sexism, ageism, and so much more. For me, it’s important to reclaim our right to travel alone without violence and prejudice.
The hashtag #YoViajoSola often becomes viral after women are killed while traveling in Latin America. It happened to two Argentinian women in Ecuador in 2016 and to a Mexican woman in Costa Rica in 2018. The hashtag is used to defend and protect the victims from victim-blaming in the media and society in general, which is why I decided to name the events this.
Pamela: I decided to follow the Quito Chapter with this amazing event because I saw how many women were interested in sharing their stories and their travel tips, and overall to be able to inspire others and listen to each other. Also, I have not heard of a space open to women to talk about travel solo in Mexico. I believe that it is good for women to know that there are other women in the same country, even in the same city, with a similar passion for traveling!
B: What’s it like to be a woman in Latin America who loves to travel?
P: Sadly it is not as easy as I would like it to be. First of all, in Latin America – in my case, Mexico – our families think we, as women, should not go out by ourselves because it is dangerous, and that makes our decisions more complicated. Also, it is not usual in my country to take a gap year. When I expressed what I was going to do, I received negative comments that made me feel unsupported by friends and relatives. But on the other hand, these difficulties make us stronger and fuel our desire to go for more and share our experiences with others.
E: I have mixed feelings about it. It feels empowering because traveling fosters independence, self-awareness, and strength in a society that makes us feel like we need a man by our side to accomplish our dreams and do things (#machismo). A lot of women in the #YoViajoSola events have shared how differently their loved ones see them after they traveled. People comment on how badass and cool they are for doing it. So I think it’s great to be seen (and see yourself) that way.
At the same time though, it’s really scary because we know what could happen to us (anywhere we go). People also question and judge our decision to travel and dealing with that is not very nice. I’ve had the travel bug ever since I was a teenager because my dad had it too and my mom supports my travel plans. I think it’s too late to go back, the travel bug is here to stay!
Why did you decide to start a Wanderful chapter?
P: I lived in the US for two years and after having an amazing experience of studying abroad, working, travelling, and getting involved in American culture, a lot of friends – mostly women – reached out to me with positive comments regarding inspiration or advice for travelling.
In a trip I did to Quebec City, I met two women in the hostel room I stayed at who were attending the Women in Travel Summit. They told me everything about Wanderful and they mentioned to me that the organization did not have a chapter in Latin America. When I came back to my country, I did not doubt sending an email to Beth, because I felt it could be a big opportunity to connect and bring trust and inspiration to Latinas to travel.
E: Well, I didn’t know of any organizations or projects that combine feminism and travel together (two of my favorite things in the world!) So after a quick Google search, I found Wanderful and immediately wanted to get involved on a local and global level. I am very passionate about creating spaces for women to connect, build friendships, share stories, and learn from each other. I think that’s exactly what Wanderful chapters do!
B: Tell me about your events! How did they go? What was special about them?
P: My first #YoViajoSola was so inspiring. Before the event, travelers were so excited and wanted to share their stories. There were 15 people who attended and I couldn’t be more thankful because we all connected with each other! The panelists all had something in common, but the way they shared their experiences were different! It was magical. It was like we finally found someone who understood our feelings regarding traveling. Also, 3 men assisting in the event expressed their admiration for us women and stated that being a woman was more difficult in all aspects. They encouraged us to keep doing what we are doing.
In the end, the owner of Chez Vous #TimeCafe (where #YoViajoSola took place) even expressed her support to host the following events!
E: Where do I start?! There was so much response from women who wanted to participate that I ended up organizing eight events instead of one! It just goes to show that a lot of women travel alone and that we have a lot to share!
I decided to make them as participatory as possible so that all panelists and moderators could have a say about how each event was built. We always had a meeting a few days before the event so that we could all share our ideas, as well as our reasons for wanting to participate in #YoViajoSola. The main goal of the meeting was to come up with the questions for each event.
These gatherings were very powerful because we were all different in terms of age, career, personality, and lifestyle, but we all shared the power of being women who’ve traveled alone and ended up getting along very well. The events went great, most of them had between 20-30 people (mostly women).
B: How do you hope the environment for women travelers will change in your home countries?
P: Having a Wanderful chapter in Mexico City creates an important piece of trust. I need to work harder so that travelers or women who want to start their adventure know that there is a community that understands, helps, and connects us. More than that, I think that being loyal to our thoughts, talking about the good experiences, and sharing tips on how to try to avoid the bad ones can help empower more women to start traveling.
Also, it’s important for me to share that traveling is not an activity that is just for people with money. Even a small trip to a place you have not been to in your own city changes you, teaches you something. I hope more people realize this.
E: I hope that Ecuadorian women, as well as foreigners and immigrants here, feel supported by their family and friends when they decide to travel or move somewhere. If our loved ones’ response is to support us rather than judge us (or even worse, make us feel even more scared to do it), we will more likely enjoy our plans and accomplish our dreams that are so important to us.
I mentioned earlier that when something bad happens to a woman while traveling (alone or with girlfriends), they are immediately blamed for not being accompanied by a man or for wearing something ‘provocative’. They put the responsibility of the crime to the victim instead of the criminal who harmed her. It’s something that really bothers me and hope it will change. We have the right to travel and exist without violence, regardless of what we’re doing, where we are or what we’re wearing.
B: What are the next events you’re planning?
P: I am planning to do the next #YoViajoSola this month. I am also planning some coffee chats to get to know more travelers and make friends.
E: We’re actually working on publishing a travel notebook for women who travel alone, inspired by the #YoViajoSola events. The notebook is divided into three chapters: before, during, and after the trip. It will include reflections, advice, and information that we shared in the events so that women who buy the notebook can somehow ‘take us with them’. We think that embracing our own company and solitude is important but that needing a friend to talk to and ask for help is also valid. The notebook is called “Me Voy de Casa” (inspired by a song by Natalia Lafourcade). People can find us on Facebook and Instagram at @mevoydecasa.ec. Please follow us and share with your networks!
Join our local Quito and Mexico City Wanderful chapters today and get involved with #YoViajoSola!
Learn More About Our Chapter Directors
Pamela was born and raised in Xochimilco, Mexico City. Her first approach with traveling solo was a national exchange program to La Paz, Baja California South. It was then that she first realized how different people’s lives can be even when in the very same country. She returned to Mexico City for an internship in the Secretary of Foreign Affairs where she learned the ways in which Mexico interacts with other countries. Fueled by this new knowledge, Pamela decided to take a gap year in New York after college to improve her English skills, work as an au pair, and volunteer with a non-profit organization helping immigrants to integrate smoothly in their new communities. She returned to Mexico and seized the opportunity to start a Wanderful chapter to continue connecting with travelers.
Elizabeth is a transnational feminist activist from Quito. She considers herself a multipotentialite (a person who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life). Her areas of interest and expertise include: sexual and domestic violence, reproductive rights, public policy and feminist emotional health. She has over 6 years of work experience at nonprofit organizations and NGOs. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Hampshire College (USA) with a concentration onInternational Development & Gender Dynamics in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. For her thesis she founded Picture Her Story (PHS), an arts-based participatory project for women to tell their stories of sexual violence through their own art. After graduating, Ely moved back to Quito where she worked with the city’s local government as the person in charge of their Mujer Rural (Rural Woman) program. She is currently working on publishing a travel notebook for women who travel alone and is moving to Europe this fall to pursue her Masters.