For my 30th birthday I decided to give myself a very special gift, and finally fulfil my dream of walking the Inca Trail – a four-day route that leads to one of the most spectacular and unique places I know: Machu Picchu.
It wasn’t until the beginning of the hike that I realised it was the first time I would be travelling alone. Up to this point, I always had someone waiting to meet me at my destination, but, to go with no one on the other side, to accompany me on the journey, and to share the experience with…this was new.
Much like I did on that day, thousands of women around the world choose to set out and explore – some in groups, and some alone. Travel for women is a trend that has been growing steadily over the last few years.
According to a study performed by the Business School of George Washington University in the United States, two-thirds of today’s travellers are women. The same study confirms that 80% of travel decisions are made by us when it comes to a solo trip, as well as couple getaways, family vacations, or trips with friends.
Interestingly, the reality of women’s wanderlust spirit is not a new phenomenon. Back in the year 381, the pilgrim Egeria began a four-year journey that took her across the Holy Land; a journey that she subsequently immortalised in a series of manuscripts, that have since been put together in the book “The Pilgrimage of Egeria.” Throughout history, women have been travelling, but maintaining the low profile that societal roles demanded of them… until now.
One of the reasons that motivate women to pack their bags and voyage across the world is the increased independence that we enjoy today. Unlike 20 years ago, more women are able to study a profession, work, make and save our own money, and invest it however we please. There is also a growing number of women who are choosing to postpone maternity and marriage so that they can “live different experiences” in search of personal and professional growth.
This wave of female empowerment also determines how we use our time, often looking for activities that break up the mundane. Many women decide to take long journeys to destinations that take them out of their comfort zones, uncovering a new facet of their personalities, and a novel aspect of their travel profile: the adventurer.
During my hike through the Inca Trail, I encountered many women who were very far from home. My companions on the trek included a family in which Paula, the mother, had asked her family to traverse the trail as a 60th birthday present (What a coincidence!). This unique group included one baby boomer, a millennial, and a centennial – Paula’s daughter was just 19 – who came together to share an unforgettable and unique experience.
This adventurous spirit directly connects to one’s desire to disconnect. Work, family, and daily obligations can quickly become overwhelming, triggering the need to leave one’s everyday life behind temporarily. For some, travelling can be therapeutic, allowing them to reconnect with themselves, overcome difficult moments in life, and test their skills in ways that subsequently increase self-esteem.
A NEW AUDIENCE
In that search for the perfect experience, some women choose to organize their trip on their own using the tools offered by the internet, such as specialized pages, reviews or social media. However, given the new travel conditions brought by the global pandemic, there is an increase in the group that prefers to leave the arrangements to the experts.
In light of this new travel trend, some travel agencies offer experiences designed for this public. These specialised programs are often put together by a female leader, and the travel groups consist only of women. Considering the varied preferences that might present themselves in a given group, the packages have an array of activities that look to satisfy aspects of each person’s desires and expectations and provide them with the best experience of their life.
The motto behind these itineraries is to permit travellers to delve into the essence of their destiny, while they tour the most popular destinations and sites. Interaction with locals is indispensable, as it is a way to learn about and understand native customs and habits of life on a deeper level. The sustainable development of the communities visited is also prioritised and assisted through the consumption of local products, and the use of resources supplied and managed by locals like restaurants, lodging, workshops, etc. All this and more without overlooking the details, including luxuries for those who are searching for indulging themselves.
Peru is a good destination thinking about travel for women because of its diversity of attractions. The travel agencies have designed itineraries according to what the market requires, and the kind of clients they cater to. Some of them place focus on adventure and incorporate hikes, others are centred around relaxation activities - like yoga and massage, and then there are those that include experiential tourism opportunities in rural communities. Many of these packages also incorporate destinations other than Cusco and Machu Picchu, like Puno and the Lake Titicaca, the Paracas National Reserve in Ica, or an adventure in Puerto Maldonado’s jungle with a stay in an ecolodge.
To be a powerful woman goes beyond just economic stability and confidence. It is about getting the most out of life and its experiences, being brave enough to step out of one’s self-constructed bubble and using travel as a way to open one’s eyes to the world. After experiencing it, I can assure you that it is a feeling worth more than money can buy.