Have you ever dreamed of traveling the world, but you’ve found that you have no one to travel with? Me too, girl! There can easily be a stigma that is driven by fear that says women shouldn’t travel alone; however, we as women have the capacity to experience our best adventures when we let go of fear to try something new. Growing up, my mom has always been the best travel partner, but somewhere inside there’s always this part of you that wants a group of gal pals to explore the unknown with, am I right?
Jodi Wei, CEO and founder of Travel Her Way, started a female-led initiative that gives women the opportunity to travel with other like-minded female adventures to discover the world through trekking visits. While their office is based in Chicago, Illinois, they send women to excursions throughout the entire globe, empowering them to take a chance on flying solo for a change. This adventure-seeking travel company is an avenue for women to not only book the dream trip of a lifetime, but it’s also an opportunity to serve the nations in a tangible way. If you’re an avid traveller who is filled with a passionate desire to build community and experience the world around you, this one’s for you.
What was your first job and how did you land it?
My first job was a data analyst with a financial technology company in Chicago. When I graduated from college, it was right after the great recession of 2008. The job market was really bad at that time, and it was even harder for a foreigner who needs work visa sponsorship from the employer. I networked hard through friends, families, and alumni. I landed an internship with the company first, which later turned into a full-time job. I always believe that if you want something enough, you will find ways to make it happen.
What creative process brought you to start an organization like Travel Her Way, and what all does it offer?
Born and raised in China, I grew up in an environment where women were expected to behave in certain ways and meet different cultural expectations. I was once very self-conscious and worried too much about what others thought of me. It was my solo journey around the world that helped me build my inner strength and made me believe in myself; and believe that I could do anything. I wanted to share my adventure and experiences with other women. My hope is to inspire them to take on challenges and do things they never thought they could do. In this day and age, I truly believe women can do anything.
Sometimes we just need some courage to make it happen. I believe the best way to empower and inspire others is by sharing authentic experiences. This was the basis of Travel Her Way and why I decided to do all-female trips — to gather like-minded females and provide a space to encourage each other and themselves. When you see your girl tribe able to trek to the foothill of the world’s highest mountain, you know you can do it, too.
I believe the best way to empower and inspire others is by sharing authentic experiences.
A cool component of Travel Her Way (that I love) is the giving back aspect of the company. What does sustainable tourism do to empower people from other parts of the world?
It actually started during one of my travels. I was doing a multi-day trekking trip in the Everest region (Nepal), where I had visited a village named Khumjung, a beautiful village where you can see the Himalayas when the sky is clear. I was wandering around the village and saw women doing farm work and building houses. Usually those types of jobs in Nepal were considered men’s work. I asked my guide why and he told me that those women were widows — their husbands were expedition staff and had died in an avalanche when summiting the Everest. Fortunately, women living in this village are able to learn essential skills to make a living and they help each other. Women living in the developing countries, such as Nepal, have little or no education, no land rights, or independent income.
They are voiceless and they need help. I was really touched to see how strong those women are and how they support each other to survive. It’s not an easy job for them. After seeing the world, I truly wanted to find a way to help those in need. Travel Her Way has built the Care Her Way program to launch different charity projects. I am currently working with a local NGO, Volunteers Initiative Nepal, to develop a charity trek that will combine the Everest base camp trek and women-empowerment volunteer program. Volunteers will teach Nepalese women different kinds of skill sets and knowledge — including life skills, leadership skills, English speaking, and women’s rights.
Sometimes the most intimidating thing about travel is traveling alone. As women, why should we not let this hold us back from experiencing life overseas?
When I excitedly announced that I had quit my job and was going to travel solo around the world for a year, everybody thought I was out of my mind. My friends started to tell me horror stories about how dangerous the world was — kidnap, rape, human trafficking, etc. Plus I had never traveled alone before, and people thought I wouldn’t be able to accomplish my trip. Even my husband believed that it was a mission impossible and I would return home in one month. However, 14 months later, I visited 27 countries and 7 continents and successfully accomplished my dream to travel around the world. I am not going to lie: you will feel lonely and sad at times — you won’t have your loved ones to take care of you when you’re sick, and sometimes you’ll receive unwanted attention in places where your physical appearance is different. However, none of those should stop you from traveling. After staying on the road for a year, I discovered that being a solo female traveler has many advantages.
Traveling alone is not a vacation. You have to step out of your comfort zone and be your own master. It was not easy at the beginning, but I soon realized how powerful, strong, and resourceful I have become throughout my trip. I hope every woman would have the chance to travel alone at least once in their lifetime. It was the best gift that I have ever given to myself.
Traveling alone is not a vacation. You have to step out of your comfort zone and be your own master.
Being an avid sightseer, what bucket-list destination has been the most breathtaking to you?
I have to say, it’s really a tough choice, as there’s something to love at every destination I have been to. However, if I have to pick one, the most breathtaking bucket-list destination has to be the white continent: Antarctica. So far it’s been the adventure of my lifetime. We did a 10-day expedition that challenged me every step of the journey. From severe seasickness across the roughest waters in the world to exhausting hikes to the top of glaciers in extreme cold, sleeping in an ice hole that I dug for myself with a ridiculously tiny shovel, to a polar plunge (I still don’t understand why I did that to myself). The adventure was both a physical test as well as a mental one. I conquered my fear and in return, I was treated to a truly unforgettable travel experience.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Fake it ’til you make it.
What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?
At 22, you probably don’t know what you want to do or what you are good at yet. It’s okay to feel confused at this age. Relaxed, ask questions, try things and be patient. When you are open to what you could be doing, opportunities will present themselves.