A note from Wanderful’s Founder and CEO Beth Santos on how 2020 forced the travel industry to redesign itself. Plus, a look ahead at how we can relaunch travel in 2021.

At the beginning of 2020, I stood on five stages at the Travel & Adventure Show, telling hundreds of audience members about how now was the time to travel solo.

I remember sitting on the Denver airport rail on my way downtown to the convention center where the Show was being held. Looking out at the landscape in front of me, I marveled at how just a couple of weeks prior I was battling a snowstorm in Iceland, and a few weeks later I would be on a beach somewhere in Barbados.

The Barbados trip never happened. Nor did Philadelphia, or Rome, or any number of other plans that were so carefully hidden up my sleeve.

It turns out my Year of Nonstop Travel Plans had plans for me, too.

Such was the case for so many of us, whether we planned for a big year-long RTW trip, or a mother-daughter birthday tour, or a family cruise.

For months, I pored over stories sent from our readers about spectacular adventures that were delayed or even canceled altogether. Those stories shared an emptiness inside so many of us caused by canceled plans and the inability to travel. Not to mention the unspeakable loss of employment and, most importantly, of life, that has affected so many of us this year.

It’s easy to take a look at 2020 and put it down in the books as the Year We All Wish We Could Forget.

But it’s done good things for us, too. Things that could only happen if we would all come to a full, simultaneous stop. And we did.

Maybe that’s focusing more on your family than you thought you would, or trying your hand at baking bread for the first time. Maybe it’s exploring your own backyard rather than traveling across the world, and in that way, redefining what travel actually is in the first place.

Travel is not something to be experienced externally, but something that transforms us on the inside.

For Wanderful, 2020 was all about redesign.

We redesigned what it meant to travel and to be a traveler.

In March, we rebuilt our membership program to offer virtual events, meetups, cooking classes, language circles, and other meetups so we can experience the benefits of travel – trying new things and meeting new people – without leaving our desks.

We now have nearly 3,000 amazing members in our community and a sisterhood of women who support one another, especially during this year of non-travel.

Having fun in a Tuscan cooking class, literally hosted in Tuscany!

We redesigned what we wanted our travel industry to look like.

Wanderful hosted two WITS Online events that focused on topics in accessibility and inclusion and also launched the three-part Moving Forward Anti-Racism Town Hall for the Travel Industry.

We also hosted a number of public and private webinars and events, in addition to spending a lot of time having conversations about what we want travel to look like and how to make it more equitable for everyone.

We always take a group photo at WITS. This year’s looked slightly different!

We redesigned creation.

We taught the travel industry how to host virtual press trips in light of non-travel. We taught content creators how to incorporate equity and inclusion into their content with the first Anti-Oppression Toolkit for Travel & Culture Creators.

We challenged people to think about what content creation can and should be like in the travel world.

You can click above to download a free copy of our anti-oppression toolkit

We redesigned community.

While our chapters took a hiatus from meeting in person, we replaced them with opportunities to make meaningful connections on the web through our member community. These included our popular 60+ travelers meetup, our monthly Wanderful Women Wednesday, and our bi-monthly new member welcome party where we take some time to honor the new women who have found us in our network.

We found new ways to host our conferences. We created opportunities to build meaningful, international connections between content creators and brands by launching initiatives like Virtual Meetings Day – all ways to build a network without even getting up from your desk.

But, most importantly, we learned a lot about ourselves and our Wanderful women.

We learned that the women in the Wanderful community don’t just think about travel every once in a while. Instead, travel – and the gifts that travel gives us — live and thrive in us. Though in many ways we’ve lost our air, this year we’ve found new ways to breathe.

In this year, we’ve seen:

  • 553 new members who have joined the sisterhood, bringing our total membership to over 3,000 women
  • Over 150 events for Wanderful women to connect, learn, and grow, hosting thousands of attendees
  • 8 new chapters hosted in places like Fort Worth, Delhi, Atlanta, and Vilnius
  • Press mentions in top publications like Business Insider, Forbes, Phocuswire, Skift and more
  • A much stronger examination of what travel is — and what it should be

2021 will bring more of this, but on a whole new level.

Now that we’ve had a taste of our homemade bread and our family togetherness time, now that we have our new definitions of travel and community and creation, 2021 will challenge us to keep the good habits even while travel begins to open up again.

The question is: Will we be able to ease back into travel with the lessons that 2020 has taught us, or will they be quickly forgotten in a rush of booking flights and making up for lost time?

How much will we really invest in making travel more equitable, inclusive, and diverse?

That’s why our focus in 2021 is on relaunch.

We’re not just focused on creating new things. We’re looking at the designs we built in 2020 and making sure we’re actually applying and incorporating them into our work even when travel does return.

What should that include?

  • Thoughtful examination of who travel has been designed for and a shift in marketing strategies from our industry
  • Stronger support of small travel businesses, especially ones that have been hit hard during the pandemic
  • Deeper inclusion of a diversity of voices sharing their travel stories and perspectives
  • More focus on the lessons travel can give us, rather than the number of passport stamps we can accumulate
  • Conscious understanding of how our travels both positively and negatively affect local communities
  • Less travel shaming, especially of solo female travelers, mothers, and other women and gender diverse people

Here’s what you can expect from Wanderful

An exciting launch of our newest platform yet! A tool to meaningfully connect diverse content creators with brands that want to work with them for future partnership and collaboration opportunities.

The announcement of our 2023 Community Antarctica Trip. We’ll hold 100 seats for Wanderful women to join us for a bucket list, life-changing Antarctica expedition in partnership with one of our favorite travel companies.

The third and final edition of Moving Forward is happening on 5 February. We’ll invite hundreds of creators and industry together to workshop plans for 2021 to combat racism and create an inclusive industry for all.

A completely new look to WITS Online! Get ready for five days of virtual press trips, workshops, meetups, inspiring keynotes, and more, happening from 20-24 April.

An inspiring contest that will send one of our community members overseas for a month, all expenses paid!!

Many more free + open public events to educate and engage our community of travelers, creators, and industry.

The relaunch of ticket sales for Wanderfest, the first major outdoor travel festival for women happening in the spring of 2022 in New Orleans.

And, of course, a return to our in-person gatherings with WITS Gdansk happening in Gdansk, Poland, in September.

To everyone who has supported Wanderful as a new member, partner, event attendee, and more – we are so grateful for you, most especially this year but always.

Here’s to a restful new year, a slow crawl back to travel, and a year of abundance for us all.

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