The Transformational Power of Travel – Women Talking talks to Catherine Gallagher, co-founder of Women Travel Leaders, a professional association for top-performing women in the travel industry who believe in the transformational power of travel. Their focus is to elevate other female travel leaders through community connections, peer-to-peer coaching, tailored community lead learning and masterminding.
What was your inspiration behind Women Travel Leaders?
“When I had my own travel business, I sometimes felt lost. I wasn’t sure who to ask for help or what help I needed. It was a steep learning curve and I wish I’d had the support of a trusted community of like-minded women that I could call on when I needed it. So, together with my business partner – Jennine Cohen, we created a membership community to support top-level women in the travel industry”.
How does it inspire other women?
“When a woman sees another woman in a similar situation to them, they realise they are not alone! And this inspires them to keep moving forwards”.
Have you always enjoyed travelling?
“Yes! Well at least I’ve always enjoyed the idea of travel – my uncle was always jetting off to exotic places and I gazed in wonder and dreamed that one day I would get to travel the world like him! Up until I was 16, I’d never been on a plane and had mainly travelled around England on family holidays. As soon as I had the chance to go further afield, I was off!”
What are your favourite destinations?
“Morocco! With just a 4-hour flight from London, you feel like you’re in an entirely different world. I love the contrast of the vibrant, colourful souks of Marrakech with the calm oasis of a beautiful Riad and the backdrop of the snow-capped peaks of the mountains, not to mention the tropical gardens, dusty roads, deserts, ocean, the list goes on! It’s a destination that really brings the senses alive.
“I am also a self-confessed Francophile (love the French language and love croissants… oh and champagne of course!) and my latest favourite is Slovenia, or I should say sLOVEnia – they’re proud to be the only country with love in their name! The people have a wonderful sense of humour, they have incredible mountains, white water canyons of the Soca Valley and fairy tale woodland cabins (including a ‘chocolate village‘ with treehouses!)”
How has the world of travel changed for women over the years?
“Great question! Generally speaking, we are incredibly lucky to be able to travel solo and completely independently – something that was unheard of in days gone by.
“For some, there is still fear around travelling solo (unfortunately unwanted male attention is still rife in certain corners of the world).
“The other trend I’ve noticed is women whose kids have flown the nest and want to experience some adventure. My feeling is that older women are more adventurous than older men! This has seen an emergence of women-only trips which creates a wonderful opportunity for like-minded women to experience travel safely.
“There are also some great initiatives like women-only drivers and tour guides which for those that want to travel on their own means that they can feel a lot more comfortable doing so – not to mention the positive impact that this is having in terms of women in leadership roles”.
What’s the most inspiring/life-changing trip you’ve had?
“That’s a tough one! I feel the same about this as I do with business. For me, there hasn’t been one defining moment, it’s been more of a series of moments and encounters that have shaped me.
“If I had to pick one it would probably be the first trip I took out of Europe. Having mainly been on camping holidays in England, suddenly I was transported to the hectic, hot, and colourful Sri Lanka. It was a complete culture shock. I was 16 and went for 4 weeks with a group of young people. We stayed with local families – a mixture of Singhalese and Tamil, amongst other things it opened my eyes to real-world gender disparity and racial prejudice, as well as kindness, compassion, and the importance of cultural exchange. When I look back at that – what a wonderful and enriching experience”.
What benefits do you believe travel has?
“It depends on the type of travel. You can have a family holiday which has the all-important personal benefit of taking time out and re-charging. And then you have ‘travel travel’! And within that, there are many different types too – with varying benefits. For example, you can be backpacking – benefits include learning resilience, cultural exchange in its rawest sense, or it could be an organised luxury travel experience with knowledgeable tour guides or a conversationist that educates you – you come away having learnt things you’d never learnt at school or in a book – and things that you can take home with you. I really believe that travel is the best education.”
Founders Jennine and Catherine came together from across an ocean with a common vision and purpose. Both successful luxury and adventure travel professionals and life coaches, their desire was to bring the magic of coaching to their female peers in the adventure travel industry.