By Sinead Mulhern
Of all my trips exploring Ontario cottage country, one particular weekend with my best girl friends stands out. Now that I’ve just left Canada, I’m sure I’ll value these memories even more in the months to come. The girls who I grew up with were – and continue to be – a boisterous, foolhardy crew and so when, in our early twenties, one of us suggested a canoe camping trip, the idea took hold. We crammed our gear into the truck, drove north, packed the essentials into two silver canoes and paddled through the waters of Pointe au Baril in Georgian Bay. That weekend, we chopped wood, built raging fires, constructed a tarp shelter to weather stormy hours and cracked cans of beer as we dipped our paddles into the bay, our battered muscles moving the canoe forward.
Trips like this and others that followed lead me to strongly feel that all-female trips are an experience like no other. Whether travelling with a group of lifelong friends or meeting a pack of adventurous women halfway across the globe, the benefits of exploring with other women are not in short supply. Cement-strong bonds form fast when exploring unknown territory plus instances of everyday sexism are fewer. This in turn affords the space for female travellers to move confidently and develop necessary travel skills. There’s the fact too that some women simply prefer to travel in an all-female crowd.
I’ve been lucky to have always had a band of lady friends eager to accompany me in my adventures. My crew from childhood also experienced not just cottage country but the nation’s capital, Toronto and Alabama. When I visited a friend in Brazil, I quickly became pals with her two best friends as we road tripped up the northeast coast for a beachy weekend. In 2016, a close friend and I flew south to see the third woman in our troop who had recently become a Colombian transplant. There, we chatted about relationships and early career goals and raided each other’s suitcases. We went to a Caribbean island laughing over boozy coconut cocktails by turquois shores and commiserating over sunburnt skin at night. These memories, to me, are priceless.
Not every woman with a case of wanderlust has an all-girl group on board. What then? Those curious about travelling the globe are spoiled in 2018 – not just for choice but for style of travel. If my personal experience sparks envy, know that many travel companies have stepped in to do the heavy lifting. If spending the next vacation abroad surrounded by a like-minded sisterhood sounds appealing, know that cementing plans is just a matter of finding the all-girls-club that fits.
WHOA Travel is one-such example in the sea of female travel groups. The boutique adventure company is founded by Allison Fleece and Danielle Thornton who stepped aside from their careers after an adventure in Kilimanjaro. They inspire women around the world to step outside of their comfort zones by booking one of their tours. Adventure Women is a company of a similar concept run for women by women. Its focus is to take other adventurous ladies on active trips for once-in-a-lifetime experience. Collectively its organizers have been to 65 countries. In other words: they know their stuff.
For the woman who craves solitude during the day with a little company later on, all-female hostels and hotels are a smart choice. Hostelle, for example, is a wise play on words “hostel” and “elle” to indicate that this place is for women and girls only. Started by Bianca Brasdorp, this Amsterdam abode is a comfortable zone for any woman – backpacker or business tripping nine-to-fiver – who finds herself in this corner of Europe. Closer to home, Canada’s capital also sets a positive example with Barefoot Hostel, a space which, since 2016, has been inviting to women of all ages and backgrounds. These are just a few. Whether a woman is looking for beach glamping or a rigorous trek, there’s an all-female crowd waiting. She just has to look.
My friends and I packed up and canoed down the river well before dawn. We arrived home our feet black from going barefoot all weekend and our air-dried hair wavy and clinging to the smoky campfire smell. That trip was one for the books: I became closer with those girls and learned how to make a roaring fire. Since then, we’ve moved farther first to different cities and then countries. At the time, it was a simple long weekend away. Now that we’re dispersed, I think back on that trip as a cherished memory.