Have you ever wanted to travel to a far-off bucket-list destination but not been able to recruit any of your friends to go with you? Or wanted to travel on your own, but hesitated because of all the horror stories out there about women travelling solo? Jodi Wei, CEO and founder of Travel Her Way, is here to solve just that. Wei grew up in China, moved to America, and after college worked as a data analyst. She went back to school to get her master’s degree and then spent some time working in marketing for a financial tech start-up. After a few years, Wei knew she needed a chance. Itching for adventure, and to the surprise of all those around her, she quit her job and planned a solo trip around the globe, crossing all seven continents. She slept beneath the full moon on Antarctica Peninsula. She mediated in silence for 10 days in the lush countryside of Thailand. And she reached the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro.
The experience taught her that there is nothing more fulfilling than travelling across the globe, encountering different ways of life, and being out there on your own. In order to encourage other young women to travel the world, and to help them foster a sense of community while they’re out there, she created Travel Her Way, a Chicago-based travel company that “inspires and empowers women to explore.” Her team of expert adventurers now plan trips to Bhutan, Nepal (Everest Base Camp), and Peru (Machu Picchu), bringing together groups of women from all over the world, including from the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. Soon, they’ll be adding Tanzania (Kilimanjaro) to their list of offerings as well.
To learn more about Travel Her Way, her inspiration behind launching her own company, and what travel tips she has to offer, we caught up with Wei and asked her all about it. Happy reading, and happy travelling!
So, let’s go back to the beginning. What inspired you to start Travel Her Way?
Since I was a little girl, traveling around the world was a dream of mine. In 2016, I announced that I had finally quit my job to fulfill my dream and embark on a solo expedition around the world. When I told my friends and family, everybody thought I was out of my mind. My friends thought I wouldn’t be able to pull it off, telling me horror stories about how dangerous the world really is. Even my husband, who is unfailingly supportive, believed that it was an impossible feat and that I would return home within a month.
But my passport and a few changes of clothes in hand, I set off and proved to be a woman of my word. I returned home 14 months later having travelled across 27 countries. I successfully accomplished my goal to travel across the globe.
After coming home, I decided to build Travel Her Way, a women-focused adventure travel company with the goal of gathering adventuresses from across the globe and taking them on once-in-a-lifetime expedition trips to the world’s most breathtaking destinations. Our mission is to help women connect, grow, and share authentic experiences.
What were some challenges that you wish you had known about and been prepared for before?
Making a trip around the world is a dream for many, but yet so few people actually do it. In my case, the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was to transform this dream-of-a-lifetime into a tangible, executable plan. We all have so many things going on in our lives—families, job, friends, etc. But once I decided to travel around the world, I made it a priority and developed a plan to make it happen.
It was definitely not an overnight job though. You need to spend a lot of hours doing research and decide when to go, where to go, and create a well-designed trip plan. You need to save enough money for long-term travel. You need to communicate with family about your trip, which can be the worst part. I vividly remember when I first told my mother about my trip; she thought I was making a joke. I received many doubts and questions before I embarked on the journey, and sometimes they were even from myself. During the final hours before my first flight of the trip, I heard my own voice asking the question repeatedly: “What if this is a wrong choice?” Well, life has its ups and downs. The best thing you can do is to enjoy the ride.
Of course, travel is not always glamorous and as perfect as it looks in Instagram pictures. Travel is also long flight delays, getting lost in strange places, feeling homesick, lots of discomforts, and travel scams. I can tell stories about how things failed to go by the travel plan for hours. You need to accept that all of these things may happen, but still want to see the world in a way you have never seen.
Why did you feel like it was important that you catered to women specifically?
I believe that in this day and age, women can do anything. We’re not satisfied with lounging around by the pool. We want to climb mountains, scuba dive, go white-water rafting, and immerse ourselves in the unfamiliar. We want to feel safe without compromising the freedom to discover and experience new things. From my own experience, I know how adventure travel can help women become more confident and independent.
What would you say to a young woman who shied away from the idea of travelling alone?
While I enjoyed traveling alone, there were times when I wished that I had company. Traveling in a group would have been safer, and there were times when I saw something breathtaking, or ate something incredible, or even when something silly happened, that I wished I had companions to share it with. I realized that the best travel experiences are when you see the world with a group of like-minded people. That’s why I established Travel Her Way.
I love that Travel Her Way gives women chance to build a sense of community by travelling in groups. Why do you think this is important?
I believe the best way to empower and inspire others is to share 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.
What are some things young women should be aware of when travelling? What are some safety tips you could offer?
My advice is to take pictures of your important travel documents (such as passport, ID, and reservations) and store them online in a DropBox/Google Drive/iCloud folder that you can access from any computer. That way, if you lose your travel documents,or even your computer or phone, you will still have access to them online.
Travelling can also be so expensive! Do you have any tips on how to keep costs down?
Make plans and book your trips early!
What did you learn from your experience on your solo trip around the globe?
This trip helped me build an inner strength I never knew was there and inspired a belief in myself—a belief that I could do anything. But there was something beyond the personal growth and fulfillment that I gained living life on the road, a realization that one can only reach by truly seeing and experiencing how other people live: I learned how to see the world through other women’s lives.
That leads us well into our next question. I also love that Travel Her Way gives back to the communities that you organize trips to. Can you talk a little bit about Care Her Way?
It all dawned on me during a multi-day trekking trip in the Everest region of Nepal, where I had visited Khumjung, a small village situated just miles from the majestic Himalayas. I was wandering around the village when I spotted several women doing farm work and building houses, jobs that were usually done by the men in Nepal. 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, these particular women were able to learn the essential skills to make a living on their own and help each other along the way. Not all women are that lucky.
Women living in underdeveloped countries such as Nepal customarily have little-to-no education, land rights, or independent income. They are voiceless and in need of help. Empathy swelled inside of me after seeing how strong those women were and how they supported each other in order to merely survive. That day I headed back to camp forever-changed, with a fresh perspective on traveling and an urge to truly find a way to help those in need. Through our charity initiative, Care Her Way, every woman traveler also gets to give back to the places and people they visit. On our upcoming Everest Base Camp Trek, women are given an inside look into the local culture and the opportunity to hike the world’s tallest peak, Mount Everest. Explorers then spend part of their trip teaching Nepalese women life and leadership skills, women’s rights, and basic English. Beyond the local women, with every trek group we bring to Nepal, we will also cover a year’s worth of education for one child.
You’ve spoken before about how important it is to respect the culture that you are visiting. What advice can you offer on being aware and considerate while being a visitor in another country or community?
Keep an open mind, and always ask if you are unsure what is considered appropriated.
What are your travel must-haves? Things you always make sure you have with you in your suitcase? (Beauty products, accessories, technology, entertainment, etc.)
Noise canceling headphones: they make a big difference on long flights!
What locales are on your travel bucket list?
Torres del Paine in Chile and Serengeti in East Africa are high on my list now.