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Monday, July 4, 2011

Leave room in your suitcase for IMPACT

My absolute favorite thing about travel is the people.

I know this may sounds crazy but I prefer staying in youth hostels rather than hotels. In fact, the last time I stayed at a hotel while traveling, I ended up spending all my down time at the local hostel and using my hotel room only as a place to sleep.  Because, well, if travel is all about the people then a hostel is one of the best places to meet them. I love hearing everyone’s stories – where did they come from, what have they experienced, what did they recommend, where were they going?

But something I’ve noticed during my travels is the abundance of adventurous but ill prepared women (myself being one of them!). No matter their destination or attention to detail, most of their travel stories included some harrowing encounter and narrow escape.

The problem was, as much as I detested hearing these stories, I didn’t know how to advise or even avoid these situations. I tried to do some research but found that resources for women travelers were few and far between.  Sure there were lots of travel agencies, tour groups and travel magazines, but real and practical advice just wasn’t a Google search away. So…I decided to do something about it. Together with my best friend and traveling buddy, I launched Girls Who Travel, a website dedicated to providing resources for women travelers. We had one goal – and that was to provide resources that kept women travelers safe and healthy.

Right away, I got in touch with someone I knew who had written a book on self defense for women to solicit her help in putting together a safety article for the site. It’s a great article – it provides really concrete tips on everything from locking up your home to taking taxis. But I always felt like something was missing. Yes – so your home is safe, yes – you’re protecting your drink at the bar. But what happens when you make that wrong turn down a street in Rome and find yourself on a dark road, cornered by a man intent on showing you his…er…manhood (true story)? What then?

It would be years before that question was answered. The answer, of course, coming in the form of a weekend long IMPACT Core class. IMPACT taught me what I had been looking for – not only the ability to truly defend myself but the ability to “LOOK” and “ASSESS” and of course, to say “NO!” It’s the gift I’d been wanting to give to the women I’d met over the years. When traveling, the skill of looking at where you’re going both during your trip and even while choosing your destination, at assessing the danger of your surroundings and your chosen country and of holding your boundaries even when you have no idea what the other person is saying – it can be a life saver. And the confidence of knowing that, when all else fails, you can kick some serious ass? Yeah, that’s pretty awesome too.

Of course, that’s not something you can teach in an article on a website. That’s why I’m so excited that Girls Who Travel is partnering with IMPACT International to provide discounts for all our GWT women across the world to experience the freedom of IMPACT. And it really is freedom that IMPACT provides – freedom from oppression, freedom from fear and freedom to explore the world.

Arden Joy
co-founder, IMPACT Chicago social media

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