2016 Is the Year Wanderful Will Explode. Here’s Why.

by Beth Santos

When I started Wanderful, I had no plan. All I knew was that there wasn’t enough out there to support women who wanted to travel the world. I had seen, too many times, that look of slight discomfort when I told others of my travels. So many people asked if I felt safe and what had provoked me to travel the world alone. But I suppose it wasn’t a matter of provocation – I simply had no reason not to go.

It was 2009, and the world had become my home. I was living abroad in São Tomé and Principe, settling into my skin as a citizen of the globe. I began to write about my journeys as a female and a foreigner, these two identities that made my experience so unique and yet so recognizable among other women who traveled.

A photo of me from 2010 in São Tomé and Principe, a small two-island nation off the coast of Gabon, and where Wanderful really began. Image my own.

It wasn’t until 2013 that I realized I was onto something, that there was more to what we could do than just write stories. In May of 2013, a business was born – a community of women who could support one another on their journeys and navigate their travel experiences through resources, networking, and sisterhood.

Today I have been running Wanderful full-time for two years. Those years have flown by faster than any two before them. I still feel like an infant in the world of the self-employed, and a brief look at my salary (if you could even call it that) would show you I still have a lot of growing to do.

But I have learned so much during my time in this role, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. We have grown from 5 writers to seeing over 50 grace our digital pages. We started hosting meetups and now have them in 20 cities around the world, in the U.S.A., Canada, Brazil, and Spain. We launched and have been successfully running the Women in Travel Summit with a lean and mighty planning team of 12 volunteers, making a stand for female travel bloggers and entrepreneurs like ourselves. We have built relationships with large travel institutions, budding startups, destinations, and bloggers.

Wanderful women in Madrid share their travel stories with one another. We now operate meetups in 20 cities around the world. Image courtesy of Mary Clare Bland/Wanderful.

We have found ourselves in a unique position; the center of a powerful triangle of relationships between female travelers, influencers, and companies that want to reach both. In some ways I feel like we have become the bridge that connects all of these things together, while also creating a nurturing and empowering community that encourages more women to get out there and explore their world.

The Wanderful of my dreams transcends borders and boundaries. It is represented in every major city around the globe and consists of a golden network of women worldwide who help one another as they travel.

In the two years that we have existed as a company, we have learned so much about what we are good at (and just as much about what we aren’t so good at). Above all of it, I have appreciated the flexibility and patience that our community has shown me as we experiment with new activities and ways of doing things. I have made too many mistakes to count, of course, yet the growth of our community (despite all of them) is proof to me that there is a real need for a group of women like ours. I am proud of who we have become.

Our Tucson chapter basks in a final patio night before winter takes full force late last year. Image courtesy of Alexis Simontacchi and Jennifer Nascimento/Wanderful.

It’s also why I am excited to share the ways that 2016 is going to be even better.

Strengthening Our Supportive Sisterhood by Sharing Our Homes (and Our Lives) with Each Other

Ready for the biggest move in our community? Sign up as a member, and get access to women who will give you travel advice, meet up with you abroad, and host you in their homes.

One of the activities I am most excited about in 2016 is something I am certain will become the heart and soul of our sisterhood. Now that we have created a network of women around the world, we can each use our expertise and our time to help one another truly travel.

By joining our closed, trusted membership community, Wanderful women can now visit and stay with other members around the world. The monthly subscription provides each of our travelers access to our growing network, where you can collect advice about an upcoming trip, meet up with a local while on the road, or stay with her in her home. Plus, you can offer yourself as an ambassador to host other women when they come to your town, too!

Join us in building the largest network of women helping women travel the world by becoming a member today. It’s a killer deal at just $7/month and is only the beginning of a real movement in women helping one another experience their worlds.

Reaffirming Our Commitment to Travel Influencers and Empowering More Digital Nomads

Bloggers at our first Women in Travel Summit in 2014 in Chicago. This year we’re working to further our commitment to travel influencers and companies that want to reach them.

Creating the Women in Travel Summit was one of the best things that Wanderful ever did. The conference has grown nearly 200% every year, and we’re expecting 500 influencers to join us in Irvine, California this March.

Did you know that blogging is now the #1 resource Millennials are using to make purchasing decisions? It’s one of the most powerful channels that exists.

The world of blogging and online influence isn’t just a growing industry – it’s one that completely reinvents itself year after year. We are excited to be working to empower travel bloggers and influencers, and with that we are slowly launching an influencer network to help other travel bloggers find and manage partnership opportunities with brands that want to reach them.

If you’re a blogger interested in signing up to join our influencer network, make sure to fill out your Wanderful member profile with your recent social media stats and then add yourself to our waiting list here. We’ll contact you to confirm your participation in the network and let you know when things launch.

Making Real-Life Connections with Our Members Around the World

Now that we’ve hit 20 chapters (and are continuing to grow), it’s time for Wanderful to take our first road trip! 2016 is the year that I hope to visit at least some of our chapters and catch up, face-to-face, with the amazing women in our community.

I’ll be sharing more as this develops and will be on the hunt for couches to sleep on along the way. (Hint: I’ll definitely be staying exclusively with our ambassadors, so sign up for the program now.)

Investing In Our Strengths Using the Support of Those Who Know Better

I suppose there’s always some time for a bit of a humblebrag, isn’t there? The development of Wanderful has been due to so much more than just my own (often disjointed) thought processes. Since 2012, I have been enrolled in the evening program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. I am proud to say that I am finally – finally! – just a couple months away from completing my degree in March. To top it off, I was recently selected as a Zell Fellow and will be given a multitude of amazing resources and support to grow Wanderful through graduation in June.

Perhaps the most honorable feeling is knowing that not only do I believe in the future of Wanderful, but so do a number of extremely well-connected and brilliant people at Kellogg. This is, of course, not to mention my slowly growing and wildly energetic board of advisors, currently consisting of Dina Yuen and Jessica Ainlay, which continues to guide my decision-making activities when I feel Wanderful reaches points of strategic analysis that I can’t manage myself. A million “thank yous” to them both.

Sharing My Stories Along the Way

Hanging at Hidden House Coffee Roasters in San Juan Capistrano, CA, which is near the site of our 2016 Women in Travel Summit in Irvine.

Of course, the final thing I am most excited about is my ability to connect with you all a little bit more directly through blog posts like this one. Along with a couple of other changes to our editorial strategy that I think will make our content even better, I have decided to add my own words to the mix. Our amazing and brilliant team has shared their interest in hearing more about my adventures as an entrepreneur – finding balance, growing Wanderful, and our struggles along the way – and I’m thrilled to share them.

For those of you who are hungry for more than my monthly words, I have also re-launched a new and improved BethSantos.com, where I will post weekly musings about travel, digital influence, entrepreneurship, and all three of those things as they relate to being a young woman in the world. I invite you to keep up with me there or by following me on Twitter at @MaximumBeth.

They say that it often takes three years for a new enterprise to take wing. Now entering year three, I couldn’t agree more. I think about the year ahead, and I am filled with confidence, hope, delight, and thousands and thousands of butterflies. I invite you to join me for the ride and help pitch ideas along the way.

Ultimately, our community belongs to us, and we are the ones who will decide if it will succeed. I believe that if we use this space to help one another achieve our dreams, we will find that women really can – and do – take on the world.

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