If you’re a woman interested in starting a travel-related business, this empowering annual conference is for you.

I’ve been writing about food and travel since 2012. During that time, I’ve reached many of my goals like being published in The New York Times and Travel + Leisure. I still have so many things I am hoping to accomplish. This is part of the reason I moved to New York City in September 2018. I want to increase my social media following. I want to write a book. I want to be an editor. I want to do interviews about travel on TV, and I always want to push myself to become a better writer.

I had the opportunity to attend Women’s Travel Fest over the weekend and it was enlightening and inspiring to hear from a host of different women about how they made travel a fulfilling and lucrative career. Here’s what I took away from the conference. Maybe it will help you too.

Image of Mickela Mallozzi at Women's Travel Fest in New York City
Television host Mickela Mallozzi talked about the power of persistence at Women’s Travel Fest.

Persistence is Key

Professional dancer Mickela Mallozzi jolted awake one night in 2010. She knew she was destined to host a television show where she would travel around the world connecting with people through the medium of dance. She shot her pilot that year in Italy using her own money. The show didn’t air nationally on PBS until 2016! Her journey included signing a deal with a 3rd party production company that ultimately went nowhere and too many no’s to count. She never gave up or wavered in her determination to get her passion project off the ground. Today, she has won four NY-Emmy Award for Bare Feet on PBS and the show is getting ready to debut its 3rd season. “Get used to hearing no. It’s ok,” said Mallozzi. “Sticking with it is half the battle,” she added.

Do the Thing that Scares You Most

In a particularly powerful moment at the conference, writer and editor Amy Gigi Alexander asked attendees to picture something that scared them. She then asked them to turn to a neighbor and tell them what it was. Mine had to do with pitching a narrative travel feature that is very personal. I’m afraid to send it to my editor because I’m afraid of rejection. The truth is, I have so many fears. I’m afraid I’ll spend all this time working on a book proposal that will go nowhere. I’m afraid to go all-in on my job search (again, because of post-baseless job termination moves).

Image of Tenny Ostrem and Claire Wernstedt-Lynch at Women's Travel Fest in New York City
Tenny Ostrem and Claire Wernstedt-Lynch became the first people to walk the thru-length of the US/Mexico border in 2018.

Two other speakers embodied this idea of confronting your fears. Tenny Ostrem and Claire Wernstedt-Lynch became the first people to walk the thru-length of the United States/Mexico border in 2018. Friends warned the girls might be kidnapped and held for ransom. Ostrem and Wernstedt-Lynch said the six-month-long journey was extremely challenging and at times scary, but they found that anyone they came into contact with who was trying to cross the border was much more fearful of them.

Being an Influencer is Hard Work

Travel influencers take pretty pictures in beautiful places, but they’re hardly on vacation. Influencers have to post constantly, go after brand partnerships, drive traffic to their websites and always show Return on Investment (ROIs) to partners who have facilitated the trip. If this is a path you choose to go down, know it’s all about the hustle. Regardless of the blogging platform you are using, setting up a payment page should be your number one priority. Seamless integration is essential when working with merchant services.

Be Social Media Savvy

The influencers featured at the conference said Instagram is the most important social media platform. While sponsored posts on Instagram are the primary way many influencers seek to make money, they spoke about many other revenue streams including affiliate marketing programs like Amazon Affiliates, developing online courses, and even starting group travel trips. Another piece of advice I really found useful: Pinterest drives far more traffic to websites than other platforms.

Image of Angel Orensanz Foundation in New York City
Women’s Travel Fest takes place at Angel Orensanz Foundation in the Lower East Side.

Find Your Niche

Why would someone want to follow and trust you? Why would someone want to write about you? What impact are you making on the industry? Alyssa Ramos, of My Life’s a Travel Movie, said bloggers should be asking themselves these questions when developing their brand and social media profile. Asking myself these questions made me realize family travel and France are my areas of expertise. I’m going to focus on these things more on my website and Instagram feed.

A Place is Not a Story

I thought Travel Writing 101 was one of the most useful seminars. Even though I’ve been writing about travel for over six years, it’s always smart to listen to seasoned professionals talk about their craft. Hearing New York Times writer Jessica Colley Clarke say these six words: “a place is not a story” was a good reminder that I don’t always push myself far enough to find an interesting angle in a destination I want to cover. I’m going to make this my mantra as I continue to think of new story ideas.

Women’s Travel Fest 2020 will take place March 6-8.

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