The Women in Travel Summit (WITS), (held in Portland, Maine this year) is a conference for female travel influencers, creators, and industry members. 500 women typically attend, and each day is packed with diverse and engaging sessions geared to bring thoughtful discussion to the forefront of the travel industry, encourage women to go beyond the status quo, and to help women make genuine connections.
This WITS was my first, and it certainly will not be my last. I walked away reenergized with purpose, hope, and feeling like I made a whole bunch of supercool new friends from this conference. I also enjoyed having a balance between exploring Portland with local Mainers and on my own while also attending sessions that aligned with my interests. Quite honestly, the toughest decision I had to make was deciding between concurrent sessions.
WITS tours and activities continued a few more days after the weekend conference to give attendees a chance to explore the true essence of Portland. I had the incredible opportunity to go to Cow Island via Rippleffect, (a leadership organization) with 10 other WITS women. We spent half a day zip lining, rock climbing (on a wall) and devoured a magnificent lunch with nature, staff, and new friends. This experience was the perfect way to end my first trip to Portland and my first WITS.
Zip-lining on Cow Island -courtesy of Rippleffect Maine
This conference was so soul nurturing that I wanted to share some lessons that I discovered about myself upon reflection.
1. I have an authentic voice and incredible stories to tell. After attending sessions at WITS, I started to think about how my perspective, my expertise, and my offerings can have an impact upon this world. I narrowed down my niche, as a way to focus on the topics I would like to write about. Here are some topics that I deeply resonate with: Stories that reflect understanding culture in a meaningful and authentic way, stories through the lens of a first generation Bengali-American, discussing topics pertaining to diversity and travel, wellness and self care, sustainability and responsible travel, traveling as a first time Mom with and without a kiddo, and having a mixed family.
2. I need to make the time and space to write. I often tell myself that I need to do all these extra TO DOs before I make the time and space to write. The reality is that I need to schedule blocks of time on my calendar at least two times a week (as a starting point). If I do not make writing a priority like other things in my life, it will never be done.
3. I need to stop the analysis paralysis. I tend to get ahead of myself and wonder how I am going to get from point A to Z rather than A to B. I get so bogged down by such massive ideas that my intentions to write get squashed. Now, where does that get me? Nowhere.
4. I have ample support and resources. I need to reaffirm the fact that if I write authentic and compelling stories, people will want to read them. I also know that I am lucky enough to have friends and colleagues who I can count on to brainstorm idea and to listen when I need thoughtful ear.
5. I'm not a fake and I need to believe in myself. Self doubt is a very human emotion, but I don't have to live with it. I know I have a lot of insight to offer the world with my perspectives about travel, culture, wellness, and diversity. This post right here is my attempt to vocalize and counter this belief.
Perhaps you can glean some inspiration from my lessons learned.
If you haven't attended WITS, I highly encourage you to check it out! Attendees are quite diverse on so many spectrums. You also have the opportunity to apply for FAM trips, take local tours that align with your interests, and connect with some inspiring women.
The next conference will be held in Kansas City on May 2-5 2020. I hope to see you there!
On a proud note: I had the privilege of co-leading a session at WITS with Natalie Jesionka of Global Elective about how to tell social good stories with integrity at WITS '19 in Portland. Our session was about how to connect with people in an authentic way, and examining the lens we use when write stories. Here's a picture of us below.
Sophia Hyder Hock and Natalie Jesionka at the Bessie Awards
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*Photo credits are given to Women in Travel Summit by Wanderful except for the ziplining picture