An Interview with Evelyn Hannon

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We feel so lucky to have had the chance to interview Evelyn Hannon this week, the founder of Journeywoman.com, the largest online resource and gathering place for women travelers. In our interview today, Evelyn talks to us about celebrating International Women’s Day through travel portraits, what she’s going to be talking about at the upcoming inaugural Women’s Travel Summit (she’s the Keynote Speaker), and what her journey has been like.

Evelyn, you’ve been recognized by both PEOPLE Magazine and TIME Magazine for your dedication to the needs of female travelers. TIME even named you one of ‘100 Innovative Thinkers of this Century’ for your amazing contributions. Did you ever imagine that you site would do so much to change travel for women?

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that the mandate I took on in 1994 – to inspire women to travel safely and well – would blossom into what it is today. We now are definitely a force to be reckoned with and the travel industry and society in general truly gets it.

What do you think have been the “keys” to your success?

The key to our Journeywoman success is so very simple. I owe all the inroads we’ve made to the women who joined and continue to join the Journeywoman Network. We are a grassroots movement. We never spent money on advertising.  We never had to. From the very beginning young and older women embraced our philosophy that to be able to travel is life-affirming and life-altering. To go out and see the world is a gift. Why shouldn’t we be able to do it safely and well? Women are incredible networkers.  It was simply women telling women, telling women, telling women until the Network circled the globe. Imagine my surprise as I received invitations to speak in Australia, Italy and the University of Seoul in Korea. And, one more very important thing. I will forever be indebted to the internet. Once women had computers in their homes there was no stopping them and us.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, you collected and posted a beautiful photo gallery of women’s portraits to commemorate women and their lives around the world. What was curating this gallery like for you, and for those travel photographers out there, what makes for a good portrait?

One picture is worth a thousand words. This was the second year in a row I chose to honour women worldwide through the use of images.  I have travelled the world – I journeywomancould have used all my own photos. However, I called on my peers in the blogging community to submit their favorite images so we could see the uniqueness of women from 30 different points of view. And oh, what a great collection it is and what fun it was for me to curate it.  If you missed it, you can still see it at: http://bit.ly/1bITc2I

At the beginning of our online exhibit, I wrote:
We live in very different parts of the world
And come in diverse shapes and sizes.
We’re blessed with features that are unique.
And come in skin tones of assorted colors.
Yet beneath that skin and in our hearts
We are all absolutely the same.
Wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, girlfriends – FEMALES.

Today we celebrate all WOMEN all over the world. International Women’s Day 2014.

How did Journeywoman.com actually get started? What were your original goals for the site and how have those goals changed?

After 23 years of being married and travelling with my husband, we divorced in 1982 at a time that women just didn’t travel on their own. I bucked the system and took my first five-week solo journey when I was 42. I cried for most of that trip but I came back a changed (or changing…) person. I had no mentors for that journey and I learned as I went along. The Journeywoman site was created to help other women who had their own reason for setting off on their own. I hoped to be their mentor. It was never intended to be a business. But, oh my goodness, 20 years later look what happened. The site has grown but my mandate has not – to inspire women safely and well and to connect women travellers internationally.

What advice do you have for women travel writers who are just trying to get their feet wet in the industry? How is the industry different for women?

wtsThis question begs a full workshop but in a nutshell … What a perfect time you have chosen to come into the industry. The initial work has been done. Women travellers and solo women travellers are an accepted and sought-after part of the travel industry. Tourist Boards now understand the value of the blogging community. Choose a niche – something that you know a lot about. Use this as a way to differentiate yourself from the crowd. And then write, write, write. Build up the inventory of unique pieces at your site. Use social media to tell the world what you can do. From there you are on your own. How you approach readers and the industry with what you have to offer will be up to you and in your own style.

Journeywoman’s newsletter is read by over 70, 000 subscribers in 100+ countries. For bloggers who are thinking about adding a newsletter to their outreach, what is the secret to getting and keeping subscribers and what advice do you have?

I think newsletters are your number one asset in reaching out to readers. Keep them short, keep them sweet and make sure they are interactive so that readers can give you feedback on what they do and don’t like. From there it is your particular style (and don’t be afraid to let that show) which will spell success or not.

You are the Keynote Speaker for the upcoming Women’s Travel Summit, the inaugural women’s travel blogging conference. Can you give us a sneak peek at what you’ll be talking about?

My talk will be 50% inspirational – talking about how Journeywoman started in 1982 and where we are today. The other 50% will be taking questions from the floor. I’m going to call that part, ‘Ask Me Anything.’ Should be fun! For more information about the Summit: witsummit.com

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Evelyn Hannon is the editor of journeywoman.com, the largest online travel resource for women. At 74, she is known as the Grandmother of Women’s Travel. Evelyn lives in Toronto, Canada but her travels have taken her to all seven continents. She has been in China to receive her adopted granddaughter, interviewed an African Chief in Ghana, march in a parade in Australia and sailed on a three-month sea voyage that circumnavigated the globe. She attended the circus in Russia, studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and played with the penguins in the Antarctic.  Evelyn still hopes to dance in a grass skirt in the South Pacific.  You can find her on Twitter @journeywoman and her Facebook page: Facebook.com/Journeywoman Website: journeywoman.com

Interview conducted in March, 2014 by Kristin Winet.

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