Res Ipsa wanted to hear from women who love to travel. Why? We want to share these amazing stories, inspire others - especially women - to travel more, and feature some enjoyable content worth reading. In our interview series, we hear from some of the most successful young women in the travel, art & photography, and health & wellness industries about why they love to travel, who inspires them to travel, some of their best and most recent travel memories, and how their personal lives and perspectives on life intersect and take shape from their travel experiences.
In part IV, we interviewed Ann Woodward a.k.a. the East Village Nomad. Ann grew up near Savannah, GA and graduated from the University of Georgia’s College of Journalism and Mass Communication. After working in New York City advertising agencies for 17 years, she began travelling full-time in October 2011. What started as a short career break has morphed into a career shift: almost seven years later, Ann is still on the road, supporting her travels through freelance marketing projects. She has visited 63 countries (and counting!)
Follow her journey at:
What inspires you to travel?
An innate curiosity about other cultures. I definitely prefer to explore less-touristed places, especially those which are misunderstood. Therefore, it’s no coincidence that I’ve travelled to six countries in the Middle East, including Iran, and also spent about two years in Muslim-majority countries.
My personal experiences in these places bear little resemblance to how they are portrayed in the media. Travel can be a powerful educational tool. I enjoy sharing my photos and stories in order to inspire others to travel, as well as to help change common perceptions about the places where I spend time.
What have you learned from traveling? About the world? About you?
For starters, the world is not as scary and dangerous as people make it out to be.
I’ve learned just how little I need. I travel with a large backpack and a messenger bag for my electronics, and that often feels like too much.
I’ve become more patient, more grateful, and more willing to try new things. I also think I now have a better understanding that there’s more than one way to do things and am more accepting of other people’s approaches.
How do you approach food when you travel?
Food is absolutely a gateway to learning about a culture. I always want to try local delicacies, though I personally feel it’s also important to enjoy them in the typical environment, which might be a street stall, a municipal market or a crowded bar.
In the US, food generally fulfills a basic need -- we eat when we’re hungry. However, in other places, I’ve noticed eating and drinking is much more of a communal and social activity. Join in!
When did you begin traveling solo?
My first official solo vacation was to Puerto Escondido and Mexico City in March 2007. Although I’d previously done some brief solo(ish) travel, such as extending business trips and visiting friends in New Orleans for a long weekend.
Would you recommend solo traveling to others, especially women?
Of course! Solo travel can be a fulfilling experience. Additionally, solo travel doesn’t mean lonely; there are plenty of ways to meet and connect with others while travelling.
What advice would you have for others, especially women, interested in traveling for fun?
Travel is extremely personal. Different people approach travelling in different ways. There’s no ‘correct’ way to do it. Feel free to experiment with various types of lodging, dining, tours/activities, and transportation to find the style that’s best for you.
What’s one thing you can’t travel without?
Earplugs. An eye mask is a close second. Sleep is crucial.
Have you experienced any inequalities traveling? If so, how do you manage them?
The most prominent gender inequalities I’ve experienced were in India, particularly in patriarchal Rajasthan. I travelled with a male friend for a few weeks to start. When I’d ask a driver or a waiter for something, I was ignored. However, when my friend would make the same request moments later, it would be handled right away. That was infuriating, but it motivated me to return several months later to volunteer for a women’s empowerment organization!
When it comes to personal safety, female solo travellers face different concerns than men. I make choices that allow me to feel more safe and more comfortable, such as staying in busy, central neighborhoods, limiting my alcohol consumption and taking taxis at night when I feel that’s warranted.
Pacific Coast of Colombia
What’s your favorite trip you took in the last six months?
I visited Colombia’s Pacific Coast in March. This area is undeveloped, with few tourists but an abundance of raw, natural beauty.
What trip are you looking forward to this year?
I’m going to Maine for the first time with my family. I’m well aware there’s plenty to explore within my own country!
I’ll also be in Europe during the summer, visiting the Baltic states as well as some of the Balkans (Romania, Bulgaria and Albania).
What brands do you associate with travel?
I gravitate towards smaller brands with unique offerings that remind me of a certain time and place, such as a handmade djellaba from Morocco or a Wayuu mochila from Colombia. Even though Res Ipsa is an American brand, its use of beautiful Turkish kilim in unexpected ways is also evocative.
I don’t consider myself ‘outdoorsy,’ though I’ve purchased most of my travel gear from REI. I became an REI member back in 2009 and remain a loyal customer since they provide stellar service and an enjoyable retail experience.
What do you read or watch for travel news, inspiration, or updates?
I consider Audrey & Dan of Uncornered Market to be thought leaders in the travel space. Their destinations and points-of-view always resonate with me. I also get ideas and suggestions for new places to visit via word of mouth from people I meet while travelling. Before arriving in a new city, I search online for posts from either local experts or other long-term travellers who’ve completed a stay there.