W.T.F. Just Happened?!

Updated: Aug 26

Women's Travel Fest© took over Portland, Oregon March 4th - 6th for their 9th annual event in North

America, with over 250 in-person attendees and more tuning in virtually.


The 3 day fest that takes place during Women’s History Month is hosted by Go! Girl Guides © author and

Damesly© creator Kelly Lewis. As the largest consumer travel conference for women in the world, they

have hosted over 150 speakers, and 5,000 women. This year's theme of “Getting Back Into The World ''

was bringing people back together for the first time in two years, being the first in person event since their

7th WTFest March 2020 in New York City.


I am a plus size travel blogger, and Alaskan tourism sales specialist that flew into Portland to have my first

W.T.F. moment. This event had fallen into my lap during a giveaway when the Facebook based women’s

travel group Girls LOVE Travel© had a sweepstakes. The opportunity to learn from, network and build

friendships with other women that travel for a living- for fun, or both was enticing enough to get me to fly

in from Anchorage, Alaska on a red eye flight early Friday morning.


A short 10 minute walk from the MAX green line stop on 5th and Couch, the weekend was just starting.

Located on the mezzanine level at The Armory in downtown, bright pink spot lights immediately caught

my eye. Shooting up from the floor all around, they illuminated the towering brick walls with a splash of

cheerful color. A small touch that I recognized repeated throughout the event, and just showed how

passionate Kelly Lewis’s team is- down to the very last detail.


The first night was an opportunity to break the metaphorical “ice” that we had all been frozen inside of

over the last two years. The team behind W.T.F. had a great strategy to forego the awkward phase of

meeting a new person and navigating which COVID-19 mitigation strategy they were most comfortable

with. ‘Does this person want me to walk up to them?’ ‘Can I shake their hand?’ ‘Give them a hug?’ ‘Can I

even snack or sip by them?’. This was all taken care of with their clever stoplight coding system, attached

to each name tag. Everyone could choose between a simple yet effective green, yellow, or red sticker that

expressed your boundaries for meeting new folks.


There was one theme that I recognized throughout the first night, something that resonated deeply within

everyone, including myself. That was the excitement to be there, in that moment after so long, the

different types of isolation and loss that everyone had faced. The uncertainty. One thing was certain at

last.. Women’s Travel Fest was happening, and we were there to experience it together.


After an evening full of many cheerful reunions for past attendees, and positive first connections between

dozens of others- it was already time to start the next day. The conference was officially held at the World

Forestry Center, located in Washington park. Surrounded by lush forest, this was a strategic setting for this fest to

be held in, as event founder Kelly Lewis proudly stated “We’re in Portland, so of course I brought you to

the woods!”


Saturday brought us 3 panels that covered things such as ‘Recalibrating the travel industry: Traveling

Post Covid-19’ with Gabby Beckford, Nora Dunn, Jackie Jacobs and Kelly Lewis. We tackled the topics

like travel shaming, what safe travel looks like for different people, mandates when visiting different

countries, and much more. Along with 3 moving keynotes, such as ‘Chasing Your Dreams, One Mile at a

Time’ with the ultra marathon runner, former teacher, motivational speaker, and mother, Mirna

Valerio that closed out the first official day at the conference.


Saturday night heralded the networking mixer located at the posh AC Marriott in downtown Portland,

hosted by the event's platinum sponsor Match Group. Staying true to the values of Women’s Travel Fest,

Kelly’s team connected with local vendors to ensure even the variety of wines available for tasting that

night were from female-run wineries in the region. The bar at the hotel had specialty cocktails available

that night with fun names that gave a nod to famous women that history won’t be soon to forget, such as

‘Rosie The Riveter’ and the ‘RGB’.


Sunday morning came too soon, and the third yet final day of festivities was sure to knock it out of the

park. Taking over two halls at the World Forestry Center, W.T.F. doubled down on panels and keynotes for

the day, having events happening simultaneously in each hall. For those that were torn between attending

things such as ‘Travel At Any Age’ with Sherry Ott, Timathea Workman, Carolyn Ray and Kelly Lewis VS

‘Extreme Budget Travel’ with Calen Otto; attendees are provided with access to the entire digitally

recorded event to enjoy the things they may have had to miss.


Closing out the afternoon was a keynote from the 11 time Heartland Emmy award winner Juliana Broste. She spoke

about persistence and taking things into your own hands. As a 'one woman show’ herself; she is her own

cinematographer, director, writer, editor, and travel host. Even now, traveling the world trying out the

newest in film technology from some the largest camera companies out there, she is a great example of

someone experiencing being told ‘this space isn’t looking for people like you’, and saying ‘why not?’ In

return, and to keep moving forward.


Hearing the stories of the people that spoke on stage over the weekend- their triumphs, tribulations, and

even epiphanies was beyond what just the word ‘inspiring’ could sum up. After even a day in that room

full of women, it was obvious. People are ready to make big leaps in their lives to make themselves

happier. People are ready to travel, and if they’re not already doing it.. they’re packing their bags and

taking the next steps to get out there again.

59 views0 comments