A Conversation with Go! Girl Guides Founder Kelly Lewis

September 30, 2015
inspiring women travelers
A Conversation with Go! Girl Guides Founder Kelly Lewis

A Conversation with Go! Girl Guides Founder Kelly Lewis

Some of the best advice on women’s travel comes from ladies like Kelly Lewis. Lewis is the founder and CEO of Go! Girl Guides, a travel guidebook series written for women by fellow female explorers. The series recently added on a new title, 50 Essential Items for Female Travelers, a list of must-haves recommended by well-respected travel writers and experts. Lewis has also been busy organizing an annual travel festival, also geared toward women. And she still keeps going on the road for business and pleasure.

A Conversation with Go! Girl Guides Founder Kelly Lewis

What was your first adventure and how was the experience for you? What did you learn from it?

I grew up in Hawaii, on the east side of the island of Oahu, and I really didn’t have the chance to start traveling until after I graduated from college at the University of Arizona. My first trip abroad was to Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia, and I just completely fell in love with traveling.

I met someone on that trip who was living and working in New Zealand, so I came home, sold everything I owned, and immediately moved to New Zealand for a year. I can honestly say it was one of the best years of my life. Additionally, I met so many amazing people, had so many adventures, and really realized that life is completely what you make it.

What do you think that women travelers should keep in mind when they’re on the road? What mistakes do you think they often make?

I think the first mistake is assuming they can’t do it — so if they’re already on the road, then the first battle is over! One of my first solo experiences abroad was in South America, where I backpacked and traveled by bus for five months, and one thing I struggled with was setting boundaries, particularly with men.

I was so afraid of coming off as a “rude American,” that I would sometimes allow conversations with men to go past the point that I was comfortable, and then I wouldn’t know how to politely get out of them. It got me into some sticky situations that were challenging and stressful. What I learned then was the value in establishing boundaries upfront. You have to learn how to get comfortable saying no and being firm, and that’s a little tricky sometimes.

Safety is a major concern for women travelers. What tips do you have that can apply to any female?

What I tell all women is more or less the same thing: be aware. Look around at where you are, where your belongings are, and who is watching you. Don’t drink in excess. When I’m traveling, I rarely have more than a couple of beers in an evening. Be cautious, not paranoid. The world is mostly safe and people are mostly good. Also, talk to everyone! And when in trouble, look to the nearest woman [for help].

In the future, what do you anticipate for women’s travel?

Women’s travel continues to boom, and bigger companies are starting to take notice of this. What I’d like to see more of, and what I think we will see more of in the future, are tour companies that cater to solo travelers and don’t penalize or charge travelers additionally because they’re traveling solo. I’m looking forward to seeing what emerges in the realm of women’s travel in the next few years!

Some of the best advice on women’s travel comes from ladies like Kelly Lewis. Lewis is the founder and CEO of Go! Girl Guides, a travel guidebook series written for women by fellow female explorers.

Why did you start Go! Girl Guides? What makes your guidebooks stand out from other travel resources out there?

I started Go! Girl Guides because I was frustrated by the void in information that exists for female travelers. Our guides focus specifically on women’s health and safety abroad, and we take special care to review every hotel, hostel or guesthouse we mention in our books to look for things like CCTV, 24-hour staff, and whether or not the hotel is in a safe location at night.

We also tell it like it is. If it’s impossible to find tampons, we tell you. If a bus station is sketchy at night, we tell you. Our books are extra tools that women can use to feel more comfortable traveling. We write our books as if we were writing them for our friend or sister who was traveling there.

What goes into creating each Go! Girl Guide? How do you decide on what destinations/topics to cover and provide accurate information?

Each guide takes roughly nine months from start to finish, so I always refer to them as my “babies.” When we plan out where to go guides, we think: what places are intimidating or could be challenging for women? How can we speak to them and get them excited for their trip when everyone else around them is making them nervous to go?

All of our books include chapters like culture and customs, health, and safety, volunteering, and food and recipes, and they’re all in full color, which makes them a fun read.

A Conversation with Go! Girl Guides Founder Kelly Lewis

Your latest release, 50 Essential Items for Female Travelers, looks good. How did you come up with this book and pick its entries?

Thanks! One of the topics at Women’s Travel Fest talked about travel gadgets and gizmos, and it was so much fun. It made me think about the best things to pack, and it also made me curious to see what was in the suitcases of my friends, and some of the women in the industry I’d never met but always admired.

So I asked! We received almost 85 submissions in total, and then had to narrow it down to 50 spread throughout four categories: beauty, clothing, gear and wellness — which was no easy task! We really tried to showcase some cool new products, as well as our favorites from several categories, in a small, easy-to-read pocket guide.

Some of the best advice on women’s travel comes from ladies like Kelly Lewis. Lewis is the founder and CEO of Go! Girl Guides, a travel guidebook series written for women by fellow female explorers.

Besides Go! Girl Guides, what is your second greatest travel accomplishment?

Bungy jumping from the tallest bungy in the world in Macau, without a doubt! Holy crap, that was scary! I was terrified for days leading up to the jump. Never again!

Where are you heading to next?

I’m off to Portland on October 11th to speak at the Here and There Travel Fest, and then I’ll be buckled down in Brooklyn where I live, because the Women’s Travel Fest is about five months away! It always takes me roughly half a year to plan and our 2016 event (March 4-6 in NYC) is going to be amazing. I really can’t wait!

What takeaway advice do you have for our Pink Pangea readers?

Your life is your own to do what you will and you are the sole person in charge of how it goes. You dream about moving to Thailand? Do it! You want to build a company? Do it! Take risks, trust your instincts, and never apologize for chasing your dreams.

A Conversation with Go! Girl Guides Founder Kelly Lewis


A Conversation with Go! Girl Guides Founder Kelly Lewis

About Michele Herrmann

Michele HerrmannMichele Herrmann is a lifestyles and travel writer/editor whose byline has appeared on The Daily Muse, The Lost Girls, Match.com’s Happen Magazine, Jetset Extra, Travel Mindset and Shermans Travel. Her farthest destination, to date, is Fiji, where she got a taste of local cooking and culture and much needed beach time.

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