Women Who Travel Podcast Ghost Stories in Ireland Solo Trips to Cuba and More Listener Dispatches
Women Who Travel

Women Who Travel Podcast: Ghost Stories in Ireland, Solo Trips to Cuba, and More Listener Dispatches

Host Lale Arikoglu sits down with the podcast's producer, Jude Kampfner, and together they revisit their favorite listener call-ins.

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If you subscribe to this podcast, then you're familiar with our listener dispatches: unique, funny, and often deeply personal stories shared with us by the Women Who Travel community. Weaving them into the podcast is one our favorite things to do, which is why this week we're mixing up the format as Lale and the podcast's very own producer, Jude Kampfner, revisit some of their favorites—from a breakup in Paris and an intrepid solo hiking trip to a spooky encounter in Ireland.

Lale Arikoglu: Hi. I'm Lale Arikoglu, host of Women Who Travel, a transformative podcast for anyone who's curious about the world. If you're a regular listener, then you're probably familiar with our listener stories. We get them from all sorts of people from all places in the world.

And the person responsible for gathering them, for talking to these women, and choosing their stories, is our very own producer, Jude Kampfner. And so it made complete sense when we were putting together an episode of some of our favorite dispatches that we bring Jude along for the ride. Hey, Jude.

Jude Kampfner: Hi, Lale. We've never done this before. And let's wing it. And I've taught improvisation in my time, and we'll see how it goes.

LA: Well, I'm very excited to have you on this side of the glass, listeners, usually Jude's giving me a thumbs up, or some sort of mind instruction when I'm chatting to our guests. So very excited to be doing it in the reverse today.

JK: I just want to say thank you so much to listeners for giving these dispatches. Sometimes they're written and then I get in touch with them. And we record them and I can direct them a little bit. Very often people send voice memos, and they're just perfect. It feels like they're born storytellers. And they also really know that giving a visual description is exactly what we need in audio. So sometimes when you just see the view that they're looking at, for instance, a listener coming up looking down at Dubrovnik, we're there.

LA: Well, that was something I was going to say is I'm always amazed at how generous people are with their stories and how honest, I mean, some of these people sharing experiences with us that sometimes you'd only tell your closest friend.

JK: Yeah, absolutely. And they just seem to know exactly the right level to pitch it at.

LA: One of our, I would say most popular topics and most listened to episodes was one centered around solo travel. And it's no surprise then that we've had quite a few submissions about solo travel experiences, from Cuba to Dubrovnik, to France, it really runs the gamut. Tell us about our first dispatch.

JK: So Marjorie gifts herself a birthday present, and is in love with Cuba for its music and for its culture. And she wants to live with locals, and she gets more than she bargains for.

Marjorie: I'd wanted to go to Cuba for a very long time. Aside from the politics of the place, which intrigued me, I love the music. And I'd heard they got the best coffee. And then there's the rum, what's not to like? I was determined to go one day and see for myself. So when my 60th loomed, I thought, okay, it's time to seize the moment. I was happy to go solo, because I wanted my own version of Cuba. I didn't want to go on a tour or be stuck in a holiday resort. I wanted to meet and talk to people, try to get a handle on the real Cuba. And when I arrived in Havana, it was just as I'd imagined. [singing].

You know, there are cars, there's murals of Che, music everywhere. And it's incredibly safe. [singing]. I'd walk around at night by myself without a care. And there are not many cities as a woman on your own where you can feel like that. One moment of drama was that a building very near to where I was staying suddenly collapsed. But I loved being in a city so teeming with life, yeah, where you got woken up by the sound not of traffic, but of the cockerels crowing. It was such a mix and like nowhere else I'd ever been. Everyone I met was eager to share their stories and invite me into their homes.

So I got to celebrate my birthday with people I've never met before, but who made me feel welcome. While I was in Havana, a hurricane hit, the rain and the wind came in so quickly. So we all started heading for shelter and everyone was piling into taxis over filling them and I was pulled into a stranger's knee. Cubans are used to these inconveniences and I'd arranged in advanced to do a track on horseback, which I'd been really looking forward to. But due to the hurricane some of the route was blocked with trees or raging water. But luckily my horse was valiant and my guide a gentleman.

He took me to a place he knew in the middle of nowhere, where we had a dream with the local people and that was kind of special. I did the tourist things too, of course, I swam and lay on a beach that the home-stay family took me to, it was just me and a few locals. I saw the cigars being made, I had cocktails too at The Hotel Nacional overlooking the Malecon. It was the perfect first trip. I only had 10 days but I packed it in and it never felt rushed because, well, it's Cuba. And I've got my own version of it now.

JK: I felt that Marjorie was incredibly brave.

LA: Go on, why?

JK: She seemed to just pack it in, change her plans where necessary, make sure she did everything that was like on her list, and is thoroughly pleased with herself

For Laura, it's a vacation. And she chooses something very carefully that she knows is safe and doable for a solo traveler who hasn't done very much of this kind of travel before.

Laura: So last fall, I had the privilege of traveling by myself to Croatia. And the last part of my trip was in Dubrovnik, one of the big tourist attractions is to walk the medieval city walls. While I was walking around, there are a couple of cafes, which kind of dart the walls. And I was near one of them just taking a picture, and one of the... He was a manager of the cafe, came up to me and offered to take my picture. And we just started chatting and, um, ended up exchanging contact information. Oh, he had also brought me a free glass of wine. So there was a little bit of a flirtatious tone, I would say. But anyways, so the last night of my trip before I headed back to the States, we had agreed that I would go meet him up by his cafe up on the city walls, where he had invited me after the walls were closed for, to the public.

So when I got there, as he was closing up the shop, I was able to just walk by myself a little bit around the walls, and just take some amazing pictures of the sunset with no one in sight. And, uh, when I got back to the cafe, he had a bottle of Croatian wine open and waiting for us. And we just sat and talked and drank wine and watched the sun go down. I would definitely call it the perfect ending to an incredible trip.

JK: So Dubrovnik is on my bucket list. And I think that the way that Laura coyly talks about how she runs into this cafe owner and flirts is a nice twist on some of the dispatches that we get. And I really want to welcome that kind of little mini confessional. So please, let's have more of it.

LA: Yes, more of those stories. I love it.

JK: Diane wants to spend some time in France, she's a Francophile. She knows the language to some extent, and she wants to immerse herself in it.

Diane: I had studied French since I was 14. And I've had this dream of living there and becoming really fluent. And I wasn't able to actually have that dream until I was in my 40s. I started traveling every year to France. And then at age 50, I moved there for eight months, you know [laughs] going to another culture, putting yourself through the kind of humiliation of being the person who doesn't speak the language as fluently as everyone else is such a powerful way to get a big world view. I realized that everything that had happened to me in my life had happened in English. And in French, I really had no history.

I just felt so alive and excited. And you know, that, this never left me. Okay, so here's an example. I went to my close friend, Maite's 50th birthday party. And I realized that nobody knew the American Diane and the French Diane had no history with these people. And I thought if I stand up and dance in a wild way, they're not gonna go, oh, what's Diane doing? And it was so freeing. I just got out on the dance floor and I was having a great time and I asked people to dance with me and so there's a freedom in being in another language than the one you grew up in, and having no history in it.

JK: I think she's really enjoyed telling that story. And we put some music behind it, didn't want to put French music. I wanted to just do something with a rhythm that you could imagine Diane dancing to. And I just see her in this not too crowded room with a bunch of friends. And she's just maybe got her eyes half closed, and she's had some lovely red wine. And she is aware of herself as somebody in a new place. And it's giving her an expressive lease of life.

LA: I love that. And I feel like that surrendering yourself to the place and the destination can often be really wrapped up in language and learning a language. So how much does not knowing the language inform where you travel? Because I think for me, and I've very lucky with the job that I have that I've got thrown into lots of countries where I have not spoken a lick of the language, and had to kind of just figure it out as I was going along. Japan is a perfect example of that.

JK: I think if I feel a lot of my peers speak the language, and I don't, it makes me feel especially guilty and hesitant. Sahara, goes to the island of Don Det of Laos, which is quite a popular place to go, she bonds with companions, whom she doesn't know, in order to feel safer. And I think that's extremely wise, extremely pragmatic. And it's something that really comes quite naturally when you can't quite predict what's going to happen.

Sahara: So one particular experience that I have and memory I have is going on a solo trip to Laos and Cambodia years ago when I was backpacking Southeast Asia. [foreign language 00:11:51]. I was headed towards the 1000 Islands in Laos, and we were on a city bus and I didn't know where exactly I wanted to go. But I met a lot of friends on the bus and they told me about an island called Don Det. We arrived really late at night and the pitch black in this very small town. We bought a ticket and the lady walked us with a flashlight down to the river. It was pitch black and we got on this little wooden boat and chugged, uh, our way along a river. And it was a beautiful night sky. And we arrived in the island and we were asking around to see where we can stay and the island was completely dead because it was everyone is asleep. It was the middle of the night.

A man in a motorcycle came to us and said that he has a hostel. He's the owner of a hostel, but all his beds were full. But he has a friend who has a place with some beds, who also runs a hostel or budget accommodation. I paired up with a friend. So it wasn't that I was also staying alone in it. And it was a little hut. And I've been in so many different destinations and staying in such wild types of accommodations that a hut wasn't anything that unfamiliar to me. We woke up in the morning, in this little hut on the bungalow, we open up the door, and it's the most beautiful scene of the Mekong River.

LA: Do you like that level of unpredictability? Or is that something you try to avoid? I'm interested to know because I think, you know, so many of these dispatches sound so adventurous that everyone travels differently. Do you have any tricks for striking up those conversations?

JK: I think it's when you're going from A to B for me. It's like are you taking this bus? Are you doing this? Can I come with you? Is it late? Should we do something else, get a train perhaps? That sort of thing. Let's have your tips.

LA: I mean, my tips are pretty basic. Sit at the bar strike up a conversation with the bartender, they are usually happy to chat and give you recommendations. I think joining a travel community online can be a really helpful way of making connections. This is going to be my opportunity to plug the Women Who Travel Facebook group, if you are not a member of it yet, it is a safe space to swap travel experiences, ask for tips and gut check all sorts of things or even just share a couple of holiday photos.

Just because one person might be backpacking on their own for three months doesn't mean that a staycation in your own city by yourself in a hotel doesn't count as solo travel. You know, I think it's all about doing what you feel comfortable with and learning from it and then trying something else new. After the break more stories from listeners around the world, and if you have your own story to share, then don't hesitate in contacting Women Who Travel at cntraveler.com, with a voice memo of your own story.

So Jude, one commonality we share is that we both moved abroad, and we both moved to the US. I did say around 10 years ago, I think as much as I love New York, and it does feel like home, London will also always be home. I think moving abroad can be so exciting. But it can also be confusing. It can be quite lonely. It can also be a real evolution of the self. I'm interested to know what your moving abroad journey has been like, because you've been in the US for quite some time now.

JK: I think something that happens often when you move abroad is people make fun of you. There's a lot of sort of stumbling around when you arrive. But there's always that sense of not wanting to do something which you didn't expect would cause offense, but actually inadvertently you do. My first move in America was to Chicago. I arrived in Chicago not with a work visa. As she did, I was on my husband's visa. And it took some time to get acclimated. And when you can't work, it's pretty horrible. And I've never been part of an expat community. I think a lot of people use that as a crutch. And it was something I didn't want to do.

LA I was gonna say, was that a conscious decision?

JK: Yes. Yes. Yeah. And-

LA: Why was that?

JK: There were a bunch of cricket playing, Pimm's drinking people. And I wouldn't have mixed with them if I was in England. So it was like, no, this is not the little England I want to be part of. Here we have Liz who's going with her boyfriend, but manages to get work via him.

Liz: My partner was offered to transfer for his job over to Nuremberg, Germany, I was lucky enough to find a job with his company as well so that I could move easily with him, even though he didn't have a visa, it was definitely a tough start. It's very gray in Germany in January. And just as we were starting to adjust everything, COVID decided to come along and really affect all the world's plans. Originally, we were only supposed to be living there for a year and a half. But we decided to extend it. We stayed about two and a half years, we went to the Mosel wine region in Germany, we went all the way up to Hamburg, we were pretty close to Munich. So we went down to the Alps quite frequently around. Uh, and then in addition to that, we did that the Nordics, Greece, Croatia, Spain.

So pretty much most of the mainland E.U., we visited during our time there. Everything is just so different from the way you recycle. There's five different ways you have to sort your recycling over there. Or when you go to the doctor's office, I was asking to change my birth control prescription, and she had no idea what I was talking about, it happens to be called anti-baby pill in which I found kind of ironic, uh, but that's the actual German word for it. Traditionally, the Germans are not the warmest, most friendly people. I actually think it's kind of nice to have that directness, in retrospect, but I did get yelled at several times, I was telling a story the other day that the fire alarms are a little bit different. And so I accidentally set off the fire alarm because I burnt something in the oven. So I was failing to turn it off and the neighbor came up, he's like, "There's just a button you press at the bottom, and it turns it right off."

And it's like magnetic, we had no idea and he was so angry, and we were so embarrassed. So it's just a lot of learning those cultural things. People might seem a little angry when they're telling you but they're just trying to show you the way it's done in their country, which is understandable.

LA: This is a little bit more of a playful travel story that we can all relate to.

JK: This story from Tara. As you and I have said to ourselves, we find it very hard to say Tara, but that's how she would like her name to name to be pronounced.

LA: It's one of my favorites that we've ever received.

JK: Really?

LA: Yeah.

JK: Oh, wonderful, wonderful.

Tara: My husband's grandparents were born in County Mayo. And so he wanted to show me Ireland, and I was grand to see it. But I also love ghost stories. My husband is a skeptic, but he was willing to indulge me. So before we went I researched ghost stories and haunted locations in Ireland, one with Renvyle House on the Western Coast of Ireland in Connemara. What I had read beforehand was that William Butler Yeats had done seances there to try to contact the spirit that allegedly haunted Renvyle House. And he felt he'd made success, he felt he'd contacted him. And I believe found that the man had committed suicide or something like that. And then allegedly, the accounts were that after Yeats died, he haunted the inn as well.

So, when I booked the reservation for the hotel, I asked for the haunted room. So the first night we were there, my husband decided he was going to set up his camera because even though he's a skeptic, he wanted proof. The accounts that I had read about the alleged hauntings of Renvyle House, talked about a tall man appearing, and that this man had appeared to women in a mirror. I think I didn't look at the mirror very much. [laughs]. What an irony, I went there for an experience and I was terrified of having one. It was a very dark room. So I'm lying in bed, and I wake up and my bladder is killing me. I have to go to the restroom, which is only 10 feet away, right? 10 feet away in this little room. But I'm terrified to go. So I'm battling with myself. Got up my courage, felt so proud of myself for doing that all by myself.

And then my husband said, Oh, honey, I'm so proud of you. He was awake the whole time. He knew the battles I've been going through. Well, what was so interesting was the next morning, he told me that after that he woke up during the night and this is so unlike him because he is a skeptic, he does not believe. He woke up during the night with a very uneasy feeling. And he said it felt like a pressure on his chest. He said, he described it as a presence like he felt like we weren't alone. And that had been one of the reports of the hauntings, the alleged hauntings here. And my husband has never ever had anything like that happened before or since. Ireland is full of these, I, I will call them ghosts to the past. So the atmosphere lends itself to this mystery, this intrigue, this thinking that maybe the veil between the present and the past is much thinner than we think.

LA: Oh, I love ghost stories. I think it's probably a result of having been made to read a lot of Victorian literature at school and growing up somewhere that's rainy and cold. But I also just find spooky stories is actually a really lovely form of escapism because sometimes the reality of the world is far more frightening than the fictional ones that authors create. And Tara's story really tapped into that for me. I've never seen a ghost but I will say that every time I come across a piece of ex-boyfriend's clothing that feels as frightening.

JK: [laughs]. The next two stories are what people might call trip disasters. But in both cases, they are told in very upbeat ways. My dad used to say when, when the car broke down as it often did, or, you know, we were stranded, it's an adventure. And I think that's a really great way of looking at stuff, when things are bound to go wrong at some point. It was sort of endearing.

LA: And you've clearly, you've used it as your rule of thumb ever since.

JK: I think so.

LA: And for the most part, once you get to the other side of it, it's a great anecdote.

JK: I think Kirsten on reflection feels that perhaps she should have asked a few more questions while she set out on this trip. But it's very sweet that her main motivation was to give her dog a nice romp on the sands.

Kirsten: I was living in Abu Dhabi a few years ago and I had brought my dog with me and she lived a very kind of quiet apartment style life and I'd heard there was a secret expat dog beach where we could let the dogs just run free. So one morning I decided to be brave and find this beach on my own. I was on the highway and then I exited at this half constructed bridge, got onto this small sealed road and kept driving. And as I made my way through I realized the road was running out and all I could see was sand and having not been a very experienced Middle East expat, I did not realize or think about the consequences of driving a, you know, normal car into the sand. It did not make it very far before I was completely stuck. My tires were just spinning, spinning, spinning and kicking up sand and I was thinking, the more I hit the accelerator, the more stuck I'm going to be.

And so I stopped that turned off the car and I sat there thinking, what do I do now? It was just sand as far as I could see. Everything I've ever read said never leave your vehicle in an emergency. I considered taking Foxy and walking her back to the main road. But it was a long way. And of course, the heat would just get worse. And there was truly nobody out there. And I, I did not think that was a wise thing to do. So I stayed with my car. Then out of nowhere, I saw these three figures coming toward me. And I was thinking, oh my gosh, who are these people that are coming at me in the middle of nowhere? I got out of my car. And they got closer and I realized they were construction workers. And they did not speak any English. And they just immediately took control. And then they were rocking the car and shifting the car. And eventually they did move it free out of the sand and was able to push it closer to the main road. And I was so, so incredibly grateful.

These gentlemen just appeared literally out of nowhere in this miraculous fashion and saved me from what could have been a really catastrophic situation. Three men against me could have been a totally different scenario. But all these men were doing was just being incredibly kind and rescuing me from a very silly situation I shouldn't have gotten myself into. I did make it to the beach with Foxy. She didn't get to run around the beach and once I went through the first time, I went back regularly.

JK: Monica, who lives in Zambia gave this story to us when we asked for a Valentine's Day dispatch, we can see through her story how she's starting to fall in love with her future husband, David. But the real characters in the story are elephants.

Monica: David had insisted I join him on a literacy project based in the [inaudible 00:27:08], which is in the far eastern part of Zambia. Our project was on an encampment set up on the banks of the Luangwa River. We had each our own tents and shared a communal camp kitchen with the rest of the project team. Little were we to know that an encounter with elephants would change everything and set us on a course to romance and marriage. The local camp staff had warned us that there were elephants in the area and that we should never leave unattended food in the kitchen. In the first day, an elephant came into the camp and helped herself to all the fresh vegetables I had bought earlier. That night, we diligently packed her food away for safekeeping in the come store room, all that is, except for one onion.

The elephants returned to the camp that night at about 2 AM. They walk almost silently, the big feet padding gently over the ground. One whiff of that pesky onion, brought the whole herd into our camp kitchen. Our tents were lined up beside the kitchen, all we could do was peep out through an open zip and watch six or seven elephants go on a rampage until they found that onion. After picking up all the broken kitchenware, we both spent the rest of the night huddled up by the camp reception, observing what had just happened and wondering if the elephants would reappear. It was during this moment that I saw David as just David, not a work colleague. We had a common purpose to survive camp life among the wild animals. From that day, I never walked alone around the camp. David was always there by my side just in case I bumped into an elephant. Our experience with the elephants bonded us and set us up on a journey of romance that led to our marriage.

Speaker 11: Hi, I am responding to your request for stories about breakups during a trip.

JK: So this was a different side to our Valentine's episode, one that we did not expect.

LA: So this one has really haunted me and stayed with me. I also am like in absolute awe that our listener who chose to remain anonymous felt like it was time to share this story with the wider world.

JK: She said, "I am sending this to you because you've asked for a romantic disaster story." And we didn't, we asked for a romantic story.

LA: So fascinating. Think it is one of our most memorable dispatches that we've received.

JK: Especially because you particularly didn't want it to be a cutesy episode.

LA: Well, I think I just wanted it to be real and relatable. And love comes in all sorts of forms. And it's messy, and it's hard. And sometimes it doesn't always end well.

Speaker 11: My husband told me that he wanted a divorce, the one and only time so far, I've gone to Paris. It apparently was prompted by a book I gave him to read on the plane that was popular at the time, which was Mitch Albom's, Tuesdays with Morrie. Because he was constantly complaining that he needed something to read on the plane, but he needed something that was short and sort of easy to get through. I was surprised to see him really get into it on the plane ride over to Paris. And after we landed and had a bite to eat, and we were walking back to our hotel, I asked him what he thought of the book. And he gave it rave reviews. And he continued by saying that it really got him to thinking about a lot of important topics, and what's important in his life. And based upon all of that, he told me within seven hours of landing in Paris, that he wanted a divorce.

So I went back to the hotel, packed up my stuff, and left the next day. I knew the marriage and my dreams of a romantic trip were just ruined. And there was just no way I could stay. It wasn't even a possibility for me. Besides the hurt and resentment I was feeling for him at telling me where and when he did, I just couldn't imagine enjoying myself on any basis. I couldn't think of any kind of consolation prize that would make it okay to stay. Travel is something that is emotional for me, no matter who I'm with or even if I'm by myself, it just connotes connection, discovery, rich experiences. He stayed and as far as I know, enjoyed himself. I didn't want to stay because it wasn't doing myself or Paris any favors. It was sort of a disservice to the city that I dreamed about being in. I've never been back to Paris. But I am finally planning that long anticipated trip as a solo traveler.

LA: She said something and I'm going to paraphrase it because she said it far more eloquently and beautifully than I will. But that herself and Paris both deserved better and both deserved a different trip.

JK: She resolved, as you said like, this is toxic, Paris can't be like this for me, I'm going to come only when I'm happy. I just couldn't bear to think of her holding that suitcase and just thinking, what do I do now? And the shock of it and the dizzy, sick feeling she must have felt.

LA: After the break, we hear from a listener about physical challenges that they injured the sake of travel. If you have your own stories to share, particularly if you have one about a mother and daughter trip you may have taken, then please email a voice memo of your story to women who travel at cntraveler.com.

JK: Physical challenges, that's something that we often have our guests talk about, and we can vicariously go through that experience with them. I think for Tracy going on the Camino trail to Santiago de Compostela, that's a trip that I know many people have taken. And they've taken it in different ways. Some of my friends have cycled it all the way. Some I've done the short five-day versions. I've done the 30-day version. Most of them have gone in groups. I mean, it's amazing that she went solo.

Tracy: I'm A 54-year-old mom of two who owns a vitamin supplement company, and who lives in a quiet suburb of New Jersey. Despite being in good health and quite fit and living a relatively peaceful life, I suffer from horrible anxiety and panic attacks. To make matters worse, the last year I was hit with tragedy after tragedy, including the death of my best friend, my usual go to move to feel better is to pick a spot on the globe and go, but I really needed something that would kind of shake me up a bit and give me a slap in the face kind of awakening to get rid of this nagging anxiety and I didn't want to turn to medication. I decided to hike the Camino de Santiago in Galicia, Spain, for seven days straight, which is 100 kilometers, but to do it in December during the rainiest coldest part of the year, and I decided to do it alone.

But doing a bit of prep work for this adventure, I entered into this bizarre realm of Facebook groups and hiking groups and sites devoted to everything from what to eat on the Camino, what shoes to wear, what bag to carry, what, where to pee. And every bit of the advice that I gleaned failed miserably, uh, in the conditions of December. Um, the shoes and the clothing were all recommended for summer hikes, and forget about bathrooms. Nothing was open, no places to eat, um, a tree or a bush was what you got. And let me tell you, being a 54-year-old woman still having her period, and two layers of pants on, not fun. [laughs].

But I never saw a single soul on the road for two entire days. And when I finally did, we kind of nodded and moved on, perhaps in respect of the silence and the emptiness. I want to just say that the most important part of this trip was that the fear of taking the very first step overwhelmed, but enthralled me. I am not a very religious person. But there's something quite primordial and sacred about walking alone in the rain and wind that leads down a well-worn path where so many had been before but where no one but you was standing.

JK: I've had a couple of friends say that they've witnessed faith healing on this pilgrimage trail.

LA: I haven't done this trail, but I do really like hiking. And it's been something that I've discovered that I like through travel and specifically through assignments for Conde Nast Traveler. That trip to Japan I mentioned earlier involved a hiking trip along the Kumano Kodo Trail, which is an ancient ancient 12th century trail that was once used by monks, that also has a lot of spirituality attached to it. I tagged along with a group of women hikers from all over the states who had come together to walk part of it as a group. And there was something about putting one foot in front of the other with the sole goal of your day being to get from A to B that gave me a mental clarity I'd never had before.

I mean, it helped that I was surrounded by some of the most beautiful forests and landscape I'd ever seen. It was cherry blossom season, it was in the mountains-

JK: Wow.

LA: ... It was so quiet. And there would be hours where we wouldn't cross a single other hiker. And we would spend each night in a different ryokan, which is a sort of bed and breakfast type accommodation that you find all over Japan and particularly along this trail. So I really relate to Tracy's story and also that she wanted to push herself both physically and emotionally. And I think that's what a lot of endurance and hiking and sort of physical travel can do.

JK: That's amazing. I didn't know you did that. So that was a Buddhist pilgrimage, as opposed to this is the Catholic.

LA: Yeah, kind of. I mean, I definitely wasn't practicing Buddhism when I was doing it, but there were little shrines and Buddha's all along the way, was really special. For part of it, we were led by a Shinto mountain priestess who is definitely one of the most memorable people I've met during my travels. And she was in her whole Shinto mountain priestess garb, but also had a digital Casio watch to make sure we were keeping pace, which I really appreciated. You know, the purpose of this podcast is to provide a platform for those who identify as women to share their travel stories in a space, which is travel journalism that has historically been claimed by men and white men predominantly. But women have always been traveling, right? They've always been having these experiences in all sorts of different ways. They've always been adventurous and intrepid, and now is the time for us to hear more of those stories. And I think the way that we travel and talk about travel will be infinitely improved when we have a wider range of points of views.

JK: Sometimes if a story comes out of the blue as we hope that they will do, we might actually make a whole episode based on an idea that our listener's given us.

LA: Coming up on the next episode, ornithologist, environmentalist, activist and author Mya-Rose Craig will be talking to us about her bird watching adventures around the world. Thank you for listening. I'm Lale Arikoglu and you can find me as always on Instagram @LaleHannah, and follow along with Women Who Travel on Instagram @WomenWhoTravel. You can also join the conversation in our Facebook group. Allison Leyton-Brown is our composer. Jennifer Nulsen is our engineer. Jude Kampfner from Corporation for Independent Media is our producer.