I started Living Big in 2013 with the goal of getting more women traveling and helping women experience the adventures they may have always dreamed about but have been unable to bring to fruition for one reason or 100 others.
But there’s always been a secret goal of Living Big, and that’s to enable the stretch.
The stretch is what I’ve learned happens to us when we allow our worldview to be shaped by the different cultures, experiences, personalities, lifestyles, foods, religions, histories and opinions that are different than what we surround ourselves with everyday. And it’s from the stretch of what is familiar, routine, comfortable and safe that we grow and become more empathetic to world around us.
I first experienced the stretch while traveling solo through Europe in my mid-20s. On these adventures I’d often stay in hostels and share meals with fellow solo travelers from around the world. I’d visit small towns and talk to café owners about their business and life, practice the local language with friendly strangers at cafes, talk to strangers I’d meet on boats, buses and trains, and share experiences with fellow travelers on the occasional tour.
See, the thing about traveling solo, especially in your 20s before life and routines have set in and before your comfort zone is established, is that you’re totally open. As I've traveled, I've been open to a spontaneous tapas crawl in Spain with a new friend from Australia; following a shop owner in Istanbul so he could share his favorite restaurant (which was delicious!); making friends over dinner in Italy, then staying at their home during a future trip to Ireland; chatting with a local server and then making soup in her restaurant's kitchen; cooking in the home of my Airbnb host in Croatia even through we didn't share a language. All of these interactions allowed me to stretch and meet people who have a very different day-to-day life than my own. They invited me on adventures I otherwise might not have experienced, and they gave me a chance to look at the world through a different lens.
Now it’s not that we completely lose this openness and curiosity as we get older. After all, it’s human nature to surround ourselves with likeminded people and seek to establish routines and rhythms for our life. It’s just that there are fewer opportunities to experience the stretch unless you’re intentional about inviting these moments into your life.
Women who join for Living Big Hosted Adventures connect with fellow travelers who have very different day to day lives; they’re married, divorced, dating, have kids, no kids, they’re CEOs, waitresses, seasoned travelers, and novice travelers. During adventures they’re learning about one another and also meeting women who help bring the adventure to life; the local historian that takes us through Florence, her adopted home after civil war in former Yugoslavia; the woman that takes us on an overnight backpacking trip through the Swiss Alps, her backyard as a child; and the woman that invites us into her home for a lesson on the Thai curry she learned to make at a young age to feed her family.
I believe that travel --- and the stretch it invites into our life --- is a force for good that has the power to change the world and change women’s lives for the better. I hope to do my part to make this world a more compassionate place one trip, one woman, and one group of traveling women at a time.
So how will you invite the stretch into your life this year?