Today, as the world celebrates International Women’s Day (#IWC), I want to celebrate some of the awesome women I’ve traveled with, met while away from home, or who have inspired me to explore new places.

The worldly, womanly writers who have written inspiring memoirs. Sarah McDonald’s Holy Cow, Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez, Tales of Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman, and now Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road are some of my favorites. (What are some of yours? I’m always on the lookout for travel memoirs!)


Katie and I, Whistler 2010.
Girls weekend with Katie (and Tina and Terri) in NC, 2014.
Katie and me, the night I first dyed my hair red, and the night she and her roommate got pickpocketed in Paris, 2006.

My sister from another mister, Katie. Following her passions and pursuing a PhD, she traveled from Florida to spend two years in Washington state studying her field. She’s unafraid to travel, work, and live alone in order to forge the path that suits her, regardless of what society suggests is appropriate for a thirty-something female. She takes pride in her work, and takes great interest in the places she goes, some of which I’ve had the pleasure to visit with her. We’ve jumped in front of the Eiffel Tower, spilled trail mix on a bus to Whistler, eaten beignets in New Orleans, and uncorked a wine bottle with a screwdriver and a pair of pliers in North Carolina. I look forward to more shared travels in our future. She reminds me that things worth doing don’t always come easy and inspires me to follow my own path even when I doubt myself.


Visiting Aunt Leigh in Oahu, 2015
Aunt Leigh visiting us in Nashville, 2013
Aunt Leigh visitin gus in Florida, circa 1995/1996.

My aunt Leigh. Having overcome substance addiction and toxic relationships, she travels the world with exuberance and abandon. Choosing to leave the mainland US to live in the every day paradise of Oahu, she has lived a life of kindness and positivity, and has always been proof that you don’t have to have a relationship, a ton of money or tangible stuff to be happy. High on life, she finds the bright side of every dull coin and doesn’t take anything (herself, included!) too seriously. She inspires me to live a more joyful life, cherishing what I have instead of coveting that which I don’t.


Drunk on a bridge in Paris, 2005
The night before my wedding, 2014.
Alexandria, 2009

My fellow Francophile & Gryffindork, Charlotte. When I studied abroad, I didn’t go through my school, like most of the other college kids I met, so I knew no one and lived by myself. I found a great group of friends to explore Paris with, one of whom has become a lifelong friend and stood by my side when I got married. We may have bonded over a mutual-love of Broadway, Harry Potter and Friends, but we soon learned we shared much more. She’s gone on to pursue her PhD, moving to an unknown town in Indiana and spending a summer studying in Rome. She reminds me of the importance of history, and she inspires me to chase the things I love in spite of anxiety and fear of the unknown.


Paris, 2005
Last night in Paris, 2005
Charlotte and Christina, visiting me in Nashville, 2009.

My funny, fearless, faraway friend, Christina. I’ve always respected her body-positive, female-positive, sex-positive and life-positive attitudes, secretly wishing I could be as spontaneous and adventurous as she is. Traveling the world alone, especially as a female, takes guts, which she has in spades. She inspires me to approach the world with an open, fearless heart and to visit places that had never been on my To Go list. (Follow her adventures on her blog and Instagram account – but be warned, you’ll want to pack up and leave tomorrow!)


Our non-Disney day (where we did everything around Disney except pay to go in), 2007.
The trip to Nashville that made her decide to move here, 2009.
Chicago road trip, 2014.

My weird and wacky kindhearted college pal, Tina. If I’m ever feeling discombobulated, a little bit of Tina Bina will make me feel all right. The Ann Perkins to my Leslie Knope (or is it the other way around?), she radiates warmth and nurturing, and though she was born in the northeast, she was meant to live in the South, which is where she found herself after getting her degree in Florida. She moves a bit slower than the rest of us (driving, eating, getting ready…), and has fun wherever she goes, whether it’s a road trip to New Orleans, the beach, or a non-Disney day. A great buffer for awkward situations, she inspires me to find the good in every person and place, and approach new experiences with a smile.


Pompei, 2006.
France, 1999.
Chicago, 2014.

My mother, Sherra. Boldly leaving the only life she knew, at 24, she followed a young John Lennon look-alike to NYC and had no idea what she was in for. (Neither did he!) She’s lived all across this country – New York, California, Michigan, Maine, Florida, Tennessee – always willing to do what’s best for her family and open to whatever comes next. She reminds me to be kinder to my fellow humans, and take advantage of my youth. Having taken her kids on countless road trips in America, on Caribbean cruises, to the Canadian mountains, road-tripping through Europe, she inspires me to do whatever I can so my family can travel, and to open the eyes of my future child(ren) to the world.


My dad and Mary Bell in Greece, 1973
Grandmother and my dad in Athens, 1964.
Grandmother and me in Key West, 2001.

My grandmother, Mary. The final domino that kicked me into blogging gear, Grandmother (never ‘Grandma’) was a modern woman with a penchant for good spelling and grammar, a single mother who forged friendships around the world. She made sure her child went places, even if it meant sharing a bathroom with strangers, and never let anything stop her from revisiting the places she loved the most. When I was younger, I hated the catchphrase she’d intone whenever I complained about anything: patience and fortitude. Now, I understand. It is with patience and fortitude that allowed her to live the life she did, spend time with people she loved, and go to the places she wanted. She inspires me to be more patient and resilient, and not let anything (finances, people, circumstances) get in my way as I go on my way.


And all the other awesome women I’ve had the pleasure of meeting – friends, family, acquaintances – who have boldly gone somewhere unknown to start anew; who travel alone but are not lonely; who pursue their dreams; who turn strangers into friends; who strive to know the world and know themselves — those I haven’t seen in years, those I see every few weeks… I wish you knew how often I think about you and all that you’ve accomplished, all that you’ve done! — I say to all of you: thank you. You inspire me every day.

To all the women in the world who stand up for their beliefs, fight injustice and live life the way they want to, patience and fortitude. I can’t wait to meet you all. <3

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