Just 560 largely untrodden miles, 48 enduring hours and some heavy humidity stood between paradise and us. Savannah and I were staying in some stranger’s home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia when we cooked up a then-ostensibly sound plan to hitchhike to Thailand’s Koh Phagnan island, where we’d cover a legendary “Lost in Paradise” music festival together as a photographer-writer dynamic duo.
It was somewhere along the way of schmoozing the Thai police, spending the night along some deserted dirt road, missing ferries, riding on strangers’ motorbikes and hopping in the back of rickety pickup trucks to venture through densely jungled roads that we found immense inspiration. I remember catching glittering glimpses of the stars through towering palms. My Chang beer splashed all over me in the back of that truck—a refreshing respite from the suffocating heat. Savannah and I sat there in uncontainable laughter about what we’d gotten ourselves into that time, talking endlessly about the empowering impact of the journey over the destination. After all, we ultimately missed the festival…
That conversation marked the first of many magically mind-bending and ultimately life-changing chats with other solo-traveling women along my now two-year journey backpacking the world.
I’m perpetually athirst for feminine energy, particularly while traveling solo—women of inimitable cultures coming together to share a safe space, a surfeit of critical conversations and unbridled laughter. And when I meet like-minded visionaries who refuse to fixate on fear for the solo female traveler but, instead, are wandering the world empowering one another, well, I savor those experiences like samosas on a long-haul bus journey across India. Seldom do we actually stop to feed on them along the ride but, when we do, they spice up life, satiate our appetites and fulfill us for another stretch of the journey.
And it’s thanks to Quilt, a community-powered platform made by women for women, that I’m able to engage in ever more of these confidence-inducing conversations.
What is Quilt?
Quilt is an app that connects you with women—both online and offline—so you can share openly in a safe and supportive community. In short, Quilt brings women together in intimate gatherings in hosts’ homes and online in virtual groups to discuss topics that matter. Topics can span everything from grappling with grief and navigating change to, yes, traveling solo as a woman.
To date, Quilt boasts over 400 hosts across New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco but, if you live elsewhere, you can always apply to become your city’s first host. And, if you’re traveling or living internationally, you can still get involved in the Quilt community online.
How do you use Quilt?
In the Quilt app, simply enter your zip code to find gatherings near you. Browse through local gatherings on a gamut of topics, as well as monthly house parties with up to 75 women across New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. You can also message and connect with other women on the Quilt app for free.
RSVP to a conversation you'd like to attend to create your account, and start your free month trial of membership. Once your RSVP is confirmed, Quilt will let you know the date and time of each gathering and house party, the maximum number of attendees, whether or not there will be food and/or beverages, as well as whether or not there will be pets at the host’s home. Once you RSVP to a gathering or house party, you’ll receive the exact address, parking instructions and contact information for your host. After 30 days, you can attend unlimited Quilt conversations, bring friends and get exclusive member perks for under $20 a month.
And, again, if you’re not based in New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco, you can still make the most of the Quilt app. Search for online groups to chat in the app or join virtual Quilt conversations from wherever you are.
How can Quilt be a tool for solo female travelers?
Simply, there’s nothing more inspiring to me than women—most of whom are ill-advised to travel alone—defying preconceived gender stereotypes and challenging the unfounded but all-too pervasive notion that they’re unequipped for the vagabond life. It’s conversations with fearless female travelers that don’t just light a fire under me; rather, they burn like a burgeoning bushfire. They’re fierce, unyielding and infectious.
I think back to scootering through Sri Lanka’s rolling rice fields and terraced tea plantations with three fierce Italian feminists I’d met on a nine-hour train. We spent afternoons swimming in waterfalls, sipping smoothies on sun-swathed beaches and unpacking patriarchy.
I think about meditating on the white sandy stretches of Costa Rica early mornings with an inspiring few digital nomads—many with whom I went on to travel for months. We chose topics on which to meditate each morning—like practicing self-love, starting anew, staying grounded—and we talked through the intrusive thoughts and emotions that inevitably arose for each of us.
I think to adventuring through Guatemala with a New Zealander who broke my mind with stories of her treks through the world’s most monstrous mountain ranges—stories that later empowered me to scramble up volcanic rock by headlamp to ascend with the sun and spewing lava. I think to spending a productive summer in Portugal with an American UX-UI designer I’d met in Colombia who’s crushing her male-dominated career. To bopping around the Balkans with the most optimistic beam of light who, time and time again, has pulled me out of dangerous mental rabbit holes surrounding love (and lack thereof), health concerns (and hypochondria), career complications and everything in between. To deliberating over societal pressures before South African sunsets with long-lost sisters who must’ve been displaced around the world at birth.
I think about all of the women I’ve encountered along my round-the-world journey. The woman independently trekking the heights of Himalayas. The woman solo sailing across the Mediterranean sea. The woman on a silent meditative journey across Southeast Asia.
All of these encounters and more have shaped both how and why I continue to travel to all corners of the globe. And Quilt gives me (and you!) the opportunity to cultivate these communities from my fingertips, anywhere in the world.
Not only can you connect with like-minded networks of women from coast to coast across the United States, but you can also ask questions and participate in discussions about traveling solo as women from anywhere in the world.
With Quilt, you can discuss the questions that are relentlessly asked of solo female travelers—and, together, come up with responses to squash sexism. Don’t you get lonely? Why don’t you wait for a partner to travel with you? Your partner lets you travel without them? Aren’t you afraid of getting sexually harassed or assaulted or drugged or kidnapped? Don’t you want to settle down soon? Shouldn't you be saving your money for a family?
With Quilt, you can reshape the conversation. Rather than fear mongering, you can ask questions that matter—constructive questions that inspire introspection, that show respect for the journey and that push each other even further beyond societal boundaries. What do find most empowering about solo travel? What was the most life-changing lesson you learned on the road? What’s one challenge you faced while traveling alone that reshaped how you approach similar situations? In what ways can your friends/family/partner better support your journey?
With Quilt, you can help each other unlearn preconceived gender stereotypes to which you may not choose to subscribe.
With Quilt, you can help one another rewire any toxic thought patterns surrounding solo travel for women (i.e. “I’m not strong or smart enough to do this alone.”).
And, with Quilt, you can instill confidence in each other with motivational travel stories.
Curious what Quilt can do for you? Learn more about Quilt here.