Solo female travel is one of travel’s most rapidly growing and increasingly influential demographics. But staying safe in new, unfamiliar places remains a valid concern, especially when booking accommodations through home-sharing networks like Airbnb or Couchsurfing. While these sites offer the opportunity for more localized, authentic, and generally cheaper travel experiences, staying in a stranger’s house in a strange city will still raise red flags for many women.
With that in mind, female-travel brand Wanderful has created its very own home-sharing digital platform, the first network of its kind specifically designed with women in mind. But it’s not all about safety precautions. Wanderful is equally about creating both real-world and digital spaces where women can meet and cultivate meaningful connections with other women around the world, and that mission extends to their home-sharing platform.
“As many as 40% of the women in our community have at one point opted out of a trip because they didn’t feel safe, or because of someone else’s concerns about their safety,” Wanderful founder and CEO Beth Santos wrote in an article on Medium. “By creating a network that caters to women travelers, we do not feed into or perpetuate existing fears. We give women a space to build powerful, positive relationships with other women around the world in whatever capacity they choose.”
While the home-sharing part of their site is relatively new, Wanderful has been around since 2013, empowering female travelers through conferences like the blogger-and-influencer-oriented Women in Travel Summit and Wanderfest. Their website, local city chapters, group trips, and online communities also give members opportunities to get to know each other, chat, and share resources and advice.
One of the things that sets the Wanderful home-sharing network apart is the extra step built into its identity-verification system: All members must be verified on a video call with staff, meaning that hosts and guests alike can’t hide behind fake digital presences.
“As a young woman, it feels a little sketchy welcoming a stranger into my house,” says Jenny Hart, an NYC-based host. “[With Wanderful], you’re able to communicate and learn more about each other. It makes it feel much more personable like you’re welcoming a friend of a friend.”
Hart has the distinction of being one of Wanderful’s first members and hosts. For her first guest, a young woman visiting from abroad, Hart says that they chatted prior to her visit and “got along really well.” At the end of her trip, the woman extended an offer for Hart to stay with her if she’s ever visiting her country.
“It’s a very positive experience,” Hart enthuses, saying that travelers can take advantage of local knowledge and even have the possibility of hanging out and exploring together.
In addition to empowering and educating women, Wanderful also challenges preconceived notions about women who travel, either alone or in groups, as well as raising awareness of the breadth and impact of the solo female travel movement.
“We either think of solo travel for women as absolutely delightful or prohibitively dangerous. It’s never somewhere in the middle,” Santos also wrote.
For millions of women, traveling on their own provides enriching experiences that are overall fairly safe. The only way to address and ultimately change the issues that plague women travelers is to speak up for solutions, share stories, and, ultimately, travel. As Santos sums it up, “We must travel more. And we must be loud about it.”
Currently, Wanderful has listings in 46 cities across 10 countries and is being used by more than 40,000 women of all ages, races, orientations, and backgrounds all over the world. As more women are stepping out of their comfort zone and exploring the world, Wanderful members are excited to welcome them into their community.
“As more people learn about [Wanderful], they’re gonna be telling their friends,” says Hart. “It’s turning into something bigger.”