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Kathleen Rellihan reaches the summit of Kilimanjaro, moments before sunrise, with a full moon lighting the way. (Credit: Kathleen Rellihan)

The months leading up to my Mount Kilimanjaro climb were filled mostly with making countless trips to REI to stock up on gear and promising others that even their grandma could do it. Yes, before I had even stepped foot onto Africa’s tallest peak, I already was reassuring friends and family, “No, no … anyone can do it. It’s not Everest. There are 80-year-olds who climb it all the time.”

While it’s true that you don’t need to be an Ironman to climb Kilimanjaro, it was obvious that I wasn’t so much reassuring my friends, my family and the guy fitting my hiking boots that I was fully capable of trekking to an altitude of 19,341 feet — I was trying to mask my own doubts. Sure, I had read every Kilimanjaro packing list that I could find and scoured reviews on the best moisture-wicking, wind-resistant, fleece-lined, solar-paneled, this-definitely-will-help-you-not-die gear out there. But in terms of any mental or emotional preparations, the only thought I could allow to enter my mind was: “Just make it to the top. Even if someone has to drag you.”
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Photo Courtesy of Julia Dimon

She’s a travel journalist, TV personality and hard-core adventurer, and if you ask Julia Dimon, she’ll happily tell you she’s a travel junkie, too. Her travels have included experiences that some of us can only dream about, such as snorkeling with whale sharks in Mozambique, attending gladiator training in Rome, dogsledding in Greenland and eating deep-fried guinea pig in Ecuador.

In addition to writing her new book, Travel Junkie: A Badass Guide to Travel, Julia has been featured as a travel expert on TV and in numerous publications, including Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Forbes Travel, Budget Travel, Outside Magazine and the Chicago Tribune.

Julia continues to travel the world, but she also takes time to offer words of wisdom to eager travelers at events such as the New York Times Travel Show, which is where I met her. I decided to not only get the scoop on what drives Julia to travel, but I also wanted to get her advice about saving money when planning trips, solo travel for women and much more.
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Courtesy of WHOA Travel

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, we’re highlighting fearless female travelers around the globe who are celebrating the transforming power of travel and what women can accomplish together.

From climbing (and dancing) to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro with women from around the globe to featuring the leading ladies in travel at the Women’s Travel Fest to supporting local women finding work in India, here are the ways women are closing the gender gap and encouraging sustainable travel, ultimately opening the world for other women all over the world.

Courtesy of WHOA Travel

High-Altitude Dance Party on Top of Mount Kilimanjaro

Whoa, these women don’t just talk about moving mountains — they climb them together! WHOA Travel (Women High on Adventure) is leading its second annual Mount Kilimanjaro International Women’s Day climb. About 30 women from 10 different countries, including the US, Sweden, Estonia and Kenya, will summit the roof of Africa together at sunrise on March 8.  WHOA founders Allison Fleece and Danielle Thornton met while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro together in 2013. Knowing firsthand that no one climbs the mountain alone, the travel-loving duo believe in the power of showing the world what women can accomplish together. They also believe there’s always time for a little dancing and keep morale up on the 7-day trek with high-altitude dance parties.

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WHOA Travel founders Allison Fleece and Danielle Thornton on Mount Kilimanjaro. All photos courtesy of WHOA

No one climbs Mount Kilimanjaro alone, and no one knows that better than the founders of WHOA Travel. Women High on Adventure creators Allison Fleece and Danielle Thornton are travel-loving friends who met while climbing Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, in February 2013. Tackling one of the world’s toughest summits together was so life-altering, they knew they wanted to share the experience with others. So upon returning to New York, they quit their jobs and started an adventure travel company with a mission to motivate women to step out of their comfort zones … and onto the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.

In the spirit of empowering women, WHOA Travel led a group of 28 women from 9 countries to the roof of Africa on International Women’s Day earlier this year. Not only did all 28 women make it to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, but they even danced their way to the summit. Led by the mountain’s first local female guide, the group raised more than $10,000 to support women’s educational programs in Kenya and Tanzania. Now, Allison and Danielle are gearing up to lead another group of women to the summit on International Women’s Day in 2015.

We caught up with daring adventuresses between climbing mountains to find out what other WHOA-inspiring trips they’re leading, how their high-altitude dance-party tradition began, and the surprising item they never head back to Mount Kilimanjaro without (hint: it’s not a power bar).

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Photo Courtesy of Casa Palopó

Calling all the ladies! Sept. 24 marks National Women’s Health and Fitness Day, an annual event that stresses the importance of regular physical activity and health awareness for women.

Celebrate the occasion — and yourself — with a jaunt to a destination devoted to better health and wellness.

Head to sexy South Beach in Miami and toast your health at the boutique hotel Sense Beach House, whose on-site restaurant, The Local House, will offer a “Healthy Hour” from 3 to 4 p.m. on Sept. 24. Specials include a limited-edition, handcrafted juice (a pineapple blend with ginger lime and a touch of cinnamon) to boost metabolism.
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Photo Courtesy of Go! Girl Guides

Traveling the world is awesome, but it can be intimidating, particularly if you’re a woman traveling solo.

At Go! Girl Guides, we believe that the world is mostly safe and that people are mostly good, but we hear the same thing from women time and time again: “Is it safe to travel alone?”

The answer: YES, so long as you use remain aware, trust your instincts, and use a little common sense. These 7 travel tips will help you take on the world, with or without a travel partner.

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Best Bachelorette Destinations

Photography by Getty Images

Having just returned form a whirlwind weekend in NYC to toast a college friend, I started to think about all that goes into the modern-day Bachelorette, whether that’s a mechanic-bull-style bar crawl or a spa-and-sun-fueled weekend in South Beach.

Brides are increasingly looking for a night or 4 to remember, according to the New York Times, which adds that “the movement toward 5-star getaways may be due, in part, to people marrying later.” Makes sense. Most women have considerably more money than in their early 20s (as well as rewards points to pay for flights) and few have children yet (allowing for an extended stay).

So whether you’re the maid of honor, a childhood friend, or the bride-to-be herself, here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your last hurrah together … to make sure that fun is had by all.

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All photos courtesy of Sonia Gill

A self-described language geek, entrepreneur and an award-winning travel web series host, Sonia Gil is Our Type of Traveler.

Founder of the digital language learning company Fluenz, and host of “Sonia’s Travels” web series, Sonia shows that you can travel the world and enrich your life without breaking the bank. With a mission to “crack the secret code of cities,” “Sonia’s Travels” uncovers the local flavor of destinations, avoiding the tourist-trodden spots, to dig deeper to find the true soul of a city.

Sharing her love of language, Sonia’s projects include the non-profit Fluenz.org that distributes free English language programs for people in need. Recently, Sonia partnered with Lonely Planet to create FluentRoad.com, a unique online program for travelers interested in learning travel Spanish.

Sonia also has her own video series “Almost Free” on Ulive.com. As winner of the Webby Award for “Web Personality of the Year” in 2012, Sonia continues to “recapture the small moments that add up to the art of travel.”

We caught up with Sonia on the road to find out about all those small, but meaningful moments in her travels:

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Photography by Juliana Broste

We feel every day women should be celebrated around the world, but this past weekend some fearless female travelers upped the ante in honor of International Women’s Day by celebrating the power of connecting travel-loving women all over the world.

Inaugural Women’s Travel Fest in NYC

The inaugural Women’s Travel Fest, presented by Go! Girl Guides, kicked off in New York City at the awe-inspiring Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts building. Kelly Lewis, founder of Go! Girl Guides, created the 1-day event to inspire and empower women to travel through tips from the experts on everything from how to travel through the Middle East to connecting with fellow female travelers.

“There’s just something magical about getting women together to openly address our hopes, our fears and our dreams,” says Lewis. “Women have unique concerns about their health and safety … that’s why I created Go! Girl Guides, and why we needed the Women’s Travel Fest as a community of women.”

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Lindsey Simmons of Girls Gone Bayou

Some small towns are hot destinations. Take Bastrop, LA, for instance. Never heard of it? If you are a hunter or an avid outdoorsman, you have. Bastrop, just outside Monroe, LA, is home to Simmons’ Sporting Goods, one of the largest sporting goods stores in the country, drawing customers from across the South and selling everything from camouflage and camping gear to guns and ammo to ATVs and 4-wheelers. Bastrop also happens to be home to TravelChannel.com’s new exclusive web series, Girls Gone Bayou.

The series follows the quirky adventures of Lindsey Simmons, as she takes over day-to-day operations of Simmons’ with some help from gal pals, Lori and Kila. Lindsey’s got to convince her overbearing dad, Jeff, that they are up for the challenge, and prove that she and her blonde bombshell BFFs can hunt, fish and trap better than any good ole boy in the bayou. You can watch all 9 episodes of the series, starting today, on TravelChannel.com

We asked Lindsey what people should know about Bastrop and to share her favorite places in her hometown.

“Obviously, one of the biggest attractions for our town is Simmons’ Sporting Goods,” Lindsey says. “We have people that drive from a 5 state radius just to come to our store! They bring their RVs or stay in hotels and make a weekend out of it.”

Lindsey also recommends a stroll through Bastrop’s Town Square at the intersection of Highway 165 North and Highway 425 North to visit its antique shops, jewelry stores and theater.

“It’s a great place to explore Bastrop,” she says. “I guarantee you, when you pass people on those streets, they WILL smile and make you feel at home. I just love that!”

Finally, there’s the Morehouse Activity Center, known as “The Mac,” on Marlatt St.

“On Saturday night you can find everyone in town there to watch a rodeo,” Lindsey says. “Talk about a good time!”

Bastrop has some famous frequent visitors, too. The Robertsons of Duck Dynasty have been doing business with the Simmons’ ever since they started making duck calls. The popular reality-TV family signs autographs at Simmons’ every year.

“They are a great family and are truly as wholesome as they seem on TV,” Lindsey says. “Willie is a hoot. He’s down to earth and hilarious.”

Sounds like another family we’ve come to know. Get to know Lindsey, her family and friends on Girls Gone Bayou. Watch the first episode, now.

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