There is something about traveling exclusively with women that amplifies the feeling of freedom brought on by vacation. For one, there is less compromise: activities you may have to beg a male partner to do are a given part of the itinerary when traveling with female friends. Want to do a local pilates class? Same. Want to go out dancing? Let’s. Want to sit in the hotel bar and order two bottles of wine and a platter of cheese and not move? Perf.
Traveling in groups of women also lends an intimacy reminiscent of the best parts of being a teen girl—like one moment you could be swigging from a bottle of Peach Schnapps and divulging your deepest shame, and the next you could be laughing hysterically at all the ways in which a celebrity FaceTuned their latest selfie. There’s the clothes swapping and the shit talking and the fact that someone always has a spare tampon, but there’s also the shared notion that it’s you against the world. It’s intoxicating, and a welcome salve in a time that feels increasingly hostile towards women.
Some brands are starting to embrace the idea that being a woman is a blessing not a burden when it comes to travel, and offering trips geared specifically towards women. Purposeful Travel advertises “travel with intention” for women to places like Ecuador, Orcas Island and Iceland. Adventure Women is a women-owned travel company that offers everything from luxury glamping to hardcore hiking. Even fashion brands are getting in on the trend: Free People offers FP Escapes, wellness-inspired retreats that include yoga, healthy meals and a bunch of free branded swag.
The adventure travel company Intrepid has been quietly launching Women’s Expeditions—small group tours for those who identify as women—in numerous countries across the globe. The idea is to seize on all of the things that make traveling in all-female groups amazing while also giving women unique access to spaces that would be otherwise off-limits in a mixed-gender group. This makes taking one of these trips to countries with more conservative notions of gender especially appealing: you’re not going to be invited into the home of a deeply religious Iranian woman to learn how to cook, for example, with men tagging along. Since Intrepid’s approach to travel is to be as conscientious as possible, the trips have the added benefit of economically empowering the local women on the ground, creating a win/win scenario in which travelers get an authentic experience that actually helps instead of harms.
Intrepid brought me along (Full disclosure: free of cost!) on a women’s expedition to Turkey to experience a female-only trip for myself. The itinerary took us all around the country, from cosmopolitan Istanbul to the alien landscapes of Cappadocia to the beachy resort town of Antalya. We had lunch and made jewelry with displaced women from Syria and Iraq, who were kind enough to tell us their stories; we sailed around the Mediterranean with a female boat captain, who fed us the best food on earth; we talked politics and religion and sex with our Turkish tour guide. It was an experience made possible by the fact that we all identified as women, and instead of seeing that as a barrier to safe travel, we saw it as an opportunity—one that lent us access to spaces that would have otherwise been off limits.
As an honestly kind of inherently grumpy person, I’m constitutionally incapable of recommending something I can’t wholeheartedly personally endorse. World’s Best cat litter saves my apartment from smelling like I have two cats (which I do). HBO is making the only good TV right now (Succession, Years and Years, Euphoria). Traveling without men—and in an environmentally-friendly and ethical way? Couldn’t recommend it enough.