Damesly, a new boutique travel company, invites women to boost their professional skills while enjoying exotic locales.
The number of women travelling alone, or with groups of other women, is on the rise.
In fact, experts at travel guide publisher Lonely Planet recently reported that more than 50 percent of travelers polled by the website BookYogaRetreats.com have said their next trip would be solo. The industry has seen a marked increase in searches and booking of women only retreats, and a 230 percent increase in the number of women-only tour companies in the past six years.
But while they are setting out to explore the world, many want a deeper experience than just dining, shopping or beach lounging. Data not only indicate the rise of solo tours and women-focused travel tours, but also an increase in travel that involves some aspect of personal growth — with 32.9 percent of female travelers reporting their aim was to learn a new skill. Retreats and itineraries packed with glamping (glamorous camping), clean eating, yoga and creative activities are rapidly increasing in popularity.
Designed to provide not just personal but professional growth opportunities, Damesly, a New Orleans-based boutique tour company, is the brainchild of co-founders Kelly Lewis and Alyson Kilday Damesly has conducted three tours since its launch in 2016.
“Our first [tour] was our soft launch tour called Riding + Writing, which was a creative writing lesson combined with horseback riding through the Rocky Mountains just outside of Denver,” Kilday said. “The second was a photography tour called Cameras + Canyons that went to the Grand canyon and Antelope Canyon and involved photography lessons and one on one shooting and editing with a woman who shoots with National Geographic, Travel Channel and more. The third was a tour to Hawaii, where I’m from, that was focused on surfing and personal discovery. That was a very transformative tour for all of us.
On the Go
Travel with Damesly
Upcoming ventures include a new mini-trip series for women who want a unique experience, but don’t have the budget or time for an extended stay, as well as full-length excursions such as a public relations workshop and cruise on Lake Powell (a lake bordering Utah and Arizona), a hiking and landscape photography session in the Grand Canyon, and trips to Iceland and Hawaii.
Makers + Magnolias mini-trip in New Orleans – focusing on the art of creation.
Writing + Riding: Creative writing workshop with horseback riding in the Colorado Rockies.
Islands + Identity: Surfing trip and identity exploration on Oahu.
Visit Damesly.com for more information and booking. Payment plans for some trips are available.
Lewis said the company has found more of a balance between professional and personal development with each trip.
“When we started Damesly, we were focused almost solely on skill building, on entrepreneurship, etc.” she said. “What we’ve found is that our trips have also become about self-discovery, almost accidentally. It seems you realy can’t have one without the other. As we get further into chasing what it is we are passionate about in our lives and in our careers our goals, our identities and our priorities sort of shift, too. And that’s been a really beautiful thing to watch.”
With a wide variety of trips, from budget-friendly to more extravagant, and tour groups capped at 15 or less for intimacy, Kilday notes that Damesly aims to have travel opportunities with all women in mind.
“We have weekend “Mini Damesly” workshops, such as the Lake Powell houseboat and media communication trip, all the way to weeklong excursions to Hawaii or Iceland. Each trip is unique because it’s about the people that come together as much as the location we travel to,” she said. “The prices vary depending on the trip, and most importantly on the type of workshop and mentor we bring in for each trip. We want as many women as possible to have the opportunity to join us, so we work hard to create affordable trips with the Minis — all inclusive weekend adventure and workshops under $1500. Weeklong international trips and executive level workshops will be priced a trip-by-trip basis.”
Damesly’s inaugural tours have garnered fans and positive press from across the country.
“In the past year, we’ve been able to run several trips and have been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post and recently in the print edition of Travel + Leisure as one of the top 10 female travel companies,” Kilday said. “It’s been a great start.”
Lewis, who was originally a client of Kildays creative branding agency, Hop & Jaunt, has always loved travel and it’s a passion she enjoys sharing with other women.
Among the places Damesly has visited include Hawaii, (middle) Arizona, and (bottom) Colorado.
“I have worked in women’s travel, specifically, for several years,” she said. “First as the founder of Go! Girl Guides, which publishes travel guidebooks for women, and then as the founder of the Women’s Travel Fest, an annual conference for women who travel. For me, this was the next progression — to get women actually out there traveling.”
Lewis approached Kilday with the idea of Damesly and their creative friendship and professional collaboration quickly turned into a business partnership.
“When she approached me with her idea for Damesly, I knew it needed to be built,” Kilday said, “and so I joined as her co-founder.”
Damesly aims to stretch further than just being a typical one-time guided tour experience.
“Our aim is to build a community of women who like to travel, who are creative and professional and who support one another in their creative projects,” Lewis said. “Our trips take our ladies to amazing parts of the world, but they also involve skill building and creative developmnt, which I think is really important. We want the women who take our trips to return home feeling equal parts relaxed and inspired ready to kick ass in their careers.”
Along with building a community, Damesly excursions transform the typical work trip stereotype into something much more than conference rooms and power lunches.
“I wasn’t traveling for pleasure as much as for conferences and work,” Kilday said. “I remember thinking that the most valuable take aways from most big conferences wasn’t always the talks, but the people you met. So with Damesly I wanted to play with the idea of ‘What if, instead of being one of a thousand listening to a keynote speaker, you could spend a weekend with them? How much more would you learn? How much more meaningful would a personal shared experience be with others who shared your passion?’ Damesly is a place where you get to meet amazing people and learn new skills — we just happen to do it in epic locations.”
Kilday said with the rise of the female solo and group traveler, more and more travel companies and brands are taking notice.
“In the past year, we’ve seen national brands and startups coming into the market,” she said. “Women travel for a million different reasons, like men, but studies have shown that women are far more likely to travel with the goal of learning something new or to experience something new.”
A sad fact is that safety also has to be a priority. According to Kilday, Damesly encourages all its clients to do their own research, pack carefully and purchase travel insurance. The company also provides a unique set of plans and contingencies for each client.
“We’re very serious about taking care of our clients,” she said. “We make sure that their safety is always a primary consideration, but we also educate our clients on the unique nature of each destination so that they feel comfortable and empowered to explore on their own. Each trip is unique from weekends in North America to weeklong trips around the world. Depending on the type of trip, we provide our travelers recommendations for different types of travel insurance they can pick up if they choose.”
Travel tip for women
Before You Go
Know the location of the U.S. embassy or consulate for your destination, USEmbassy.gov.
Research Your Destination
Visit the Department of State’s official website, Travel.State.gov, where you will find country-specific information for every country of the world.
You will also find information about visa requirements, crime and security conditions, health and medical considerations, local laws, areas to avoid, and more.
Most foreign countries require a valid passport to enter and leave. There are countries that may require a woman to have a male escort to leave a country.
Countries may have laws and customs about women’s clothing and appearance. For example, what you wear to a mall in Mexico might not be acceptable in a mall in the United Arab Emirates.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
It is important for women travelers to understand the cultural norms of the country they will be visiting. Pay attention to local laws and customs because they can be quite different from the United States, especially if you intend to travel alone. Avoid dark, isolated areas at night.
The safety of public transportation varies from country to country. In many places, informal taxis or mini-buses pose particular threats to people unfamiliar with local conditions, especially to women traveling alone. Find out from reliable sources, such as local authorities or tourism officials, what is and is not safe.
Be cautious when sharing information about your plans and itinerary with strangers. Don’t feel the need to be overly polite if you are bothered by someone. While it may seem rude to be unfriendly to a stranger, creating boundaries to protect yourself is important. Use facial expressions, body language, and a firm voice to fend off any unwanted attention.
*source: U.S. Department of State, Travel.US.gov
While Kilday and Lewis are handson with each tour, Damesly also recruits locals in order to maximize the experience at each unique location.
“We’re the facilitators, but we bring in local guides, and each trip is also based around a learning component so we’ll bring in the trip leaders, such as a professional outdoor photographer to teach women how to use their cameras while hiking the Grand Canyon, or a rock-star PR lady to teach small business owners how to gain exposure by getting featured on media while cruising Lake Powell,” said Kilday. “Each trip will have its own trip leader.”
Destinations are chosen with two factors in mind: A combination of unique and gorgeous locations everyone wants to check out and professional or creative skills women want to or need to learn.
Transformation, women-oriented community, personal growth and friendship are the ultimate goals of each Damesly experience.
“Exploring and learning together is an experience you’ll remember forever,” Kilday said. “When our dames leave with a handful of new friends and a memory they’ll cherish for the rest of their lives, we know we’ve created something worthwhile.”