Aug. 27, 2013 at 10:16 AM ET
Fishing for piranhas during the day and sleeping in hammocks in Brazil’s Amazon jungle at night, Katja Hentschel was a long way from her native Germany on a recent trip — her biggest adventure so far.
She travels seven months out of the year, often alone, but when she tells other women about her exploits, she doesn’t want them to just dream about doing something similar, she encourages them to put on their lipstick and backpacks and just do it.
Hoping to inspire a new generation of female globetrotters, Hentschel founded Travelettes, an online magazine with the motto, “Backpacking in heels.”
“I definitely feel like we’re on our way to having what I like to think of as a bit of a movement: girls embracing the idea that it’s cool to travel, to travel alone and to be a Travelette — a girl who has an open mind, who wants to go out and see the world and is out there to explore and conquer,” Hentschel, 31, told TODAY.com in a phone interview from Berlin, where she is based.
“Be active, be proactive, go traveling and go see the world. Because I find it’s such a huge part of becoming who you are.”
There are 10 official Travelettes from different countries and backgrounds contributing to the blog, looking for unique places to stay, cool things to do, and stylish adventures to experience. The goal is for the group to represent all women and serve as role models, Hentschel said.
One of them is Sophie Saint, who just returned to England after three years living in Melbourne, Australia. At 25, she has already experienced her share of travel adventures, including a nine-month backpacking trip through Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia right after graduating from university.
Like Hentschel, she often explores the world on her own and both women see their roles as Travelettes as key to encouraging other lady adventurers to try solo travel.
“It can be scary and intimidating, but once you do it you realize how much you can achieve. It really puts you out of your comfort zone and challenges you to take more chances,” Saint said.
“It tends to be more intense,” Hentschel added. “I have stronger memories of the actual trip, whereas when I travel with someone, I have stronger memories of just my relationship with the person I traveled with.”
Saint, who admitted being “ridiculously terrified” during her first trip alone, reminded women it’s normal to feel unnerved about traveling solo but to also realize it makes you more open to meeting new people.
Hentschel learned traveling alone doesn’t have to be intimidating when she saw how many other women were doing it, she said. Her favorite parts of the world include Southeast Asia and the U.S., where she is planning a cross-country road trip in October. That journey will also be a solo adventure.
When she arrives at a destination, she likes to try to find locals who look like they could be her friends and ask them for their advice about what to see and do. She sees her blog as a bridge between a travel guide and recommendations from friends.
So do any of the Travelettes actually do any “backpacking in heels” — the site’s motto?
Hentschel insists she does.
On a recent one-year trip around the world, she got tired of wearing sandals and Thai fisherman pants for the first three months of her adventure, so she filled her backpack with five pairs of heels and 15 vintage dresses for the rest of the journey.
“I decided to completely ditch this mindset of having to wear backpacker-friendly clothing,” Hentschel said. “It’s important to be me.”
Traveling in style, the Travelette way.