New work environments have brought with them a demand for new managing skills for hybrid workplaces. Let’s explore what they are!
While some companies have returned to the office full-time, there are many others that learned the positive effects of a more flexible approach during the pandemic. For these organizations, helping their managers acquire the right managing skills for hybrid workplaces will make a big difference.
But what does that mean for those who oversee these increasingly common hybrid teams? What new managing skills will prove to be vital for those leading hybrid workplaces? And what role must managers play to ensure a healthy work environment for all employees?
Managers will have to learn new managing skills for hybrid workplaces to feel inclusive to everyone- Photo Credit- Jason Goodman-Unsplash
Why Are New Managerial Skills Necessary at Hybrid Workplaces?
With hybrid forces growing and more people spending at least half the time working remotely, managers are not only becoming the best way to build a real connection between employers and employees to nurture a sense of belonging. They’ve also become a vital part of keeping companies’ cultures alive.
Managers may have to find ways to build camaraderie between employees that no longer spend most of their days a few cubicles away from each other. They’ll need to create safe spaces for conversations and meetings to happen productively. In addition to that, new managing skills for hybrid workplaces will include finding ways to ensure the same opportunities and interactions are being made available to both remote and in-person employees. That everyone’s being heard and given a chance to grow no matter who they are or where they are working from.
1Communication matters: Managers in hybrid workplaces will need to be great communicators. Not only will they be the main link between remote and in-person team members, they’ll also be the ones connecting every person on their team to the company and, thus, to the opportunities to grow and thrive within it. Their conversations will have to be more in-depth and more personal, meaning conversational and listening skills will have to adapt to the needs of an unprecedented workforce. This communication will also include time management and making sure that calendars and meetings are productive for everyone. Follow-ups to some conversations will have to happen individually, since informal conversations at the office will only be possible with some team members whereas the goal is for everyone to be in the loop.
2Hope for the best but prepare for the worst: No one wants the worst to happen, but the last few years have taught us that there is plenty that can go wrong or complicate work-life as we know it. Things that are out of our control can take over and make it difficult for business to go on as usual and managers and their teams should at least try to prepare for the unexpected. The latest crisis transformed workforces worldwide, but it also gave us a glimpse into what organizations will need. There is no way to anticipate every possible scenario but being flexible and willing to change and adapt will be a key element for companies moving forward. It will also be part of the skillset they demand of their managers, with a need for leaders that can carry out changes on the go in times of crisis. According to the Harvard Business Review, hybrid models will allow leaders and their teams greater opportunities to step up in times of crisis. For this to happen, managers will need a clear understanding of not just the possible challenges ahead, but of every team member and the skills to face them.
3Equal expectations and clear objectives: It will undoubtedly be easier to shine at in-person meetings and other work events than remotely. So, giving all team members clear objectives and responsibilities as well as ensuring a balance of expectations and opportunities, regardless of how or where they work, will be a valuable managing skill. Managers will have to learn how to measure productivity depending on the specific goals required of each team member, as well as recognize important traits and skillsets that might differ from traditional productivity standards. Since teams and their responsibilities will be so different in hybrid workplaces, it will be up to the leaders to identify the aptitudes that define their strongest or weakest players in their teams. And to make sure that those working remotely are being given the same chances to grow as their in-person or hybrid counterparts.
4People Skills: People skills are more important than ever for managers leading hybrid teams. These leaders will have to be more empathetic and better listeners who can adapt their managing and coaching styles to make sure they’re reaching all team members, whether it’s in person through face-to-face exchanges or remotely, through virtual meetings, calls, texts, and emails. Managers will have to be approachable and find ways to connect with the team, while also nurturing healthy relationships among remote and in person team members. They will also need to pay more attention to those who are working remotely and make sure they see beyond what the camera may show. Being able to read team members and their needs will become an important managing skill for hybrid workplaces.
5Cultivate a sense of belonging: Needless to say, making sure that employees feel a sense of belonging and purpose is a vital part in retaining talent and guaranteeing they reach their full potential within the company. This means managing skills for hybrid workplaces will require team leaders to remain inclusive, listen to everyone, and come up with ways to ensure that those who are working remotely feel as much a part of the team as people who are at the office full-time. This will require for manages to learn how to balance group and one-on-one discussions and to ensure that everyone has enough time to work and rest, including themselves. Making team members feel taken care of and safe will also make them more likely to fulfil what’s expected of them.
Managing skills for hybrid workplaces are key for the model to succeed- Photo Credit- Sigmund-Unsplash
The Company Plays a Part
Just as organizations are beginning to rely on their managers to communicate with their teams about their needs and concerns, managers need to know their organizations have their backs. Leaders with the right managing skills can create diverse teams that will thrive in hybrid workplaces at even the most challenging of times, but they will need their company’s support.
Many managers will have to learn how to lead and communicate inclusively and effectively as they go. And companies should learn to not only encourage, but also make sure managers are being emotionally and economically supported as they navigate these hybrid workspaces and the new managing skills they require.
Prioritizing mental health is a new mission for young entrepreneurs with no shortage of sources of stress. Studies show that members of Generation Z report higher rates of anxiety and depression than any other age group. However, they’re also more likely to prioritize mental health, seek help, and find healthier coping mechanisms through things like sports.
Isabella Ostos and Romina Palmero understand the importance of prioritizing mental health. Their personal struggles and experiences led them to create tutifruti, a project dedicated to building a network for women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ people to share their stories, learn, grow, and find safe spaces and community in skateparks all over the world.
We talked to Isa and Romina about tutifuti, mental health, a kinder approach to “failure,” and the diverse and supportive communities found at skateparks.
Isabella Ostos and Romina Palmero are the co creators of tutifruti
Mental Health and Young Entrepreneurs
ALI VERÁSTEGUI – Tell us about tutifruti and how you hope it’ll impact mental health for Gen Zers.
ISABELLA OSTOS – tutifruti began as an idea to help me cope with an emotionally abusive relationship I was in at the end of 2020. When I finally left, I realized I had a long road to recovery ahead. Leaving was the first step but I needed to let myself heal and process what happened. With the new year coming, I promised to allow myself to feel, accept, and learn from all the pain and trauma. To work on myself so I’d never be in that position again. tutifruti became an outlet to build a safer and stronger connection with myself and others. It has never been just about skating, but about sharing the human experience. For us, sharing the diﬃcult and complicated parts of life is as important as the positive and happy moments. And that’s what’s special about what we do. The core of tutifruti speaks to the importance of mental health. The importance of integrity, honesty, compassion, acceptance, and healing. We strive to provide marginalized groups with resources and spaces to help them navigate their own mental wellness. We hope to bring visibility to much-needed conversations about mental health regardless of age, race, gender, etc.
ROMINA PALMERO – We work with these marginalized groups because of the unique mental wellness challenges they face. Sincerely, I think we hope it will have the same impact on Gen Z as any other age group. We want to raise awareness about mental health, for people to learn to recognize when they (or someone else) need help and find ways to cope with the different challenges of being a person in the world.
AV – What are some of the issues impacting mental health for Gen Zers and how can skateboarding and sports help approach them?
IO – We live in a society that has normalized unhealthy habits, expectations, and definitions of success. Displaying a narcissistic behavior is subconsciously praised. Technology and social media have 100% impacted the way we understand each other and ourselves. For younger generations, these forms of technology have been present their whole life. Meaning that, unless you have been raised off the grid, your understating of life has been impacted and influenced severely by the internet. Statistics for Gen Z show a spike on suicide rates, depression, and anxiety, all linked to the ‘Am I social media worthy?’ cultural phenomenon. tutifruti, along with organizations like Free Movement, The Ben Raemers Foundation, and Push to Heal, have prioritized genuine connections, and redefined what a safe space feels like. Our goal is never about finding “the best”, every stage is sacred and equally important. We focus on the lessons and the emotional growth we experience learning to skate. I believe that we as individuals can excel and learn to be better friends to ourselves and others in a healthy community setting. Skating as a sport is founded on this sense of community, which makes it safe to be vulnerable.
RP – There is no shortage of evidence that Gen Z is struggling. This is the generation with the highest rates of depression and anxiety. School shootings, social media, and COVID are just some of the factors that are impacting our mental health, on top of all the stress of regular life. But this is also the generation with the highest willingness to learn about mental health and receive professional help. Therapy isn’t everything, though. Lifestyle changes are a large part of getting healthy and research supports the importance of exercise. Keeping up with your physical health is a huge factor and sports are a great way to stay active and have fun. Sports can teach you about your body, help you learn from others, and boost emotional and physical strength. Physical activity is also a healthy coping mechanism, even something as simple as walking makes a difference. Getting motivated can be difficult for people, but sports like skating allow freedom to “play” without it feeling like “exercise.”
A skatepark community helps young people feel a sense of belonging
Integrating Skating and Mental Health
AV – What is it about skateboarding that can positively impact women, LGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities specifically?
RP – Skateboarding has historically been a sport dominated by cishet white men. Whether it was the marketable beginnings in California or the later punk-centered subculture, women were always the minority and had to work hard to carve a space for themselves. But we are in a moment in skating history where there is huge interest from marginalized communities. We’re tired of not pursuing what we want out of fear. There are so many amazing crews and organizations all over the world encouraging women, LGBTQ+ people, and BIPOC to take up skating. If there isn’t one in your city, there is a community waiting for it. This structure of engagement centered around community, around feeling safe surrounded by people who look like you, can have a long-lasting impact. It’s unbelievably empowering to learn something new with like-minded people, especially when you get to exist in spaces you never felt comfortable in before.
IO – Skateboarding has lacked spaces for women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ individuals. In recent years, however, we’ve seen a rapid growth of grassroots collective, skate crews, and organizations led by ordinary people looking to create safe spaces. It’s hard to explain the magic of these meetups. They’re moments where you acknowledge everyone tried to show up despite of what they have going on. For many, these are the highlights of their week or month. I think most of us, but especially younger generations, struggle with the question of who we “should” be or look like to be accepted. As I mentioned, social media perpetuates unhealthy and unrealistic views of the world and what it’s perceived as acceptable is often damaging to our sense of belonging and self-love. But when you are surrounded by loving, caring, supportive, respectful, and compassionate people at the skatepark, you realize the possibility of feeling seen is real and tangible. That despite how different we may be, we all want to be loved and accepted for who we are. These safe spaces may be the right settings to learn how to love, respect, and accept our true selves.
AV – What it has meant for you to recognize yourself as a part of the LGBTQ+ community? How do you show your pride every day?
IO – I celebrate my identity, gender, and sexuality by just existing and embracing my feelings. Sometimes I wake up and I feel more feminine, but maybe the next day I wake up feeling a little more masculine, and most of the time I feel like neither. I am more comfortable saying that I feel like Isa. It’s complicated because these labels are based on a social construct that I fundamentally disagree with. I use the terms “masculine” and “feminine” because my existence in this system has been politicized and certain gender expectations have been imposed by default, but in the end, I don’t agree. Nor do I feel seen by what these labels claim to represent.
RP – I have been out for a long time. My older sister came out before me, and my middle school years were spent attending the neighboring high school’s GSA meetings (the Gay-Straight Alliance until it was changed to Gender-Sexuality Alliance under my leadership). I was an active member of the community all my teen years, attending Pride and local Queer events in Fort Lauderdale or Miami. While I love these kinds of experiences, I think the true way we show pride every day is simply by existing as people in the community. Being good friends, partners, neighbors, parents, educators, leaders: this is what pride means to me. Showing love to everyone in your life so they can share that love in the future.
Skateboarding is the way in which tutifruti helps the community build a strong mental health
No Learning Without Failing
AV – You place a beautiful emphasis on the importance of learning to fall, how does that help when talking about mental health?
IO – Learning and growing are painful and slow processes. Whether it’s in skating or real life. We tend to recognize success without understanding all the pain, mistakes, doubt, and ups and downs that allow someone to reach that point. With tutifruti we emphasize the importance of accepting we will fall no matter what. And of learning how to fall so that we can get back up. I’m not just talking about skateboarding, but about the relationship we have with our inner selves. When we accept that falling is inevitable, we let self-compassion be the driving force of how we treat ourselves after “failing.” It’s necessary to make mistakes to understand our boundaries, fears, insecurities, values, and patterns. Part of “failing” is taking responsibility for your choices and making changes to avoid old mistakes and allow growth. When you start skating, every “failed” attempt gives you confidence that helps you trust you’ll make the right move. This dynamic mirrors our emotional lives outside a skatepark. Our mental health relies on our curiosity and need to explore ourselves and learn about who we are. It’s about asking the painful but necessary questions. And about experiencing life in an intentional way. We must fall so we can grow, change, and honor ourselves.
RP – Skating is a perfect vessel for talking through the challenges of working on your mental health. There’s no way to learn without falling. It doesn’t matter what level you’re in, even Olympians stumble half the time. So, your goal isn’t to avoid falling, it’s learning how to fall in a “safe” way. Learning and changing requires a very similar process. When you’re trying to improve your mental health, setting realistic expectations, and having compassion for your journey is incredibly important. You’re bound to make mistakes, get hurt, hurt others, and do the wrong thing sometimes. It can be as small as a scrape or as big as a broken bone, but in skating and life, the only thing you can do is get up and keep trying when you’re ready. Trust you’ll get there eventually. And you need to know when to take breaks.
AV – Do you feel something about skateboarding makes it easier to share and connect?
IO – Absolutely! Skateboarding is a terrifying sport and it can get very emotionally frustrating. Some people spend months or years perfecting one trick, and I think that’s why it’s such a great bonding experience. It doesn’t matter who you know at the skatepark, when someone lands a trick, everybody is happy and excited! We know how much time, perseverance, patience, and commitment it takes to follow through with something that may hurt you, so when it happens it’s impossible not to celebrate. Skating requires you to be vulnerable and forces you to ask for help when you fall or need advice unlocking a trick. It requires you to trust that those around you will be there if you fall and hurt yourself. And it pushes you to trust your instincts, even when your brain is telling you that you shouldn’t throw yourself down a ramp or bowl. I believe it can be more of a mental/emotional exercise because so much time is spent trying to overcome the blocks that keep you from following through.
RP – It’s very humbling to fall in front of people, you are kind of immediately vulnerable. You fail constantly when you’re still learning. Skateboarding can be very communal. People want to help you, likely because somebody once helped them. There’s also the fact that, if you do fall you’ll want there to be people around to help you get back up. Plus, everyone at a skatepark can appreciate when someone has put a lot of work into something. You get this unique experience of being very vulnerable while also getting encouragement and support. It creates a safe space to be open and honest. The friends you make while skating can be the type of friends who you feel you’ve known an entire lifetime, and it has to do with the formula skating provides to foster strong relationships.
Mental Health is a key issue addressed by tutifruti
Growth and Prioritizing Mental Health
AV – How have you grown and changed since you began working on tutifruti?
IO – I feel I am a completely different person. I’m not perfect (I don’t even know what that means), but in an emotional sense, I’ve grown immensely! I never expected the project to become what it is, and I couldn’t be more grateful. This past year and a half changed my life in every possible way. Of course, it’s not all because of tutifruti. It also has to do with the work I’ve put on myself outside of the project. One of the biggest changes is how I talk to myself. After I left that abusive relationship, my self-esteem was nonexistent. My internal monologue consisted of my abuser’s voice telling me I was a terrible person and deserved nothing. It was painful, I was afraid to do anything for months. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t in that situation anymore, I felt trapped in all the times I was made to feel like nothing. I could hear their voice tormenting me and it was exhausting. Romina and my friends helped me overcome this by reminding me what healthy relationships look like. Traveling also helped me trust people again, because it forced me to open myself up to strangers and practice what I was learning in therapy.
RP – I like to think of myself as a person who is always striving to grow and change. But since the beginning of this project, I’ve done more new things, seen more new places, and had more new experiences. I feel like I’m a completely different person in a lot of ways. Of course, at my core I’m still me. But that “me” is shifting every day and that excites me. I have prioritized my mental health most of my life, mostly out of necessity to deal with my own mental illness. I’ve had the opportunity to talk about mental health openly, without feeling judged or looked at differently. It’s been liberating and validating. It makes my mind a lot less scary.
AV – Tell us about the athletes you’ve worked with.
IO – We’ve had the opportunity to meet skaters from all over the world! Some skate for fun, others because they want to become professionals, and some used to be pros but decided to quit to focus on themselves. That’s the beauty of skateparks, you don’t realize how often you may be skating with a legend or a present-day pro. Regardless of skill, we are always inspired to capture everyone’s journey. I’ve learned new things from people of all ages, including children. And I love that because it’s in those moments that you realize that age is meaningless. We think of progress as a linear or age dependent experience, but in skating it’s all over the place and that’s very exciting.
RP – We’ve had the amazing opportunity to skate with, photograph, and/or befriend a lot of amazing skaters. We’ve met people who used to be pro but quit and skaters looking at a future competing internationally. Some are beginning to compete locally and getting more confident and some just began skating this year. We’ve photographed people on their first day and have had the wonderful opportunity to give some of them their first skateboard. I am proud and amazed by everyone we spend time with.
AV – How would you like to see tutifruti grow and evolve? How can people support your mission?
IO – What I want is for tutifruti to keep prioritizing the safety, growth, and journey of those we work with. We want to work with local communities to build skateparks around the world that essentially work as community centers where people can teach and learn from each other. Skateboarding ties art, mental wellness, and physical wellness, so we believe these spaces can foster a sense of community. The best way to support us is by sharing our story! And, if possible, by donating and purchasing merchandise.
RP – I want tutifruti to be an organization that really serves communities and can bridge the gap of accessibility in mental health, as well as skating, for marginalized people. The easiest way to support us is to keep up with us and share our stuff. If you really like what we’re doing, you can donate to our Go Fund Me to fund our tour, buy merch, or donate if you’re feeling generous.
They should’ve always been called power skills. It’s become obvious that the “soft skills” of the past are at the forefront of what’s most needed in our current workplaces.
These “soft skills” have gone from something that employers may have overlooked in the past in the name of more technical “hard skills” to a vital part of any desirable resume.
But what are these so-called Soft Skills or Power Skills? Can they be taught and developed? Are they more important for certain kinds of jobs and tasks than others? And why is it critical that they go from soft skills to power skills in our workplace culture?
Soft skills should be rebranded as Power Skills- Photo Credit- Brooke Lark -Unsplash
What should we call these skills?
For many companies, skill needs are divided in two main groups. The first group are hard skills, which are the more traditional, technical skills we acquire from our education, careers, and even work experience as industries shift and transform. The second group of skills, known as soft skills, have more to do with our approach to people, managerial skills, attitudes towards problem solving and team building, communication, empathy, creativity, and other less conventional characteristics that have become increasingly valuable in the workplace.
In fact, studies show that training employees in these so-called soft skills increases productivity by 12%. For some, just referring to them as “soft skills” demonstrates how little we really understand about their importance in the workplace. In fact they are a key part of it, especially in hybrid workplace management. Therefore, it’s imperative to not only rebrand them from soft skills to power skills (or human skills for some), but to invest in them as essential parts of our professional development and evolution.
We’re not saying that the hard, technical, skills aren’t as relevant – coders, for example, can’t just choose to get creative without proper training. However, while many of these abilities can become obsolete unless you continue to update them, so-called soft skills remain and evolve. And possessing them might be exactly what helps you thrive in an ever-changing work environment that requires people and communication skills.
Power Skills can be learned- Photo Credit-Kelly Sikkema- Unsplash
From Soft Skills to Power Skills
As we redefine the way they impact the workplace, it makes sense that a rebrand from soft skills to power skills would feel like a relevant change moving forward. These are abilities that take time to develop. They build stronger and more empathetic leaders and coworkers. They increase productivity and improve the working environment, and they should be taken seriously by both employees and employers. For many companies, technical skills, or hard skills, are simply not enough anymore.
The power skills necessary for someone to thrive will usually vary from one industry to another. Someone in the entertainment industry will need a different set of abilities than someone who works in programming. Still, there are some abilities that could be considered valuable regardless of industry, things like:
Willingness to learn
Giving and receiving feedback
People’s ability to self-manage, for example, has become invaluable in hybrid work environments. Your skill when handling conflict creatively and in a way that benefits your whole team could prove you’re the kind of leader your company has been looking for and help you secure that promotion you’ve had your eye on.
These are the key skills needed to excel in the workplace- Photo Credit- Kyle Glenn- Unsplash
How to Build Power Skills in the Workplace
By now you may be wondering, can power skills be taught and developed? The answer is yes. Power skills take time and work to develop, but they can be learned and strengthened in time. Like with so many other things, it takes a little practice, but embracing these will be vital to the future of the workplace – whether it remains hybrid or goes back to being fully in-person.
Since power skills can be so diverse, companies will have to decide which ones are better suited to their values, needs, and the different roles. Being a people person and a creative thinker who is good at thinking on their feet will do wonders in fields like sales, while someone who spends most of their time working remotely will benefit more from appropriate time management and good communication skills.
Making sure workforces have these new in-demand skills means companies will have to embrace a culture of learning and prioritize education, run workshops and provide tools for their employees to grow and develop.
Still not convinced these should be rebranded from soft skills to power skills? Forbes’ 2021 Top 10 Skills Recruiters Are Looking For is mostly made up of power skills, which shows that developing these skills will become massively beneficial for anyone looking to grow within their company or hoping to impress recruiters. Five of the most important ones are:
1Growth mindset: Companies will be more inclined to hire someone willing to grow and learn, than someone who has technical skill but doesn’t have the flexibility and curiosity needed in a workplace going through constant change.
2Teamwork: Whether you are a team leader or a team member, you’ll have to learn how to manage yourself, participate actively, communicate empathically, and connect meaningfully with other members of your team.
3Resilience and Adaptability: Companies want to know that people have made mistakes, learned from them, and built resilience. That the drive and determination to succeed is present, and that there’s a willingness to adapt to new or unexpected scenarios.
4Time Management: Being able to manage time and prioritize tasks in the most effective way while working remotely and dealing with the distractions of a home office environment, will become invaluable to many companies.
5Communication: In person communication is and will continue to be fundamental, but it’ll also be key to learn to participate and be present in hybrid workplace, where many of the meetings will take place online.
If you’re looking to upgrade or strengthen your power skills, join the Red Shoe Movement’s Step Up Plus program where you’ll meet professional women from all over the world who work in large organizations. It’s a year-long program where we focus specifically on building your self-confidence by sharpening those critical power skills we’ve been talking about on this post.
I was one of the first women traveling solo and continued to be one of the few for many years. Now, gratefully a lot more women are venturing on their own and discovering themselves in the process. Here are my tips for women traveling solo post pandemic.
I didn’t always travel alone
Although I was lucky enough to travel a lot with my parents as a child, I started traveling with a friend when I was 19 years old. My first trip was to Greece, Italy and Switzerland. My friend —better described as a friend of my family— was ten years my senior and it was the only way that my parents let me take the trip in the first place. Needless to say that that first trip opened my eyes to very different cultures and to the wonders of traveling.
The travel adventures continued in the company of my ex-husband and then my ex-boyfriend, but I would say that I truly embraced the movement of women traveling alone around twenty years ago. First, I traveled with one of my girlfriends and eventually, as I traveled alone more and more for work, I decided to try traveling for leisure also on my own. And wow, what a completely different experience! I’m not saying it’s better or worse, I’m saying that when you travel by yourself you discover a whole new you. You really get to explore what you like and what you don’t. Your pace. Being with yourself while doing nothing. Making new friends. Solving all issues and making all decisions on your own.
Women traveling solo learn about themselves
Traveling before and after the pandemic
Needless to say that traveling has changed since the pandemic. What I used to take for granted, that I would be able to go anywhere I wanted whenever I wanted is no more. Now you plan and hope that all the stars align so your plans go through. To this element of uncertainty, there’s also an added amount of traveling anxiety pre-trip that I never had before. Whether it is around the Covid-related requirements of the country I’m traveling to and the U.S. upon return, to the health system of the country I’m visiting if I were to catch Covid there. Just like everyone, I have to consider a number of things I never had to consider before. Yet, the joy of traveling again outweighs everything else.
5 tips for women traveling solo post-pandemic
1Get Covid insurance
Yes, that is my number one tip. I caught Covid when I was in Israel in 2021. At the time, Israel was the country with the largest percentage of vaccinated population and yet, that’s where I got it. Back then, I had to be locked in for 10 days at my hotel and I had to change my return flight because I wouldn’t be out of quarantine on time to fly back. And also, it messed up my trip, so I wanted to stay a few extra days to make up for it. Thankfully, my insurance covered my interrupted-trip and all medical costs I incurred. So, I didn’t have to add worrying about the cost of doctors coming to check on me to a situation that was already bad.
I spent 10 days locked up in a hotel in Israel. Thankfully, my travel insurance covered my medical and trip interruption expenses. Make sure yours does too before you travel.
2Be your own Dr. Fauci
With rules and requirements changing daily in different countries, and with most places having dropped their masks requirements, it’s all up to you. You need to use your common sense to protect yourself during your trip. I was just in Paris for a month and nobody was wearing masks in restaurants, stores, museums, etc. On top of that, during my stay, they lifted the requirement to wear masks on public transportation.
Now, given that May is a very tourist heavy month in Paris, the subways and buses were super crowded, and overnight nobody is wearing masks? My boyfriend and I did. All the time. Not only in public transport but also on the street in very crowded places and whenever we went into the supermarket, galleries, museums, and on the flight back home. People may have thought we hadn’t received the Memo, but we didn’t care. Better safe than sorry.
Make reservations ahead of time
3Give yourself a cushion if you’re traveling for an event
If you’re traveling to attend a specific event, a wedding, a concert, whatever, plan on arriving a couple of days ahead of time. With the ongoing staff issues that the airlines are experiencing plus the increase in world travel post pandemic, many airlines are cancelling flights and not rebooking you.
That’s exactly what just happened to us. United cancelled our return flight and told us to rebook it on our own. But there weren’t any flights available the same day and very few seats available on the next-day flight. And of course, they didn’t pay for the extra night we had to stay in Paris. So make sure you have a cushion if you need to be at a certain place on a specific date.
Finding a woman guide or an Airbnb experience led by a woman can be great for women traveling solo. This experience of visiting Covered Passages in Paris, is an example of that.
4Stay at an Airbnb room rather than a hotel or entire apartment
When I first started as part of the few women traveling solo, I rented a car in Barcelona and drove by myself all the way to Monaco, France. This was pre-GPS days, so I had to print my itinerary and look at it while driving and reading signs in French. To top it off, I had dropped by Blackberry inside the toilet of the first museum I visited on the trip, the Dali Museum in Figueres, so I had no way of even calling anyone for help. Talk about nerve-wracking!
But the one good thing I did on that first trip on my own, was to rent a bedroom and bathroom in several homes whose owners were women. I planned it on purpose like that so that I would have someone to talk to at night when I came back from my sight-seeing. Someone who could suggest what I should see in their hometown.
It was one of the most enriching experiences I’ve had traveling solo. I met some incredible women who were trying to make some extra income by renting a room in their home. They were artists, and furniture designers, and olive oil manufacturers, and photographers… It was also a wonderful way to learn about how other people live.
This is how I learned all those years ago, that there’s a lot of joy to be had outside working all the time, which is what I had been doing in New York since I had first moved here.
So, if you’re a woman traveling alone, you should consider staying in another woman’s house. And always carefully read the reviews before you book anywhere.
5Find a local woman guide
Ali Verástegui recently interviewed Vanessa Karel for this blog. She’s the founder of Greether, a new App that connects women traveling solo to a local woman guide. I find the concept fascinating as it helps women explore new places in a way they feel safe.
But if you don’t happen to find a Greeter through Greether, you should try to connect with local guides that offer free visits to the city you’re visiting. They are usually people who love their towns and are full of valuable insights. Also, look for Airbnb experiences led by women.
You get to decide what to do all the time
For anyone traveling at this time, I highly suggest you make reservations way ahead of time. For tickets to events, to dinner at the restaurants you’d like to try and Airbnb experiences. As I said before, there are a lot more people traveling than a year or two ago and as there is a shortage of personnel, there may be limited seating, limited hours and a host of other things to take into consideration.
Finally, before you venture out again if you haven’t traveled since the pandemic hit, build your patience and resilience. People in the tourist industry are overwhelmed and short-staffed so things may be glitchy and slower than you were used to.
Be prepared to have a good dose of disappointments (cancellations, closures, being unable to go where you planned to) and remember that you always catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a gallon of vinegar.
Treat people gently, give them the benefit of the doubt and be grateful that you get to experience the outside world once again even if it doesn’t look or feel like it did before.
Greether is an international sorority project for women travelers. Its founder, Vanessa Karel, is an experienced globetrotter who created the platform with the mission of helping other women to travel more safely, regardless of whether they are traveling alone or not.
The platform has local and expert guides in more than 80 countries who go through a verification process to validate their identity and other credentials in the tourism area. They show their users hidden gems, share cultural nuances that are not always accessible as a tourist, and offer a unique and safe experience.
Sound interesting to you? Then this international sorority project for women travelers could be what you are looking for.
Vanessa Karel founder of Greether- Photo Credit: Monica Guerra
Meet Greether an app to support female travelers
Ali Verástegui – Tell us a little about yourself and how your passion for travel eventually led to the creation of Greether.
VANESSA KAREL – From a very young age my parents made traveling together frequently a priority. I saw my father travel a lot with his work as a journalist, which is a big factor in my way of looking at things in life. I started living alone when I was 17, which made me a very independent person. When I was 19, I made my first trip to Europe, thus beginning my story as a traveller.
Honestly, traveling alone had never even occurred to me. I had never met a woman who did it at the time, it just wasn’t done much around me. When I got an opportunity to live and work in Iceland temporarily, my life changed forever. I fell in love with the freedom and possibilities that come from venturing into the unknown without knowing anyone and returning with endless stories and new friends. This experience awakened a deep desire in me to visit more places.
I’ve had the opportunity to travel around 30 countries but I only went to places with a good reputation for female travelers. It was not until the pandemic that I realized that I had been missing something during all those trips. I needed a tool that would allow me to connect with local people in a safe way, and that would offer support if I needed help while being alone and so far away from home.
Greether: A bumpy Trip to Morocco During a Global Pandemic
AV –We know that the inspiration for Greether came during a bumpy trip in the midst of the pandemic, can you tell us more about this experience? What were the first steps in creating your company?
VK – I like to say that I was destined to create Greether. For whatever reasons, life and destiny brought me to Morocco in November 2020, at the peak of the pandemic. While I had traveled to Muslim countries before, this was the first time I was doing so alone and without any reservations or plans upon arrival. Like many travel stories in 2020, my flight was canceled leaving me stranded in Casablanca, Morocco, in the middle of the night. It was a very difficult moment for me. I will always remember the anguish and anxiety I felt at that airport in Malpensa, Italy, before boarding the flight to Casablanca. I cried so much because I had no idea of what I was going to do. When we landed, the only thing I could think of was to go through my contacts and see if anyone I knew was traveling in the area, but there was no one around.
That’s how the idea for Greether started. And how a trip, once again, changed the course of my life.
My trip to Morocco was one of the most wonderful experiences in my life so far. I was lucky enough to tour the country without other tourists – something almost no one gets to experience. I was the only guest in every riad (Moroccan hotel) I stayed in and it made my stay very authentic. I made local friends and learned how incredible it is to have an authentic cultural immersion in order to better understand a foreign country. I will not pretendeverything was perfect. Like many other places, the country has problems with gender inequality and insecurity, which exposed me to public harassment a couple of times. Some men chased me in the streets and yelled things, and, as a solo, woman traveler, that can be very scary.
In an attempt to avoid having to face this, every city I traveled to, became a city where I looked for female guides. Unfortunately there weren’t many available out there.
I came home months later with a book draft that I’m still working on, where I share travel stories and talk about the importance of women traveling the world. Of how essential we are in the development and promotion of sustainable practices in tourism.
Women travelers with Greether. Bellas Artes, Ciudad de Mexico
What’s the biggest concern for women travelers?
AV –As an experienced traveler, what have been the moments when you have felt most vulnerable while traveling?
VK – In hindsight, I have had to take risks to live experiences, but I don’t regret it. However, I know the numbers, I know I’ve been lucky as a traveler. I know very well that two women were killed taking the same route that I took towards the Sahara. Fortunately, I didn’t know anything about this until I got back from the trip, because I might not have gone if I had. The most vulnerable moments while traveling have been when I have had to trust that the intentions of a stranger were good and, I repeat, I have been lucky. I have met wonderful people who several times have even opened their doors to me.
AV – What are the biggest fears of female solo travelers based on your research?
VK – When I returned from Morocco, I had a meeting with my best friends. It is important to mention that, out of all of us, I am one of the only ones who travels completely alone. So I decided to ask, why? What was it that they were worried about? The answer wasn’t rocket science: we’re all concerned about our safety when traveling alone.
But I needed to ask more women, so I interviewed over 500 women travelers and asked them: What is your biggest concern when traveling solo? 90% of them answered: “I am worried about exploring a place in a safe way”. The remaining 10% was divided between those who were worried “about how to get around and communicate” and those who were worried about not knowing “what to do if something happens to them”.
AV –In addition to providing safer experiences to female travelers, what benefits do you think could come from an app like this?
VK – Greether not only reduces security risks for women travelers, but also creates economic opportunities for women around the world. Unfortunately, tourism is one of the industries with the fewest opportunities for women. On our platform, we work towards two of the most important UN sustainable development goals (SDGs): reducing risks for women and increasing income for them.
We encourage women travelers to consider the impact they can have on the economy of local women wherever they may be. As a traveler, when you hire an expert “Greeter” somewhere in the world, your only concern will be to enjoy and discover the places you want to see.
AV –What pleasant surprises have you had since Greether has been operating?
VK – People’s response to our mission. Both men and women want Greether to exist. In less than a year, women have registered in more than eighty countries and three hundred cities. That is to say, in every continent of the world, women identify with the problem of wanting to explore places safely. They want our solution to their problem and they want to be part of our platform.
Greether is ideal for women travelers. Here in the Teotihuacan Pyramids in Mexico
Meet Greether and its Greeters
AV –What kind of filters or recruitment processes have you created for the Greeters? Is there a specific profile you are looking for?
VK – We use the same verification software used by world-renowned technology companies. Each user, both traveler and greeter (guide) is verified. We also do in-person checks to verify that they really are who they say they are. There is no company in the world that can prove that someone has good intentions, but at least we know that we take the necessary steps to reduce those risks and make sure that we know who both the traveler and guide is going to meet. Traveling is not just about safety; it’s about living experiences and enjoying yourself. So we look for women who identify with our mission, who speak more than one language, and who have some tourism-related experience. We love having certified and expert guides in destinations, because through our platform we can provide one more way for them to earn money in an ethical and safe way.
AV – How do you hope to see this international sorority project grow? How would you like to see it evolve?
VK – We would love to see support from tourism unions, government and reputable companies in the travel world. But more than that, I want Greether to be a tool for more women to dare to travel, alone or with others, and to know that they have our support wherever they go.
AV –What kind of comments have you received from friends, family and strangers with whom you have shared the Greether mission?
VK – Very good, most of the people in my personal and professional life know how difficult it has been to get this startup up and running, but they also know the great potential it has and the incredible mission behind it. It hasn’t been easy, but we are doing it step by step, and we know that this is only the beginning.
If you’ve successfully held a position at work for a while or find that your responsibilities have multiplied, you may ask yourself: Is it time to ask for a raise? Look, we know you may not feel very comfortable talking about it, and in a world where these things depend solely on merit you wouldn’t […]
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