Bringing Iqaluit to Chicago: Highlights from the Women in Travel Summit


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Just over a week ago, I had the opportunity to spend the weekend with a group of amazing female travellers at the inaugural Women in Travel Summit (WITS), held at the Palmer House in Chicago. It was an incredible two and a half days of travel tales with some of the coolest women I have ever met.

Obligatory bean photo.

Obligatory bean photo.

As some of you may know, I write a travel column for the Go Girl Travel Network, an online magazine for women travellers. WITS was created and organized by Go Girl, and as a contributor, I was lucky to be part of the behind the scenes team. In addition, I was on the panel for a discussion on breaking into travel blogging, and, I was selected to give a presentation in the Traveller Track. Naturally, my presentation was all about life in Nunavut!

I came up with the concept of “badass by accident” after my first trip to the floe edge (check out Sara’s photo essay to learn more about this magical spot). When I came home, my thumb was sore from holding down the snowmobile throttle for more than five hours and I had a bruise on my shoulder from the rifle I was carrying for polar bear protection. I was explaining this to my mother, and she thought I sounded really badass, and I laughed (because I have never before been badass) and said, “Yeah, by accident!”

To make a long story (er, presentation) short, the crux of my presentation was that experiences like the floe edge story are definitely hardcore, but also, marvelously mundane, because in Nunavut, badass is the status quo.

Not surprisingly, most of the attendees at WITS had never met anyone who lives in the Arctic, so there were a lot of shocked faces and rapid questions. Clearly, I love talking about Nunavut, my experiences up here, and why I think this place is so special (hence the blog, the column, the presentation, my general rambles), meaning I was on a major Nuna-high in Chitown.

Other highlights from WITS included:

  • Realizing that my LA-based roommate, Alexandra Jimenez of Travel Fashion Girl, also loves and swears by Merino wool;
  • Sharing smoked char and dried caribou with people from all over the world;
  • Personally inviting the Evelyn Hannon of Journeywoman (the grandmother of women's travel writing) to visit me in Iqaluit (she said yes!); and of course,
  • Having people refer to me as "the badass" for the duration of the conference (oh, the irony).
Jeannine Henderson tries her hand at using an ulu to cut up some nikku.

Jeannine Henderson tries her hand at using an ulu to cut up some nikku.

Thank you to the awesome women who are part of Go Girl and WITS, especially our force-of-nature CEO, the one and only Beth Santos, for letting me be part of the first ever Women in Travel Summit. And, to the brave, adventurous, and inspiring attendees, thanks for listening to my story and being open to the unique world of Nunavut. See you all in Boston for WITS ’15!