The web is rife with travel advice, often tailored to the needs of the "standard" tourist: upper-middle class, white, male, American. But the challenges women face on the road are often different, and they’re magnified for women of color.
Racism, sexual harassment and cultural sensitivities about gender roles or dress codes affect women of color more harshly than other travelers, so the advice they seek out to address their concerns needs to come from an intersectional perspective. On She Goes, a new website founded by a group of Wieden+Kennedy Portland employees, aims to fill a void that Fodor’s, Atlas Obscura and Lonely Planet can’t.
"This project was born out of a need for the voices and perspectives of women of color to be channeled and heard," said Serita Wesley, production editor and member of the six-woman core team from W+K’s publishing department that created On She Goes. "The topic of travel is a major one at Wieden+Kennedy, especially due to the number of International offices. The women of color working on this project heard the call of other women of color that this project was needed more than ever."
Though newly live this week, On She Goes is already heavy with content. There’s a community forum for visitor questions and conversation, and a podcast hosted by Aminatou Sow, founder of Tech LadyMafia and co-host of the "Call Your Girlfriend" podcast. YouTuber and TEDx Portland host Lindsey Murphy stars in a video series on travel hacks for women of color, with tips from choosing the right power adapter to hair care on the road.
But the bulk of the editorial content is articles from paid contributors, like advice for black women visiting Tokyo or how to travel as a fat woman. At launch, the site boasts 50 articles from 20 different writers. While the site is specifically intended to help meet the needs of women of color, "We welcome anyone who our content resonates with, who finds the information and perspectives we’re sharing helpful, " said core team member Rebecca Russell, a strategist at W+K.
A section featuring in-depth advice for women traveling to specific cities begins, of course, with an exploration of Portland. Yes, it’s rainy. Yes, it’s one of the whitest cities in America, and women of color can expect a certain level of exoticization. But it has plenty of food trucks owned by people of color and multicultural film festivals. And the pot is legal. Similar examinations of New York City and Los Angeles are forthcoming.
On She Goes began as a project at W+K nearly a year ago—an experiment conducted by the publishing department to see what it takes to build a new content platform with an engaged community. "We were given the opportunity to create something different for an audience of our choice," said Meron Medhanie, a strategist at W+K. "We knew from personal experience that women of color face different challenges when traveling or preparing to travel, and we wanted to create a site that speaks to those nuances and perspectives."
They began recruiting other strategists, artists and writers in the agency to build out the platform or to write initial content. Now that On She Goes is live, the publishing department is running it as a W+K property. Shepherding it through the early stages of establishing an audience and adding new features is now part of their job description at the agency—it’s not a side gig or a pro bono project. W+K is currently providing the funding for running the site and paying writers, but though there are currently no ads, the team is open to financial partnerships in the future.
Each quarter, the theme of the site will rotate. For its debut, On She Goes is exploring the mantra "We Belong Here," a declaration that women of color should be able to feel welcome in whatever communities they visit, tempered by the understanding that it isn’t yet true.
"How many of us have dreamed of being travel writers when we grew up? said Dez Ramirez, core team member and assistant publisher at W+K "Now we have a space to be that writer, and tell the story that we haven’t seen or read yet."