…The birth of mindful travel. Travelers are taking fewer, longer and more thought-through trips that make a difference. The result is a more conscious decision when picking the destination and the travel provider and for considerations around the impact their decisions have to play a role. Supporting female led or owned businesses is one of the causes our guests want to champion.


As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mar Pages.

Mar is the Co-Founder of Solo Female Travelers, a platform that empowers women to travel the world solo, safely and on their own terms via a thriving online community with 130,000 members, women-led and female-focused curated small group tours and online courses.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Being an entrepreneur is in my blood and the travel industry is something I quite literally stumbled upon after working in three completely different industries, all of which had travel as the common denominator.

Both as a management consultant and at Google I used to travel extensively. For years, I would take a flight on Sunday and return home on Thursday. I loved the job I was doing but I loved traveling more and when the opportunity to take over the Solo Female Travelers community presented itself, I could not resist.

I have always been a champion of women; already in my consulting job, where we had fewer than 10% of positions filled by women, I did my best to improve the odds. Unfortunately, women still face a lot of stereotypes and stigma when they want to do things alone and travel is no exception. Being able to contribute to changing that in the travel world brings me great joy.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Gearing up to launch tours a couple of weeks before the pandemic started was a blessing in disguise, in hindsight. Of course when it happened we were gutted, but have learned that there is always a silver lining, and in this case, it saved us from going bankrupt before even going live.

When we launched our tours in April 2021, amidst a lot of uncertainty and with many unknowns, we did so with caution and with all the fall back options in place, after thoroughly assessing worst case scenarios.

Finally taking our first guests on trips to Iceland and Tanzania has been extremely rewarding. I could finally see everything we expected would happen when you bring a group of like minded women together on a trip of a lifetime materialise, and this was deeply moving but also very interesting.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I once was giving a live streaming session in our online community and was demonstrating our Safety Index when I mistakenly showed our password live to anyone watching. Needless to say, we had to immediately change the password and edit the video so that part would be cut.

I learned not to do that again and to always be careful when doing anything in real time and live.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?

Being an entrepreneur starting out means you are at constant high risk of burnout. If in addition to that, your business partner is pregnant and going on maternity leave within the first year of the company, the risk is fundamentally increased for the two of you.

Two things have kept me sane, and continue to, in these incredibly stressful and busy times.

The first one is to force myself no matter how busy the day is, to take a 1-hour break and do something that calms me down and keeps my mental health in check outdoors and in nature. In my case, because I wake up at 5am to take over from our team mates in Latin America, I get to see the sunrise every morning and make it a point to go for a walk along the sea promenade. For that one hour walk, I listen to the waves with one ear and to an audiobook with the other.

The second tip I would have for anyone to avoid burnout is to do something social and unrelated to work, ideally with people who are not interested to hear about your work life, at least once a week.

The endorphins and the feel-good that comes from socialising with people I care about and who care about me keeps me going for the rest of the week. This can be brunch with a friend, drinks with others, dinner with my partner, going to pick up my nephew when he finishes at the kindergarten and then playing in the park for a while, meeting new people, going to the theatre or to a new exhibition or going for Sunday lunch with my family. Anything that keeps my mind occupied with something that is not work related, which makes me laugh, and reminds me that there is a whole world beyond work and success.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I have started companies on my own and with others before and believe that it is better to do it solo than to have a business partner who you don’t align with in terms of objectives and values. The best ideas will fail at the hands of the wrong team. At Solo Female Travelers I have the best partner in crime and I know that the business is better because we complement and make each other better.

Despite the challenges of starting a global travel business from scratch in the middle of a pandemic, and for my partner to go through pregnancy and life with a newborn at the same time, I could not have asked for a better business partner than Meg and I am grateful that we have each other to celebrate successes, laugh at our mistakes and take on each new challenge with a positive can-do attitude.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

Solo Female Travelers is a unique travel company because we are merging three trends that were previously separate: content creation and the world of influencer marketing; online communities; female led and female focused group travel with a social impact focus.

We started as an online community almost 7 years ago to fill in a gap that existed: a safe space where women who traveled solo or wanted to get started could come together and be among like minded people in a judgement-free environment devoid of stereotypes and the social stigma that many women face when they say they want to travel solo.

While there are many similar communities, we are probably the oldest and pioneer in this space and pride ourselves in not only providing the space but also bringing in lots of resources to our members to learn and educate themselves to be more responsible and sustainable travelers via expert sessions carried out live. The community has been recognised most recently through Facebook’s Community Accelerator which we are a part of.

Because Meg and I both have 15 years of combined experience in content creation, online publishing and influencer marketing, we also bring those skills to the business. We have professional photographers joining several of our trips, we leverage the power of social media to reach out to more women and bring them together before and after a trip and we are able to showcase the authentic and genuine experiences without any filters to potential guests building confidence, trust and relationships. Our online and digital marketing expertise has also allowed us to be discovered faster and grow at a higher speed than a traditional travel company without that background.

Lastly, we are a new breed of social enterprise that prefers to be financially independent and sustainable while devoting a large portion of the profits to support our mission. We launched courses and tours because they align with our mission of helping women travel the world solo, safely and on their own terms but also because they allow us to finance all the not for profit activities that we do.

Through our tours, we provide employment opportunities to women at the destinations we visit, especially in places where it is rare for women to hold positions of power for example in Sudan, Tanzania or Uganda. By doing so, we make the profession viable and desirable for more women and support role models in tourism.

All our tours are female led and we always support women-owned businesses. We also hire trainees on our tours and donate to local organizations that train women. For example, our lead guide in Tanzania is also the founder of the Tanzania Women Guides Foundation focused on providing training to women so they can become guides. Our Kilimanjaro climb, which summits on International Women’s Day, donates $200 to the foundation for every guest.

These three elements are found in organisations throughout the world but very few if any have the three ingredients under the same company, this makes us incredibly unique and well-rounded and creates a virtuous cycle where we support women to travel the world solo and give them all the tool to do so while we empower women at the destinations to also enter the workforce and become leaders in their field.

Additionally, because we do not come from the travel industry but from the point of view of experienced travelers (Meg and I have jointly been to 150 countries and 50 of those on our own), we do things differently and challenge the status quo because we do them the way that makes sense from a traveler’s perspective, not that of a travel operator.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?

With our business model we are trying to fill several gaps. The most important one is that of the stigma and stereotypes associated with traveling solo as a woman.

Nobody questions the decision of a man to travel on his own, yet women have to go through several loops to justify their decision including smashing stereotypes about doing things independently and fears for their personal safety. We are changing that with a movement and with our advocacy efforts, in particular with our speaking engagements at industry events and with our annual Solo Female Travel Survey which is the largest and most in-depth effort available.

Secondly, we are also trying to bridge the gap between positions of leadership and power in the travel industry and qualified women. While women book 80% of travel, they make only 50% of the employment and the majority of those roles are in the lower decision levels and not in the top managerial positions or even as guides. We want to change that by putting our money where our mouths are and investing in female owned and led businesses at the destinations we visit. We want to support more role models and provide them with employment opportunities.

How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

We are already making waves by challenging the way many ground operators and local companies do business every time we ask them to help us find female owned or led businesses. By forcing them to be aware of this need, and of the shortage in female representation in this space, we have created a demand for it and an excess supply they can then go on to offer other clients.

When we bring a trainee guide to our tours, we are helping fast track her training to be a fully qualified guide. She can then offer her services to other companies, both those who support female guides and those who are agnostic to the gender of their local teams. Slowly but surely, we tip the scales towards equal opportunities for women in leadership positions.

In Tanzania I saw this shift with my own eyes when I co-hosted our guests alongside our local guide. We would be driving in the Serengeti and male guides, who are the majority if not all the guides-drivers in the country, would stop and wave at her, tell us how much they admired her or, if they didn’t know her, they would be surprised to see a woman at the helm. We need to see more of that change happening and we are hoping we can make a difference by making travelers more aware, creating a demand for women guides and thus changing the dynamics towards a more equitable industry.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share 5 examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

We see 5 new trends shaping the travel industry:

  1. The resurgence of slow travel. You can no longer hop on a low cost flight for the weekend somewhere because of the travel restrictions, test requirements and needed planning so travel is becoming slower. Add this to the fact that many of us can work from anywhere and you have a new breed of slow travelers who ditch the Ryanair weekend trip for a month working at a destination and immersing themselves in the local culture. For those who can’t work from anywhere, we see increasing interest in trips that are slower in nature and where the emphasis is on living like a local such as our trips to Barcelona and Costa Brava or to Tuscany.
  2. The birth of mindful travel. Travelers are taking fewer, longer and more thought-through trips that make a difference. The result is a more conscious decision when picking the destination and the travel provider and for considerations around the impact their decisions have to play a role. Supporting female led or owned businesses is one of the causes our guests want to champion.
  3. Travel companies need to be travel planners. There is more to travel than booking a flight and hotel, you need to know vaccination requirements, tests needed and restrictions to attractions and local activities. Travel companies need to provide added layers of support they were previously not offering and have become semi-travel planners.
  4. The rise of group travel. We see an increasing demand for travel in small groups where guests get the support and help they need not only to navigate COVID restrictions and requirements but also the planning phase. They want amazing curated experiences but don’t necessarily want the hassle associated with it. Many of our guests are first time group travelers for these reasons.
  5. Adaptability. Perhaps the most important word in the new travel world is that of having the ability to adapt and be flexible. Only those companies who can constantly change their offering to last minute government rules and border restrictions will survive.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

I have many perfect vacations depending on the company and what I am in the mood for. In general, I enjoy trips where I visit a place that is different to what I am used to, where I am challenged and where I am forced to reflect and reassess the ways I view things or my own opinions. But I also enjoy places which are more similar to that world I grew up in and where I can enjoy the good life with great food and wine, lovely company, lots of laughter and pampering. When I travel solo, I want to connect with the locals, learn something new and gain a new perspective.

Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.

More than a wellness driven experience, I now try to connect with members of our community wherever I go. With more than 130,000 members and dozens of travel friends, I am connected to people everywhere I go and this enriches my experience and provides the missing piece when traveling: the local perspective.

To connect with myself, I travel solo. I love my own company and there is nothing more envigating and confidence-building than facing the challenges and beauty of travel on your own.

Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I would define Solo Female Travelers as a socially driven platform that seeks to make the travel industry more equitable through for-profit magical travel experiences and uses the revenues generated to deliver on our mission of empowering women to travel the world solo, safely and on their own terms and providing employment opportunities to women in tourism.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We view our platform as a movement and a virtuous cycle we hope to have sparked. Every time we speak to someone, we inspire them to think differently and as a result, they then go on to inspire others or at least change their perspective, even if unconsciously.

At the heart, our movement is that of equality and we have focused on the travel industry because it is a great equaliser, distributor of wealth and can be a force for good in a world that can appear to be increasingly divided. By connecting people from different cultures and taking guests to destinations they may not have thought of before, we smash stereotypes and build bridges.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/marpages/) and you can follow Solo Female Travelers on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/solofemaletravelersclub/) or join our Facebook Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/solofemaletravelers/).

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Author(s)

  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.