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This weekend, in the heart of Taos, New Mexico, over 150 women gathered to share their love for road travel.

The first ever Women on the Road gathering was hosted by Women on the Road in partnership with Vanlife Diaries and supported by She Explores. All followers of the inspirational podcast, women traveled from various states to meet in the desert, connect, and learn from each other. We gathered on the open land behind Hotel Luna Mystica, parking our various vehicles and pitching tents in small circles, creating mini communities but adding up to something much larger.

The weekend began with an abundance of food, as we were all encouraged to contribute an item to the potluck. Additionally, there was courtesy wine provided throughout the weekend via Union Wine Co., a gift that was very appreciated by the attendees. After our first meal together, we kicked the first night off with an amazing live performance by Ira Wolf. While every song she sang had ladies in the audience crying, one specific song stuck with me throughout the entire weekend as I connected with fellow women of the road.

“I’ve climbed the mountains in Montana. Danced in the lights of New Orleans. Portland ran away with me, and San Francisco stayed with me. Nashville made its way in between. Fell in love in Minnesota. Fell apart south of Salt Lake. Colorado calls to me, and Washington will always be begging for a piece of me to stay.”

See, Ira is a fellow traveler, vandweller, and female.

In a world where this lifestyle can feel lonely, she finds ways to encompass all the emotions I often feel when I’m alone on the road. She provides this feeling of togetherness through that loneliness. Her presence throughout the gathering was only further proven as she became a sort of musical anthem for the weekend and beyond, with girls blasting her songs as they drove away from Taos.

It’s important to note that we didn’t all just get together and hang (although there is nothing wrong if that had been the case). The weekend had a schedule, filled with workshops revolving around minimalism, sexism, and safety on the road. There was a facilitated conversation on getting started on the road, covering topics such as logistics, relationships, and finances/remote work. There was even a jewelry course with Madison Hampton/Vancrafted Studio, where a handful of women were able to set their own stones and stamp their own pieces, taking home a necklace that will likely never be taken off. Fittingly enough, there was also a live Q&A recorded for the podcast, with audience submitted questions and answers from a panel of ladies that have been on the road for a bit.

“Let me tell you. This weekend was one that I will never forget. I haven’t laughed or cried that hard in months and I am ready to conquer the world with all of this positive energy that I’m radiating. Thank you to all of the amazing women who shared this experience with us. These are connections that I hope will last forever!” – Ali Powell

As Sunday winded down, a handful of us couldn’t stand to say goodbye.

My stomach hurt as I helped take out the garbage and recycling. I felt so moved, connected, and rejuvenated, that the thought of saying goodbyes made me nauseous. So…a handful of us stayed together simply because we weren’t ready to part. It gave us an opportunity to talk over a campfire and sing Ingrid Michaelson to the sounds of a strumming ukulele. We even howled at the moon loudly, disturbing nearby neighbors. The next morning, many rushed through goodbyes. Some found them important, while others couldn’t stomach the thought. By the end of the day, there were three of us left, sitting in the gravel, reflecting together. As we finally parted ways, I drove my van down a dirt road, doing my best to avoid potholes through the tears that were welling up in my eyes.

“At first I wasn’t sure if I had the cred to be there…but after hearing @irawolfmusic play and speak to us the first night, I realized: these are all women who have spent a lot of time alone, and a lot of time on the road. That’s something I can for sure relate to. That might sound like kind of a depressing thing to bond over, but I don’t think it is. Time alone, especially time alone traveling, is the best way I know to foster self-knowledge and self-love. When you bring together a bunch of women who know themselves and what they’re capable of, who are used to fixing things and taking risks and rolling with the punches; well, yeah. That’s a community I’d like to be a part of. Thank you for welcoming me, and thanks for all the wine.” –Robin Babb

The weekend felt big throughout the entire experience but it was also filled with some general conversations that felt very average, simply connecting to other women on the road.

By day two, it felt totally okay to be asking other women, “What is your story? What are your secrets? What is the hardest part of the road? Who do you miss?” When in reality, these are questions you would likely only ask your closest friends. We shared this transformative experience together, and in that, built relationships deeper than what I’d consider close friends. Closeness, hugs, hand-holding, linked arms, felt like the norm by the end of the weekend.

I thought I was alone in feeling sad. I couldn’t figure out why I was so emotionally overwhelmed.

In my world, tears really only happen when I’m sad. I don’t experience “happy tears” often. Yet I couldn’t control myself for all of Monday, and even well into the week. I was a mess, extremely overwhelmed, emotionally exhausted, but feeling so inspired. When I finally found the energy to get on my phone, I found that I wasn’t alone. There were texts, messages, captions, of fellow-women asking “is anybody else feeling this way??” Quotes from this piece are just some of the many beautifully written words I’ve read, describing the weekend perfectly.

“Tons of laughter, meaningful conversations, and sounds of the natural world filled my heart this weekend. ⁣I’ve been in a bit of a fog since leaving that group of ~150 women behind. I’m slowly digesting the overwhelming whirlwind of emotions. After reading some posts and catching up with a few of my new friends, I know that I’m not alone with all of these feelings. To all you ladies out there who I was lucky enough to connect with, thanks for being so genuine and uplifting.⁣” – Shannon Farrell

The weekend was hugely transformative, unlike anything else, and an absolute outlet for women who often are extremely independent. We can’t thank the amazing team enough that made this event possible and provided such a touching experience. If we missed you this year, we hope to see you at future events. Believe me, these are something you don’t want to miss.

Thank you to Megan Cable of The Dirty Darlings for documenting the weekend with these incredible photos and to Adventure Travel Sport Rentals for getting her there!