Work and Money
Why the World Needs a Travel Publication for Female Globetrotters
Traveling, especially to countries outside of the U.S., feels like an impossibility these days. But 32-year old Nikki Vargas has been traveling enough to know it’s truly about the journey, not the destination. A digital nomad at heart, Vargas, who was born in Colombia, has worked and written for The Infatuation, Vice, Atlas Obscura, and more. But it’s her original publication, Unearth Women, that is changing the way women travel around the world.
Unearth Women is described as “a women’s travel publication with a mission to champion women’s voices and unearth their stories.” The magazine and website are mostly self-funded and have reached a large audience driven by a passion for traveling and supporting women in the industry. The original purpose of Unearth Women was to provide a source of inspiration for female travelers, but it’s so much more than that to Vargas, her contributors, and the community she had built.
According to Vargas, “The inspiration for Unearth Women really came from a growing frustration — both within myself and from other women in the travel industry — that sexism in the realm of travel isn’t being properly addressed.”
In an interview for The Freelancer’s Year, she said that, “Too many times, women in the travel industry are denied bylines considered ‘too risky’ for women to report on, or are pigeon-holed into idyllic archetypes of what a female traveler should be.”
Vargas envisioned the entire production of Unearth Women — from the editorial staff to the printers — as being fully run by women. She knew there was room to “celebrate real female travelers, champion female journalists, address issues that matter to them, and encourage more diversity for women in the travel space” in every aspect.
Vargas also wanted to create a way to amplify diverse voices within the travel publication funnel. “In my early twenties, my writing was largely rooted in self-discovery, set against the backdrop of exotic locales (a classic trope of blogging). But with Unearth Women, I wanted the focus to be on telling people’s stories, rather than sharing my own,” Vargas tells CircleAround.
According to Vargas, in its first year, Unearth Women had a “pretty meteoric rise.” She and her team went from “brainstorming one evening over wine, to an internationally sold magazine available in over 800 Barnes & Noble locations across the country and in bookstores worldwide.”
Today, Unearth Women has produced four print issues, each one with a theme: Resilience, Consent, Power, and Inclusivity. And there’s more to celebrate, according to Vargas. “Last year, Unearth Women signed a book deal with Penguin Random House’s Clarkson Potter, for a women’s travel guide,” she tells CircleAround. “The book, which is a collaborative effort with leading women in the travel space, will focus on addressing women’s travel and all that it involves.”
The desire to create an “analog” publication came from Vargas’s background in print journalism, but because of industry challenges and the changes COVID-19 has brought forth, she and her team have had to rethink Unearth’s future. “We made the difficult decision late last year to pivot away from print and focus instead on a digital-only platform and publication,” she says. From now on, Unearth Women exists as a digital space where feminism and travel intersect.
“At the moment, much of the behind-the-scenes of Unearth Women is focused on exploring big projects we can pursue to help build our brand and amplify our message,” Vargas says. “On a daily basis, I am balancing this forward-thinking with the day-to-day needs of the Unearth Women digital site.”
Not being able to travel due to shelter-in-place orders has been frustrating for many, but Vargas has helped create a community where women feel empowered to discuss their experiences and learn from others. As the world begins to slowly reopen, Unearth Women will be there to help guide a new frontier for female travelers, one page at a time.