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Meet Elise Fitzsimmons, co-founder of feminist travel magazine Unearth Women

Launching this month, the quarterly publication, Unearth Women, was co-founded by its publisher, Elise Fitzsimmons. As publisher, Elise is tasked with overseeing business development of the company, the production of the print magazine, and managing the finances of the magazine.

The next print issue of Unearth Women will be available in February 2019. This winter theme is Consent, which will highligt stories from Noorjahan Akbar, the outspoken women right’s advocate and author from Afghanistan; Evita Robinson, who’s leading the black travel movement, and a feminist guide to New York City. Click here to pre-order your issue.

Can you walk us through Unearth Women journey, from the early beginnings of taking a leap, to the naming process, to today?

The Unearth Women Project began because we saw a void in the travel space. Often we think travelers are men fresh from college, who backpack around Europe. Women make up 75% of the travel demographic, yet in this male-dominated sphere, there isn’t a publication that caters to issues women face. Originally the plan was to do a print version of Unearth Women. The ability to hold something physical and of value while traveling is essential to us. Besides, when traveling there isn’t always access to your screens.

Elise Fitzsimmons, Co-founder Unearth Women | Slow Travel Story
Elise Fitzsimmons, Co-founder Unearth Women

The project began seven months ago. The theme of our first issue, Resilience, showcased what is happening in the world right now. We think it’s important to show women being strong through hardship and thoughtful. Feature essays included stories from women like Amanda Lindhout, who was forced to endure 460 days of captivity in Somalia only to come out of tragedy as a beacon of hope; Rose Mapendo, the United Nations Humanitarian Award Winner who survived a Congolese death camp; and Gloria Steinem, the author who shares a personal essay of what it was like to travel to India as a woman back in the 1950s.

Our inbox is full with pitches from freelance writers and journalists. It made sense to launch a digital site since there is never a drought of stories. Moreover, the site mirrors the print version, with sections like Women to Watch, Feminist City Guides, and Unearthed Stories.

The name came based on a belief that women’s stories are always there despite a lack of media coverage. From there was born the idea to make a platform to ‘unearth’ these stories, as if digging them out of the ground. We’re bringing these experiences out of the dark, giving them light, and space to breath. That’s why we named the project Unearth Women.

You show the real face of women who travels. What’s your take in the future of how women show their travel experience online, especially on social media?

I believe the future is bright and hopeful. The usual perception of female travelers right now is a young, white, 20-something with a perfect body, and flawless wardrobe. It is unbelievable one can travel with that much clothing! I think the first step of visibility on social media is to encourage travelers to post whatever photos they have of themselves. What we have been seeing is a movement of inclusion, more women feel encouraged to tell their real stories. Living their best self out in the wild and encouraging others to do so. Unearth Women give those who share a dedicated platform to tell stories about ageism, sexism, and providing a fair share to everyone who travels. Our goal is to level up that playing field. We want to say,“You are a traveler; you are included, you are a part of our tribe.”

Unearth Women Magazine | Slow Travel Story

What motivated you to become an entrepreneur?

Unearth Women is the perfect project because I love to travel, empower women, and hear stories from people around the world. Unearth Women blends everything I love about life. Without co-founders, Nikki Vargas and Kelly Lewis, I know it is going to be a much different experience. It didn’t feel like a choice to become an entrepreneur. It is supposed to happen. In fact, I would say it is a perfect alignment.

Unearth Women Co-founder and Editor in Chief, Nikki Vargas | Slow Travel Story
Unearth Women Co-founder and Editor in Chief, Nikki Vargas

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? How do you apply that to your life today?

When I was in my 20s, I learned how to ski and I was terrible at it. I ran into trees all the time because I’m always looking at them. One day, my friend gave a piece of advice, “Only look where you want to go.” It’s a simple piece of advice that stuck with me throughout the rest of my years. I believe if we keep our sight on what matters, then that is where the trajectory lies. But if you look at the bad things, you are going to get the bad things. Only look where you want to go.

Which entrepreneurial or travel book changed your life?

It’s not easy to pinpoint a book that changed my life. Every book I come in contact with changed me in some way. A book that inspires me, however, is the New York Times best-selling book, A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout. We ran a piece on the recovery journey Lindhout endured after her kidnapping, on our print and digital versions. It’s also important to read nonfiction, culture-driven pieces, before going to a country for the first time. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick is a good example. The novel gives a sense of understanding of the world that you are stepping into.

When you are traveling, what does your perfect day look like?

My perfect day is waking up early and settling into the crowded street with people I have never seen before, hearing a language I can’t understand, yet immediately feeling connected. Overwhelming my senses with sights, smells, and flavors, I feel alive.

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