By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun
When Evelyn Hannon travelled with her daughter to China to bring home her adopted granddaughter, she was already a seasoned globetrotter. But if she had any worries about amusing a baby on a 22-hour flight, she knew where to find advice.
Evelyn Hannon, above at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, is founder of the online travel guide for women, journeywoman.com. "I want to inspire women to dream about what we're talking about," Hannon says.
As creator and editor of journeywoman.com, an online magazine for female travellers, Hannon is as comfortable finding baby food in a Chinese grocery store as she is protecting herself from pickpockets.
The Toronto resident began travelling solo in the early 1980s. "I was recently divorced and had no choice but to put on a backpack and head out on my own if I was going to see this world," says Hannon, 63. "Gradually, it became a hobby. People were inviting me to dinner parties just to hear about my travels."
Hoping to inspire other wannabe adventurers, Hannon learned about publishing and in 1994 created Journeywoman, a 20-page newsletter. She did all the writing and selling, and distributed each of the 2,000 copies at no charge. As the popularity of her newsletter soared, so did her workload.
Soon, she had little time to travel and concluded it was once again time to break new ground. "I didn't want this little baby to die," Hannon says of her newsletter. "I told my kids I was going to put it on a web site. They told me I was digitally deficient."
The Internet as we know it today was still in its infancy stages. Hannon took a marketing course and though she didn't know the difference between a web site and e-mail, she sensed it would work. She launched journeywoman.com in 1997.
Her hunch was right. "Sponsors started calling me, telling me they wanted to be part of this."
The site has attracted more than two million visitors seeking advice on everything from country-specific dress and customs to gal-friendly cities -- much compiled by women who live in the region or travel to it.
"I ask people to share what they know," Hannon says. "I wanted it to feel like you were sitting down with a glass of wine and talking to another girlfriend. I want to inspire women to dream about what we're talking about."
Evelyn Hannon in a state room on a Royal Princess cruise.
Hannon is equally determined to follow her own dreams, promising herself she'd experience something new every seven years. A former teacher and owner/operator of a children's camp, Hannon has completed a degree in film and TV (daughter Erica Ehm was the first female Much Music host) and now plans to tackle photography.
Along the way, Hannon wrote Her Own Way, Advice for the Woman Traveller for Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade after she was approached for advice.
Hannon has also garnered a long list of awards.
"TIME magazine chose me as one of the 100 most innovative thinkers of this century because of what I had done on behalf of women and travel."
She tries to hit the road for a few weeks every three, months, and lists Holland as among her favourite destinations.
"It was one of the first places I went on my own and I felt completely at ease.
It was different than other countries that weren't used to women travelling on their own. I love the way they think."
(Linda White (email@example.com
) is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)
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