It can be lonely travelling on your own, especially if you see something fantastic and there is no-one to turn to and say “hey look at that”. For women travelers tired of sitting in a restaurant reading a book, there is the opportunity to find friends in far-flung places with an organisation called Women Welcome Women World Wide (5W).
Founded in 1984 by Frances Alexander in High Wycombe, W5 is an international friendship and travel network for women that is based on the simple concept of encouraging ordinary women to forge friendships with other members around the globe. Having passed their 25 year anniversary, the organisation now has around 2500 members in over 80 countries.
The idea is that women can enjoy the hospitality of other members and then offer the same hospitality to women visiting their own area of the world. The idea is that you can travel less like a tourist, returning home with new friendships made and a deeper understanding of the countries you’ve journeyed through. There are also benefits in terms of safety, having a network of friends wherever you go, or another woman to meet you at the airport when you arrive in a new country.
Any woman can become a member, regardless of nationality, religion or home circumstances and members are of all backgrounds and ages, from all around the world.
While its predominantly about staying with members, some members may be unable to accommodate you due to their domestic arrangements, but they will be able to meet and greet you, show you round, and guide you to safe and economical places to stay. Those who can accommodate you will bring you into their family and friends, either show you around or guide you as to where you should go, and how to get there.
When you join you receive a list of members, each with a profile. You decide where you want to go, then look it up in the list of countries and areas, and get in contact with members to ask if you can stay. Most members who have no room for visitors will state in their profile that they are day hostesses only, but the rest will be used to such requests. When you read the profiles you will find women of similar age and interests. It is normal to stay not more than 3 nights, unless the hostess suggests it, so the norm is to plan for 2 to 3 nights.
As well as traveling, 5W members also have Gatherings, where a member plans an event, prices it and circulates the details in a quarterly Newsletter. Anyone interested can get in touch and if enough members reply the event goes ahead.
There is no set subscription and membership payment is a donation. The recommended minimum donation is £35 to join, with an annual renewal of £25 for continuous membership. This covers the cost of providing one Membership List and three newsletters per year. 5W is financed only by its members’ donations.
You can’t help but get the feeling that W5’s ethos and purpose is great – providing an open door to a group of like-minded potential new friends. For women seeking to enrich their travel experience, it’s certainly worth taking a look at.