Journeywoman Is Gone, But She Inspired Everyone She Met To Take The Trips Of Their Dreams
You can only hope to be loved and admired as much as Evelyn Hannon was.
All week, as people learn of her death at age 79, tributes have been pouring in across the travel world.
You may not know her by name, but if you travel, you may know her website: Journeywoman.
It calls itself “the premier travel resource for women” and there is zero doubt about that.
Evelyn began writing Journeywoman as a printed newsletter in 1992, then shifted to blogging in 1997, at the dawn of the era when individuals could create sites and personalities out of thin air.
Her concept was simple: encourage women to travel, by themselves and in groups.
In 2019, this seems like a quaint idea. An entire branch of the industry has grown up around women going places, from bachelorette parties, to girls’ weekends, from solo getaways to hiking excursions.
An estimated 67 million women travel every year, spending $19 trillion — with a t — on travel, according to market researchers. They hold enormous sway over how and where they travel with spouses, partners and their family members.
Back then, however, it wasn’t. On newspaper assignments, I’d often find myself as one of the few business women travelers on an airplane.
If I took a leisure trip, I’d undoubtedly encounter someone who’d say, “You mean you went by yourself?”
Evelyn, known for her distinctive red glasses and cheerful smile, created her identity by telling women it was just fine to travel, and then giving them myriad ideas and tools by which to do so.
If you visit her site, you’ll notice two things. Once, it looks like it was designed in a different era. The front page is crammed with text, in boxes, in different fonts, much of it in a bright red.
While there are plenty of photos throughout her site, it doesn’t have the arty appearance that many travel pages embrace.
We talked about updating her site’s design, but Evelyn resisted much change. Journeywoman had its look, she said, and she didn’t want to depart from it.
She also wasn’t stingy, in any way, shape or form, when it came to content.
Think of a topic, and it’s covered, from having sex with people you meet during a trip, to dealing with luggage and making grilled cheese sandwiches in your hotel room.
Evelyn humorously made herself the subject of a number of pieces, sharing her adventures and mishaps during her global travels. She could talk to anyone, and she helped people understand other cultures through her conversations.
Things didn’t always go well. Her saga of losing her suitcase coming home from Antarctica only to have it arrive months later still brings tears of laughter to my eyes.
Every travel story for women that you read in big name publications like The New York Times and Conde Nast Traveler was probably covered at some point by Evelyn.
And most likely, she was quoted by them, too. I first interacted with Evelyn when I reached out in 2009 for input for a Times story. She was delightful and generous with her time, and wrote afterwards to thank me for including her.
Since I only live 250 miles from her home in Toronto, I suggested meeting up the next time I was there.
If there’s love at first sight, there’s also friendship at first sight, too.
She knew I loved Chinese food, and as the grandmother of an adopted Chinese granddaughter, she knew the best places in Toronto to go. (There is a whole other story in Evelyn’s closeness to her daughters and grandchildren, who must be devastated by her loss.)
Almost every time I visited, we ate Chinese food, sometimes accompanied by her delightful lifelong friend, Marilyn Lightstone, the Canadian actress and broadcaster best known for playing Miss Stacey in the 1985 version of Anne of Green Gables.
You can see a lovely photo of the two of them on Lightstone’s Facebook page.
As much as I enjoyed knowing them, I also enjoyed seeing their friendship in action. They clearly loved each others’ company, which dated back to their youth in Montreal.
Evelyn and Marilyn loved sharing memories, but also were as alive and contemporary as any pair of women I’ve ever met.
Indeed, one of Evelyn’s greatest talents was friendship. If you visit any of her social media accounts this week, you’ll see an outpouring of admiration for her. People genuinely loved and appreciated her, in a way that I’ve rarely seen in these turbulent times.
The greatest gift Evelyn gave me was permission to be myself. Until 2010, my journalist career was on an upward and carefully planned progression.
My goal had been to work at the Times, and I got there, only to find that working there required even more hard work than was needed to walk in the door.
By the time I met Evelyn, I was physically and mentally exhausted, and I had realized that my choice of career as a business writer was not really feeding my soul.
In a series of conversations, Evelyn got me to admit that what I really enjoyed was food writing. My stories for the Dining and Business Day sections that were among my favorites in the decade I had spent writing for the Times.
Evelyn encouraged me to create a new identity for myself — CulinaryWoman, the handle I use on Twitter and Facebook.
She published some food pieces from me (she didn’t pay, but it was good practice).
I eventually began to expand my food journalism horizons so that it is now one of my primary endeavors, along with writing about politics, and yes, transportation. I can’t simply discard everything I learned, after all.
Without Evelyn, I might still be wishing that “I could have been” the way women used to say, “If only I could go.”
And, while I’m years behind the best food journalists, I’ve found my niche in writing about food trends and restaurants, and hopefully, I’ll keep expanding my expertise.
I’m glad I had the opportunity to thank Evelyn for her support. I had just reached out to her by email a week or so ago, asking her to subscribe to my recently launched newsletter, Melange.
I didn’t hear back, but I chalked it up to Evelyn being off on her latest trip. Now, she has taken her last voyage as Journeywoman, and is being mourned by so many.
While she was with us, she tapped so many women on the shoulder as their fairy travel godmothers and allowed them the confidence and the ability to go where they wanted life to take them.
Let’s pay her back by encouraging others to fly. Or hike. Or take a train. Or drive. Just go, in Evelyn’s honor.
Micheline Maynard tweets @mickimaynard and @culinarywoman, where you’ll find her food stories.