Women Welcome Women World Wide

By Sharon Giese
This item appears on page 33 of the November 2012 issue.

With approximately 2,500 members in 90-plus countries, Women Welcome Women World Wide, or 5W (88 Easton St., High Wycombe, Bucks, England, HP11 1LT, UK; phone/fax+44 [0] 1494 465441), is an international womens’ travel and friendship organization that has been around since 1984.

I have been a member since 1993 and have enjoyed meeting and staying with members in other countries as well as hosting several members in the US. We say that being a member of 5W is like having a friend in a place you’ve never been.

For women traveling solo or with a partner, meeting a local — for lunch, touring, drinks or whatever — can make a trip more enjoyable and a little safer. Some members also welcome members who are with their husbands and/or children.

I travel solo much of the time and have met with 5W members in foreign countries during several escorted tours. Before a trip, I check the itinerary; there is always that one dinner that is not included or an afternoon “on your own” in some city. Then I look in my 5W directory to see if there are members in that area and, if so, I arrange to spend time with one of them.

Even if I am not able to arrange a meeting, I still bring the page from my 5W directory, in case some emergency happens for which a local resident might be of help.

Around the world, there are 5W groups that have meetings regularly, and other members are welcome to attend. Members also arrange Gatherings, which are more organized tours in specific areas. I have joined at least 12 Gatherings, touring areas with groups of both local members and members from other countries. In September ’12, I joined a Gathering of 25 members visiting WWI cemeteries in Belgium.

Along with a directory with information about all of the members, every year each 5W member receives three newsletters, which tell of members’ past trips, new Gatherings and where local groups are meeting.

5W is not a tour company, and 5W members are not travel agents or tour guides. We are simply individuals who enjoy travel, developing friendships and learning about other cultures. Although husbands or male partners may be welcomed by some members, only women can join 5W. Sorry, guys.

To join, the suggested minimum donation is £35 (near $57) plus £25 annually.

My mother was a member who never traveled but hosted 26 5W members in her home in Chicago, bringing the world to her doorstep. Hosting a member is not a requirement to join 5W. Being open to new and interesting people is.

SHARON GIESE
Norwalk, CT