COME TOGETHER ON THE EDGE OF NEW ADVENTURES WITH VAERA JOURNEYS





Meagan Drillinger and I should have met years ago, growing up in the same hometown, and running in similar circles. When she was described to me as “a travel writer that just started a great company called Vaera Journeys, to inspire women to start their own businesses,” it was music to my ears. Here's her story:

Hey Meagan, it’s good to meet you finally! Tell me about the past couple of years that lead you on your path to starting Vaera Journeys.

For the last 6 years, I was a staff travel writer at a trade publication in NYC. I learned a ton about the industry, and was traveling, writing, and networking. As I got older and starting coming into my own as a writer, I saw that the growth opportunities weren’t really what I wanted for myself. I started freelancing, but that wasn’t cool with the company, so they said I could either stay and not freelance, or leave and my time would be my own.


I left. It had always been my dream to be a freelance writer. The past 3 years I’ve been writing, and have been on the road. I lived in Mexico for 6 months. I love the freedom that comes with it.


Now that I’m hitting 30, I’ve been grappling with, is this what I want to do forever? It’s not the most stable job, but I never want to go back into an office either.


In September, I was hiking upstate with my best friend, Melanie, and we were lamented that we’re 30, what are we doing with our lives? She has a degree in UX and we both love travel. We're both passionate about women empowerment and networking. On that hike we realized that we could put our skills, ideas and passions together to start a company!

Vaera Journeys in a nutshell is: a fully planned retreat for women in a cool location. It’s an intimate setting in which to have discussions and hear from women business owners, to inspire and support the pursuit of passions?

Yes! Every retreat will bring a successful entrepreneur to lead a workshop. Our first retreat in April will be in Playa del Carmen, Mexico with Sara Weinreb, founder of IMBY, a boutique for socially responsible fashion.





Sunset in Puerto Escondido.



From your hiking moment of clarity to now, that’s only been a few months. You moved fast!

It took about two months from our walk in the woods. On the bus ride back from upstate, we brainstormed about what we wanted to be. We met at a coffee shop and did an ideation exercise and threw out words that felt indicative of our brand message. Then we mapped the words out to show the stages we want to reach: who we want to bring in, what we want to happen on the trip? What the ideal outcome should be? My role is in the logistical planning: the hotel, transportation, tours, and Melanie is working on the website and our social media marketing. Together we're reaching out to the women entrepreneurs we want to do workshops with.


Who’s your ideal type of woman to join the retreat?

If you’re feeling frustrated in your career, looking for a change, or have something that you’ve been passionate about but need the tools to get started, this would be for you. Or, if you have a project in infancy stages, and want to be part of a network, this would be great for you.


It’s important for women to help each other, and there’s room for everyone at the top. We want to help each other, and we are helping each other.


What sets us apart from other entrepreneurial retreats is the travel component. Instead of a weekend at a conference center, we want people to bond over something new. When I’m on press trips, we do all these awesome activities and leave super close, it’s this organic form networking.


What do you want your retreat attendees to return to their hometowns with? Are there follow ups after?

We’ll continue to foster the community, and want to build within itself. We’ll host meetups, have Facebook groups, send newsletters. We hope to create a travel community of entrepreneurial women. And not just in the States or NYC, but also on the ground where we have the retreats, we want this to be international.





Meagan Drillinger, founder of Vaera Journeys in her favorite country, Mexico.



What is Vaera, where does that word come from?
In Spanish, Vera means on the border, verge or edge. We wanted to do that, bring people on the verge of new ideas. And we added the extra a because we took Latin for 8 years so it’s our inside joke to include the “ae”.


What are you favorite resources or go-tos for inspirational content, books, podcasts, your favorite speakers?

Anthony Bourdain is my inspiration for everything. He wrote Kitchen Confidential in 2000, he was a chef first and wrote about his addiction and the type of person it made him, and that’s how he skyrocketed to his current level of fame.


As an avid traveler, what have been some of your favorite trips? Most surprising?

Mexico is such a huge, diverse country with so much to offer everybody. Every time I go there, I either meet someone who shapes my life or have a personal experience that shapes my life. It’s just magic to me and feels like home. I also love Southeast Asia, it’s very hypnotique. I love environments that are tropical and beachy but with a strong cultural aspect to it.


Another incredible moment was I was camping in these yurts in inner Mongolia, sharing the campsite with some Chinese officials. We had this great cultural exchange, eating goat meat, getting hammered on rice wine. We were in a grass field, miles long, with this huge bon fire playing Gangham Style. All of us started doing the dance around the fire. That was one of my favorite travel memories.





Mahekal Beach Resort.



Who do you write for these days and what do you prefer writing about?

I write for Travel Weekly, TravelAge West, Thrillist, Realclearlife.com, the Sex and Dating column for Men’s Health, and Time Out. Cobbled together it’s a pretty nice amount of work. I love writing about parts of a well known destination that you might not have heard of it. I just went to the Dominican Republican, and always thought of it as all inclusive Punta Cana resorts, but I went to the Southwest area by Haiti. It was epic sunsets, secret beaches, river hikes in the jungle...


Where are you hoping to go next, your bucket list items?

Philippines, Bolivia, New zealand, Australia and Argentina.


For people who don’t take the time to travel, or are scared off by budget or the stress of planning, do you have any advice?

When I left my job, I was really scared. But I knew I was going to be fine even if I fell on my face a couple of times. It’s so simple but true. With travel, you’re not going to regret it. And if people are scared to spend money, you can do travel cheap. There are millions of resource out there to do so. If you’re a woman traveling alone, there are many places you can go alone, I’ve been doing it forever and you just have to travel smart. You come back learning so much about you and about the world.


And how about all those women out there with ideas but who also may hesitate to take the plunge, what would you say to them?

It’s about the same, but different in that it’s a lot of work. Don’t be fooled, it’s not just magically going to happen, it’s a full time job of long hours, networking, and believing in what you put out there. People listen to passion. The more people you meet, the more people willing to help you.


It’s good advice, and April will be here before you know it. For women interested in attending the retreat, what are the details?

It’s from April 5-10 in Playa del Carmen. We’ll be staying at this lovely, family owned boutique hotel called Mahekal Beach Resort. We’ll have Sara Weinreb hosting the workshop, as our first entrepreneur founder. All activities are included as well as transportation to and from the airport. We’re still offering our early bird rate right now!

Get in touch with Meagan or learn more about Vaera Journeys' April Retreat on their Instagram and Facebook.





Bacalar, Mexico's second largest lake and one of the retreat excursions.