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Hidden Gems: Meet Raven Patzke of SFT: Solo Female Travel

Today we’d like to introduce you to Raven Patzke.

Hi Raven, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I grew up in a small town up in Wisconsin but have been working toward my story since before I could walk. Hopping on a flight at only two months old, I made my first trip out of the state to sunny California. Though it was only for a week and I can’t remember a glimpse of it, I can’t help but find it ironic that I made my way back out here. Fast forward to elementary school, I learned how to write. I scribbled down story after story, finishing my homework early just so my teacher would allow me to do creative writing instead during our free time. When I would come home after school, I’d go work for my neighbors so I could start saving money for college. I placed flyers in every mailbox down the block listing the services that anyone might hire a kid for: Dog walking, Babysitting, Picking Up Pinecones (Yes, I literally wrote “Picking Up Pinecones” on the flier). Once middle school hit and social media began to grow, I spiked an interest in photography. My father was a photographer himself, so he would let me play around with his equipment, taking pictures of our dog, Kally, or wandering around at the state park down the road and capturing the wildlife and sunsets over the lake.

Once I got to college, I realized I wasn’t actually sure what box all of this creativity fit into. I switched my degree once—no wait, three times—until landing a major in Retailing & Consumer Behavior with minors in Digital Studies and Entrepreneurship at UW-Madison. During my junior year, I studied abroad in Melbourne, Australia and things began to change. I suppose moving across the country alone to a place you’ve never so much as visited can do that to a person, but for the first time I found out there was something I could do without ever becoming tired of it: Travel. I went to Bali, Thailand, New Zealand and Fiji. I went skydiving over the Great Barrier Reef and scuba diving in the open ocean with a swarm of hungry bull sharks. I felt alive, though my friends and family back home needed constant reassurance of this, so I started a travel blog. I wrote about my hike up an active volcano at 2AM and how I somehow managed to score an all-expense paid trip to the Super Bowl.

After coming back from Australia, I had one goal in mind after graduation: Travel. I began planning a solo backpacking trip across Europe, deciding to only stop my journey after I ran out of money or fell in love with a city. Either way, I promised myself I would never have to bear another frigid Wisconsin winter again. However, the universe had a different idea. Just two months before I was set to embark, COVID-19 shut down the world. I spent my days canceling my Europe bookings, cringing over the non-refundable reservations and wondering what I was supposed to do next. With no classes to stress over and my university jobs coming to an end, I moved up to Door County and spent the summer waitressing, thinking I would just boost my travel funds and then cruise over to Europe in the fall after COVID-19 ended [but we all know how well that worked].

As the first flake of snow fell in Wisconsin, I found myself packing up my car and taking a solo road trip across the country back to no other than Los Angeles. This was quite the journey and I was warned by many to not go through with it, seeing as I would be a ~woman~ traveling ~alone~ which is ~very unsafe~, maybe even ~crazy~. I found this a bit shocking, as my guy friends who had done the same heard nothing more than excitement from others. It got me thinking that maybe this travel blog I’d been working on was bigger than me. Sure, sharing wild stories is captivating and fun, but I wanted to help others realize that they, too, can go on these same adventures, and it shouldn’t be a scary concept. Women should be allowed to feel just as safe as men while traveling alone. Thus, SFT Gang was born. I rebranded my blog as a solo female travel site for those who identify as women to connect with others around the world, inspire wanderlust and, most importantly, stay safe while on the road.

Being a non-technical founder, I found a creative way to start making my vision come to life. I built the Solo Female Travel Safety Map (https://solofemaletravel.guide/interactive-safety-map/) using marked locations on Google Maps, rating places on safety from a scale of 1-5, as well as allowing a section to explain why they felt that way. Women all over the world can submit their reviews as well as use this map as a resource to confidently plan future trips to safe havens. It’s been a long journey and it’s far from over, but I could not be more excited to see where this goes.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It was everything but a smooth road—No literally, my car got stuck in a muddy canyon while solo traveling and I was stranded in the desert overnight while simultaneously losing my wallet, but that’s another story (https://solofemaletravel.guide/2021/01/02/the-raven-shack/). I believe you will face troubles in any situation that you’re dedicated to for the long run, especially when building a business in the travel industry amidst a worldwide pandemic. However, I like to view every challenge as an opportunity, knowing that each roadblock I encounter, whether it be restricted travel, technical difficulties or even car problems, is just a stepping stone to the next level. I’ve been thrown into some insane positions while trekking my way through the world and have been forced to find comfort in uncomfortable situations, like sleeping in the break room of a ranger’s shack on sacred grounds in the middle of New Mexico, for instance. Even so, I feel as if it’s these experiences that remind us we are truly alive and every day is a blessing, no matter how much we may dread some of them. So, in other words, to answer your question, there’s no such thing as a smooth road to success.

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about SFT: Solo Female Travel?
SFT is a community of solo female travelers that connects those who identify as women all around the world to become travel buddies, share information on key destinations and, most importantly, stay safe while on the road. People come to us to fuel their wanderlust, plan future trips and meet new women they can relate to and confide in. What sets us apart most from others is our Solo Female Travel Safety Map. As I mentioned above, women all around the world can contribute to this growing map, reviewing places they’ve been and how safe they felt while there. We also have a growing Facebook group where women can ask questions, share travel tips or just simply share their latest vacation pictures. What I love most about our community here is watching these relationships being built and seeing firsthand how this brand is making a difference in these women’s lives.

Currently, all of our content, connections and travel information is free to use because we want to ensure these valuable resources are available to anyone who needs them. However, we do appreciate donations to help our business survive and thrive.

Can you tell us more about what you were like growing up?
I think I can sum this one up in two words: Difficult. Child. I’m very independent and being the middle child of the family, I had to make sure I wasn’t forgotten. To me, this meant extreme chaos everywhere. I was constantly making something new, whether it be a painting, a fort in our woods, or a gumball machine that I charged my little brother to use. Along with this, I was also very entrepreneurial. I was always finding unconventional ways to make money, whether it was trying to sell coloring book pages to my mom or handing out fliers down the block about my extensive 4th-grade knowledge in cat sitting. In 5th grade, my friends and I made an unofficial school newspaper using the Hallmark app on my desktop computer, selling issues to our classmates in exchange for ‘Rascal Tickets’, which our teacher gave to us when we were good as an incentive for working our way toward the prize box. All I can say is, my parents were not bored.

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