Jolie Varela, founder of Indigenous Women Hike, joins Kellee Edward on Let’s Go Together.

By Tanner Saunders
November 18, 2020
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Credit: Autumn Harry

Let’s Go Together, the first podcast from Travel + Leisure, celebrates the true spirit of travel by showcasing every type of person who picks up their passport to go. From transgender travelers who face the world head on to widowed women who have embraced solo travel, we’ve been introduced to some truly inspiring people.  

On this week’s episode, the 20th in our series, host Kellee Edwards — a woman who has been breaking barriers in travel for years — is joined by Jolie Varela to discuss navigating Native landscapes. Varela is the founder of Indigenous Women Hike, an organization that gathers a community of Native women together to explore their heritage and relearn their ancestral landscape.

During the episode, Varela explains to Edwards what it was like growing up on a reservation — and how feeling pride in her community and people came later in life, along with the understanding of how Native people have long been marginalized. 

“Since I am older… I am learning more about my culture and my identity as an indigenous woman, and learning about the land that we come from, and also learning about colonialism and what it's done to our communities,” she told Edwards, adding that she’s realized “we have a really rich and wonderful culture beyond poverty and beyond addiction and beyond all of these things that kind of plague Indian country.”

Over the course of the episode, the pair also discuss the language associated with Native peoples and their land, what led Varela to start Indigenous Women Hike, and how, as an Indigenous woman, she sees her own travels. 

"How can we as indigenous women travel to another community and how can we respectfully visit there and not inflict colonialism upon the indigenous people of that land?” Varela asks. “And what does it look like to be a respectful and responsible traveler when we're traveling to these other spaces? I think about that anywhere that I go.”

But like any good podcast, the best way to experience it is to listen to it yourself. 

Hear more from Jolie Varela on Let’s Go Together, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher

Tanner Saunders is the Associate Digital Editor of Travel + Leisure.