Jennifer grew up in Newfoundland on the edge of Gros Morne National Park. Adventures in their own backyards might seem commonplace to some children, but not for Jennifer. As an adult she came to a crossroads. She was living and working in Toronto in an office job. In 2005 “I got really sick. I attribute part of that to not having enough activity and nature in my life and to being in an unsustainable lifestyle in many ways. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.”
Smoking and other toxic contributions perhaps contributed to this condition. “I had an epiphany. I didn’t want to die or be in wheelchair. I started asking questions of myself. How do live? I already had an interest in alternative healing and powers of nature. I decided I wanted to challenge myself to not end up in a worst scenario. Someone suggested I go with them on hiking trip to Mount Everest base camp. I probably laughed out loud. I was having disability (at this stage she could not lift her arms above her head) and was on heavy meds. I set a goal that I am going to get myself to Mount Everest. I will hike to base camp!”
“This became a beacon to me, an aspirational driving force. If I did this, I would be ok. I clung to it in my mind. Several months later I did it. I went to Nepal, spent a month trekking in the mountains and got to the base camp. I am not a poor, pathetic, weak person waiting to decline; I can do more than I thought I can do. This was a transformative experience. I came back from that mountain and vowed I would be as healthy as I can be. I was going to get stronger and higher and better.”
The good news, “everything started to change. I bought the company. I felt fierce about the value of having these adventures for people — for women, to provide the connection between outdoor adventure and deep wilderness immersion. For us to be able to put ourselves in such a nourishing environment as some of these wild places, we feel aliveness, we challenge ourselves to do things.”
“This was 12 years ago. I have changed my lifestyle radically. I focus on self-care. I am in great health. MS is a non-issue. I am not sick. This story is so important. Outdoor adventure can change the whole idea of your life. Women alone together share their personal stories of healing, their stories of transformation. I think that’s part of the women’s community, the connections we can make. Theirs are heart-centered, vulnerable stories. Women tend to be more vulnerable and expressive and when in that healing space (wilderness) that can be created, a lot of women are encouraged to see themselves on Mount Everest.”
How do the experiences you offer at Wild Women Expeditions give guests a unique perspective on the history, people or culture of the places you travel?
As a women-only travel company, we emphasize women’s leadership in everything we offer. So all of our tours are led by local women, which is really special. Our tours especially give women insight and connection with the lives of women in the places we visit.
How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception 27 years ago?
When we started in 1991, Wild Women Expeditions was only offering adventure tours in Canada. Now we are in 25 countries around the world! We started off with mostly paddling trips but now offer horseback riding, trekking, cycling and many other activities on our adventures.
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
We try to bring awareness to the real, authentic life of the places we visit. Too many tours keep travelers in a bubble and the local experiences are very contrived. We want to give our guests a feeling of the truth of the place, even if it is rough!
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in a trip with Wild Women Expeditions?
That solo travelers are more than welcome! Many women want to travel but don’t have a friend who wants to go with them and they ask us is it is OK for them to join us if they are on their own. Absolutely! Most women who join our trips are coming on their own and
What is one travel trend that really excites you?
I am excited that travelers are getting more savvy about sustainability. They know what is going on behind the scenes of their trip and understand more about the impact they have in their travels. For example, elephant riding in Thailand used to be very popular, and now tourists are learning about the horrible abuse elephant suffer in the tourist elephant trekking camps and are opting to visit elephants and help take care of them. On our Wild Women Thailand tour we visit an elephant rescue sanctuary and support community based projects to protect elephants.
What is one insider’s tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
Be open hearted and open minded. Often travel can bring up our “stuff”, and being outside our comfort zone can make us feel stress. Being with a group that you know has your back is a great way to get the most out of a trip, so you can enjoy the experience more fully. Trusting yourself and trusting the people you are travelling with is key.
How does your philosophy of shared leadership enhance the experience for guests?
Women can be discouraged from taking leadership roles on outdoor adventures, it just isn’t the dominant culture to have women at the helm in many situations. So on our Wild Women trips, we encourage women to try on different hats and encourage them to step into more of their power. We appreciate all the ways women can lead – sometimes it isn’t about being the strongest physically but being the most hilarious one in the group who can lift everyone’s spirits to push forward on a rainy day.
What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?
We have an amazing team. I have chosen to work with women who are exceptionally talented and passionate outdoorswomen, who bring so much experience and energy to designing our adventures. All of our staff are deeply committed to sustainable tourism and we make choices that are based on giving back to the places we visit and I think that that commitment to quality that infuses everything we do is the key to the huge growth we’ve enjoyed over the past few years especially.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
Trusting my intuition. The best decisions I make are when I listen to my heart. It is so important to me to create travel experiences that I feel passionate about and to feel good that we are offering value to the communities and environments we visit. So if it doesn’t feel good and aligned with the positive impact we want to create in the world, I’m not going there.
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
On our Wild Women Egypt tour last year, I took the women to see the Temple of Hatshepsut, the female Pharoah of Egypt. The temple is embedded in the mountain and is beautiful and very peaceful. The feeling of women’s ancient power is palpable. One of the women stood in the centre of the temple for a long time, her jaw dropped in awe and when I passed her she whispered “My heart is so full…my heart is so full…” and tears were in her eyes. It is those moments that will stay with you for a lifetime.
Jennifer’s email: email@example.com
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