What do Women Want from their Travels?
Thoughtful Observations from a Wild Woman!
Images ©Wild Women Expeditions
Contributor, Jennifer Haddow, grew up in Canada’s easternmost province of Newfoundland but she was living and working in an office job in Toronto when she came to a crossroad. “In 2005,” she recalls, “I got really sick and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I had an epiphany and attributed part of my illness to not having enough activity and nature in my life. I didn’t want to die or be in a wheelchair.”
“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 case scenario. Someone suggested I go with them on a hiking trip to Mount Everest base camp. At that point, I could not lift my arms above my head and was on heavy medications, but I set a goal that I was going to get myself to Mount Everest and hike to its base camp!
“Several months later I went to Nepal, spent a month trekking in the mountains and got to the base camp. 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.
“Everything started to change. I bought a modest canoeing company in Ontario, Wild Women Expeditions (WWE) which I now run out of Cornerbrook, Newfoundland as a global tour operation. I felt fierce about providing, especially for women, the connection between outdoor adventure and deep wilderness immersion. To be able to put ourselves in such a nourishing environment as some of these wild places offer, I am convinced that we feel more alive. We challenge ourselves to do things.
“This was 12 years ago. I have changed my lifestyle radically. I focus on self-care and I am in great health. MS is a non-issue. I believe that outdoor adventure can change the whole idea of your life. Women together share their personal stories of healing, their stories of transformation. When in the wilderness healing space that can be created, a lot of women are encouraged to see themselves on Mount Everest.”
What Priorities are Driving Women’s Adventure Travel?
Jennifer shares trends she has witnessed with her clients over the past decade.
Shaking things up with transformational travel.
“When women sign up for one of our trips ‘transformation’ isn’t on the tips of their tongues,” she says. “But choosing to spend a week kayaking, hiking and no-frills camping usually means they’re on a quest of some kind, whether they know it or not. On a daily basis they test their own comfort zones by meeting one challenge after another. They learn to listen to and trust each other, thereby creating community. This community – that many lack in their lives – can become the gateway to learning new skills that can lead to empowerment and transformation.”
Inner healing journeys: wilderness therapy.
“With few exceptions, Wild Women Expeditions itineraries place women in wilderness settings with only occasional brushes with society and culture. There are abundant studies on the benefits of forest therapy. One of our programs takes women back in time to spaces inside themselves they’ve never before inhabited. Under the guidance of First Nation (native) female leaders, they hear stories of women as fire carriers, medicine women and knowledge keepers and for a short while immerse themselves in traditional plant medicine, archery, equestrian skills, sacred earth walks and indigenous living skills.”
Yoga-themed vacations: out-of-the-box yoga.
“Yoga is a cultural force spilling out of yoga studios and into yoga-themed vacations where practitioners can carry on in exotic settings at luxury retreat centers. We take yoga one step further than a terrace or beachfront vista and integrate yoga with other activities for truly immersive experiences. On our yoga-themed wilderness trips, we take yoga out of the box and let women feel the elements as they discover their own power and wellbeing.”
As part of her own healing, Jennifer became a certified yoga instructor. Because of her personal interest in health and wellness and yoga, many WWE programs integrate yoga and meditation into the natural outdoor setting.
Comfort in the wilderness: going glamping.
“Women may have a desire to go glamping — but with conditions. We meet women half way. Some don’t have the physical ability to do a multi-day backpacking and camping experience or don’t want to. In Patagonia our version of glamping for women with back issues is to give them proper beds but still offer enough exposure to the elements so they feel part of the wilderness experience. Our journeys are not survival trips but rather about women warming up to their own inherent connection in and with nature. We want to help them make one journey a life-long adventure, taking little steps to feel confident in their journeys.”
Asking more questions: conservation matters.
“We’re seeing a growing enthusiasm for tourism to be a force for conservation and the protection of wildlife. There’s more support for changing the perceptions of what animals mean to the world. We feel we are helping make a difference by supporting tiger reserves and parks in India and assisting in Indonesia’s Borneo to protect the critically-endangered Bornean orangutan.
“In Thailand a decade ago, there was low awareness of the damage done to the elephant population in this country because of tourism, requiring that elephants become beasts of burden under the physical weight of one tourist after another riding on them. Villagers are re-appreciating elephants in new ways, in part because of the attention and support they receive from our guests.
There’s a movement of women asking the right questions when it comes to their travel opportunities. For example: Are the protocols of developing and executing itineraries ethical in terms of impacts on wildlife and benefits to local communities? Plus, there’s the added value of engaging female guides from these countries to lead our women-only trips. Our clients care that local women get more of the benefits of tourism.”
At 73, I savor each experience now and take nothing for granted. I absolutely LOVED the birds and animals and scenery of this vast and very different landscape, but it was the women on the trip that will forever bring a smile to my face. – Kathy Mario on the Southern Chile, Patagonia tour.
Follow Up FactsFounded in 1991, Wild Women Expeditions, https://wildwomenexpeditions.com/, is the world’s largest women-only travel company. Its initial focus was on canoeing on remote Ontario waters with a pioneering niche that introduced small groups of women into wilderness settings.
The company now hosts guests in destinations all over the world, offering more trips and more women-only backcountry camping, hiking, paddling and horseback adventures than any other women’s travel company. In 2019 it will have programs in 28 countries. In the near future WWE will also have opportunities to engage in conservation efforts through partnerships the company is exploring with wildlife conservation charities.
About 75% of women on WWE trips are 45-60 years, including participants in Untamed Indonesia, Mongolia Horseback Adventure and Haida Gwaii Kayaking Adventure illustrated in this article. Favorite tours for 50+ aged women are the Egypt tour and India safari adventure as well as the Galapagos yacht adventure.