The company that is blazing new trails for women-only travel keeps a close eye on the changing priorities of its female clientele.
“Their priorities increasingly are value-based,” observes Jennifer Haddow, owner and visionary director of Wild Women Expeditions. “Women want more meaningful adventures and are more conscious of how and where they spend their vacation time and money. Yes, they still want to enjoy precious time away from their routines to impact themselves, but their concerns extend to a broader community.”
Following are trends Haddow has witnessed over the past few years.
Shaking things up: transformational travel. Says Haddow: “When women sign up for one of our trips ‘transformation’ isn’t on the tips of their tongues. But to choose 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, creating community. Community – that many lack in their lives – becomes the gateway to learning new skills that can lead to empowerment and transformation.”
Inner healing journeys: wilderness therapy. Says Haddow: “With few exceptions, Wild Women Expeditions’ itineraries place women in wilderness settings with only occasional brushes with society and culture. There are 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 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. Another program honors Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit as only a bare-bones wilderness immersion can accomplish.”
Yoga-themed vacations: out-of-the-box yoga. Says Haddow: “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.”
Comfort in the wilderness: going glamping. Says Haddow: “Women may have a desire to go glamping — but with conditions. We meet women halfway. Some don’t have the physical ability to do a multi-day backpacking and camping experience. In Patagonia, our version of glamping for women with back issues is to give them proper beds but still with 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, helping them make that connection and following their bliss into the wild. We’re all about women taking little steps to feel confident in their journeys.”
Asking more questions: conservation matters. Says Haddow: “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 (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.”
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