Wild Women Expeditions, a company that leads women-only adventure experiences, recently came to Banff to do some hiking and I had the chance to catch up with the company’s owner and director, Jennifer Brammer, over some nachos at the local Magpie & Stump. – Meghan
[Meghan] Tell me a bit about you and how you became involved with Wild Women Expeditions.
[Jennifer] I am originally from Newfoundland and moved around quite a lot over the years. I am now temporarily based in Halifax with plans to move to Vancouver Island for the winter. Then I’ll move back to Newfoundland to put down some “roots.” The great thing about working with Wild Women Expeditions is that I can work anywhere, whether I’m in Thailand or sitting in a kayak!
I am currently the owner and director of Wild Women Expeditions. The company is 20 years old and was founded by a woman from Northern Ontario. I had been going on Wild Women trips for a few years and loved the company. When the opportunity came up to buy the company last year, I grabbed it. I thought the experiences Wild Women provided for women must continue. Women need this. There aren’t many companies in the world that do outdoor travel exclusively for women. I just had this calling.
The kinds of experiences we provide are really healing and transformational for women. I just wanted to continue providing these experiences that have been offered for the past 20 years.
Growing up in a wild place like Western Newfoundland (near Gros Morne National Park), I grew up doing a lot of outdoorsy stuff.
I’m also really a traveler. I’ve traveled all across Canada and lived in almost every province. I realize my passions are the outdoors, tripping and traveling. I love the idea of being able to make a living doing what I love doing in my spare time. It’s very rare that someone can do that, so I decided to take a big leap with Wild Women Expeditions. [For more about Jennifer, click here.]
Why do women hop on board with Wild Women Expeditions?
There really is a spectrum of reasons. I find a lot of women are in life transitions – a divorce, “coming out,” 50th birthday, celebrations of major milestones or their children are at an age where mommy can leave for a week.
Our company is a lot about celebration – celebrating the wild, beautiful places of Canada and celebrating what’s special in our lives. Some women want to celebrate themselves and give themselves a treat. The idea of going away for a week and being in a beautiful setting with a group is appealing.
Some women just want other women to do stuff with. Some want to challenge themselves. But, this isn’t a boot camp. We don’t have anything to prove. We really want the wilderness to be accessible and pleasurable. There are certainly women that will come on a trip and they are really doing something outside their comfort zones.
We have women in their 70s that come on their trips, too. For them, and for people that are below average fitness, some of our trips are really physically challenging. It’s not just the trip; it’s the anticipation, the preparation and training. Other women are really busy – office workers from Ottawa, Toronto. They don’t want to deal with the logistics of the trip. They just want a vacation.
What sets Wild Women Expeditions apart from other companies?
Over 20 years, we’ve really built up a community. That really sets Wild Women apart. We have a lot of repeat members. A lot of people come back because they have friends that are going on trips. It becomes a real social connection.
I really took it for granted that I had experience in the past operating in women-only spaces. There are a lot of women that have never had that. For them, facing challenging, new experiences and being in a supportive circle of women is really exciting for them. There is kind of a mainstream culture of women being competitive with each other. But, women have a really special way of experiencing nature. They can be very supportive and cooperative.
What do you think is unique about the feminine connection to the outdoors?
Not necessarily unique, but more prevalent in my experience is women’s identification with nature as a place of connection, sustenance and freedom. I was once trekking in Nepal to Mt. Everest Base Camp and we met a lot of mountain climbers on the trek. I heard a lot about “conquering” the mountain and rhetoric about “overcoming.” I never really hear that in groups of women. There’s more talk about finding their spirit, touching their spirit or about discovery. It’s more of a spiritual perspective.
Women don’t have the exclusivity on being in touch with nature, but I think women have am interesting way of relating their own self-emergence to nature.
What kind of feedback have you received from your participants?
I’ve heard things like, “this is the fist time in 30 years that I’ve experienced what it feels like to be just ‘me’ – not mom, secretary or wife.” Or, “This is the first vacation I’ve had for myself in 15 years.” In some cases, I’ve heard women say that they felt comfortable to come out or to bring their female partner on an experience because they felt really safe.
For some women, this is their first time camping or first time in a canoe. I take it for granted because this is something I’ve done for a long time. But for some women, it’s important for them to do that and feel safe. Going to the bathroom in the woods is a big deal for them.
It gives them a new experience of their wildness, which is really important to me. We deliberately offer a range of trips. Nahanni is on one extreme. And then we have yoga retreats with light paddling.
We’ve had women that have come back for trips with Wild Women Expeditions for 20 years and it’s really interesting to see their evolution in the life of their relationship with the company.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I love working with Wild Women and I really feel blessed that I get to do my passion. I hire guides for one or several trips and I have some very part-time staff that help out with the office and marketing. But, I’m the only one holding down the fort.
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You can also read up on their blog, Women Going Wild.
© Meghan J. Ward, 2011.