When a friend asked Wild Women Expeditions Director Jennifer Haddow if she wanted to learn how to skydive, her first thought was to say no. She was terrified of heights, but something nagged at her: the idea that she might write off skydiving as “not an option” for her felt unacceptable.
Before she knew it, Jennifer had signed up for a skydiving class, “just for education,” as she described to me in our interview, and told herself at each point along the way that she didn’t have to actually complete a jump. Soon enough, though, she donned a jump suit, boarded the plane, and watched her classmates float earthside under brightly coloured parachutes.
When she decided to see what it might be like to step out on to the wing of the plane – though she reminded herself that doing so still didn’t mean she had to jump – Jennifer was surprised to realize that she wanted nothing more than to step off into thin air.
She wanted to release her fear. She listened to her instincts each step of the way and they guided her toward this: a moment of pure potential for fear-conquering empowerment.
Jennifer is something of an expert in both following her instincts and finding those precious opportunities to grasp for whatever life is offering and say YES YES YES! In sunny rooms on opposite coasts of Canada, she and I chatted about how she had anticipated a life of working in international development when she discovered Wild Women Expeditions in her search to reclaim her connection with her wild nature.
A few years after going on her first WWE trip, Jennifer describes visiting the Gros Morne Park area in Newfoundland and gushing to her friends there about how lucky they were to live in such a beautiful place. Her pals informed her of a house nearby that was for sale, and, in a whirlwind of intuition and courage, she and her partner purchased the house. When they returned to Ottawa, they had no idea how they would shift their lives to allow them to actually live in their newly acquired home, but yet another turn of events paved the way toward a different lifestyle when the former owner of WWE asked Jennifer if she would like to buy the company.
Just like it had when she had found her new Newfoundland home, Jennifer’s intuition said “YES YES YES,” and she heeded the call.
“It was a pivotal moment: a beacon of what was possible,” Jennifer describes. Though she had no professional experience in the outdoor industry, Jennifer says, “I had moments where I wondered who the hell I was to consider buying a company, but I was smart…I had transferable skills.”
It shows. In the few years since Jennifer took over the business, WWE has gone from offering retreats only in Canada to offering a full repertoire of incredible expeditions in over 15 countries. This expansion, true to Jennifer’s international development background, has taken place methodically, working with local guides and operators wherever possible and with close attention to potential environmental and cultural impact. In fact, Jennifer herself spent nearly three years on the road with her toddler son in tow, visiting Thailand, Bali, Costa Rica, Belize, Egypt and Malaysia as she researched the adventurous excursions on offer through WWE today.
When asked about the purpose of Wild Women Expeditions, Jennifer is quick to say that she is not in the business of sending women on vacations; rather, she hopes that WWE is contributing to the “re-wilding” of women, allowing them to get to know themselves through being in a new environment, to feel gratitude for their lives at home, and to feel in awe. WWE trips are designed to be welcoming to all women, regardless of outdoors experience and fitness level, and to allow the competitive energy that so often plagues groups of women to dispel as they share adventure and the physical and emotional challenges that can entail.
“I want to inspire the hell out of women, to help women feel more free. Wild Women Expeditions is about supporting women to develop their relationship with wild nature, and connect with their free spirit,” Jennifer explains. “I want women on our trips to feel pleasure, connection, and vitality.”
When Jennifer shares her favourite WWE memory – that of a women in her sixties who stated at the beginning of a trip that her primary goal was to skinny dip in the ocean – it’s obvious that indeed the organization is achieving those goals. As Jennifer says, adventure is “in the little things – it doesn’t have to be grand or fancy.”
When asked what she would say to women who want to live more adventurously, Jennifer says,
“Just take the next step. Let the YES YES YES move you, let your desire lead you. Honour your desire and trust your intuition. Be curious and crazy – don’t stay ‘in the box’ of what makes sense: challenge assumptions, ask ‘what if,’ don’t hold yourself back, and let yourself dream!”
Thank you to Jennifer Haddow for a beautiful conversation about women, adventure, and attachment parenting! Jennifer has just recently launched a new website for Wild Women Expeditions, as well as a new Wild Women Magazine that promises to help us feel wilder even from the comfort of our own homes!