Explore New Heights. Women-Only Travel Groups: Meet a Female-Run Company Leading the Way
As we come out of a year of full or partial lockdown due to Covid-19, many of us are keen on traveling again, whether within our country or we are planning to venture out to international destinations. Spa getaways, road trips and gambling meccas have always been top choices for women travelers, but organized adventure trips for women-only are on the rise. If you’re planning your next trip either solo, with a group of friends or with family members, let your imagination fly high with a female-run company that is leading the way in exploration.
Between fishing in Big Bear and hiking in Joshua Tree, we were lucky to get the opportunity to speak with Nicki Bruckman, CEO and Founder Explorer of Chick Adventure Co.
What is your story? How is it inspiring? and who specifically needs to hear it?
My story is one of reinvention and courage. In 2014, I had a very traditional life with a husband, a home, and a 9-5 career, until I didn’t. I had done everything that I was “supposed” to do, but I found myself unhappy, unfulfilled, and uninspired. The first to break that year was my marriage and with that my world blew open. My future became a blank canvas that was limited only by my imagination and grit. I had been gifted with a Do Over.
And guess what? At that time, I wasn’t a jet setting, savvy world traveler. (Does Cancun and the Bahamas count?) I wasn’t an avid hiker with an Instagram feed filled with classic mountain summit poses.
Here’s the thing though: I wanted to BE that woman. I wanted to experience our world. I wanted to change my reality. I wanted to be in charge of my time and my finances. THAT was the life I wanted to lead.
The pieces came together as I thought bigger and boundlessly about my future. A name came to me with the help of a bottle of wine and a coffee table book. With not much else but a background in business, an IRA for support, a life already in the throes of change, and way too much ignorant bravery, I quit my corporate job 5 months later to launch Explorer Chick – an adventure travel company for women.
Guess what? I did not launch Explorer Chick in 2014 to instant success. There were no venture capitalists throwing money at me. I knew nothing about the tourism industry when I started!
But I stuck with it. I attended courses on tourism. I stayed up late reading and researching everything – how to create my website, how to invoice my guests, how to gain social media followers, how to get in front of your audience, how to write sales copy, how to construct effective emails, and the list goes on. (I like to consider it earning my MBA from the School of Hardknocks). I tried out every idea that popped into my head. I took risks. I failed – a lot – but I always learned and adapted.
I ran out of money, so I delivered pizza, shopped at thrift stores, sold what I didn’t need anymore, rented out my second bedroom, humbly borrowed money from my parents, and relied on the goodness of my friends for a night out.
Did I give up? Oh, I thought about it. I had my “aha moment” moment in 2017 where I seriously considered leaving it all behind and returning to a stable, normal life. Living in a financial House of Cards and constant burnout was wearing me thin. By then, I had several trips under my belt and guided many Explorer Chicks. I had discovered the real magic of Explorer Chick traveling with so many women and witnessing in them – the empowerment and personal transformation when challenging ourselves in the outdoors with other supportive women. I was at a crossroads: Go get a real job and paycheck or give it another year because the work was important.
Needless to say, I stuck with it more determined than ever. Explorer Chick has now traveled with thousands of women, employs other women, and is thriving.
Your life is not determined by your upbringing, your degree, or your expertise. If right now, you are not waking up excited about what’s to come, or you are not who you want to be when you grow up, reinvent yourself. It is never too late. And don’t you dare settle for anything less. It will be scary with sacrifice and failure along the way. But easy doesn’t change you. If your passion burns deeply, you will figure it out. I can tell you with absolute certainty that the woman on the other side will be grateful that you had the courage to Go FIND HER.
How do you choose the destinations? and activities?
It’s a mix of places I have been, places I want to go, places my Explorer Chicks tell us they want to go, and what’s trending. As for the activities – anything that our 8 year-old self would want to do in a destination – hike, climb, bike, raft, even trapeze in the Dominican Republic. Basically, there are no limits. If it sounds fun, let’s do it!
It’s a niche market, what are some common hesitations you observe amongst women when traveling?
What we hear most from new Explorer Chicks is, “Am I too old?”, “Am I strong enough?”, and “Will I be the only solo traveler?” The answers: No, Yes, No. As women we tend to be nurturers putting the well-being of others before ourselves plus the world can feel competitive. Sometimes we feel like we’re not enough compared to our peers. No one wants to hold the group back or be last or be alone.
Our Explorer Chicks range in age from late 20’s through their 60’s. All of the physical demands are on each trip web page, and 80% of our Explorer Chicks show up solo.
We are a supportive community, not just an on-trend word which has created a “safe” place for women to be vulnerable, to try out new things, and to challenge themselves without the fear of embarrassment or failure.
What are women more inclined to try? less inclined?
Our Explorer Chicks are adventurous at heart, so they are really up for anything. What’s held them back in the past is generally not having someone to share in the experience – not having friends that are down or available for long hikes, rafting class 5 rapids, climbing a rock wall, or even traveling internationally.
Less inclined? Definitely eating bugs on our Virginia Hiking and Wilderness Survival 101. Fear of heights is the top hesitation we come across. The fear may not always be conquered, but they’ll compromise with it and never let that fear stand in their way of experiencing LIFE.
Can you give us some examples of the most popular destinations and activities of 2021 (post pandemic lockdown)
Travel within the United States continues to be popular as international destinations are still limited. Luckily, we all have a big backyard with a ton of diversity! I’m seeing travelers tick off those National Park Bucketlist trips – Backpacking in the Grand Canyon, climbing the cables on Half Dome in Yosemite, hiking southwest Utah, and exploring our very first National Park – Yellowstone.
More intrepid travelers have been taking advantage of the decrease in international travel and admission limits to popular sites to enjoy new destinations with far fewer people. Now is a great time to visit Machu Picchu, the Galapagos, and Petra in Jordan. I traveled to Uganda in February where the safari lodges were mostly empty and everything felt like a private VIP experience. The best part is you can inject much needed money into economies that rely heavily on tourism.
Another trend I am seeing in travel is the shift to generational trips or friend trips. Families and friends are making up for lost time last year and pursuing deeper relationships with those who matter in their lives. (One beautiful silver lining from Covid!). Families are wanting to make real memories that last. To reconnect after all of that disconnect.
Pre-pandemic, our groups were mostly single travelers and they still are, but there has been an increase in family/friends booking with us. Just in the last 3 trips I guided, I’ve had a mom and daughter, two sister-in-laws, two sisters, two friends who haven’t seen each other in 3 years, and a group of five friends. We’ve also had an increase in our private group bookings – mostly large groups of friends mixed with family.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our Houston moms
Yes. This is for all of the Houston moms with school aged children and younger who feel it’s impossible to take the time away from their families. It is tough. You are the glue that holds it all together. (Really, I think this is true for just about every woman out there). But you deserve some time for yourself where you’re not the one in charge. Someone takes care of you for once. We call this Mindlessly Wandering.
Texas offering close to home
Not ready to go off the grid for a few days? You can still explore with one of their Mini Adventures:
Women-only Surf Lessons near Houston in the Galveston Bay area
Call it an obsession, a compulsion, or just a healthy quest. The search for the perfect wave feels just out of reach, but the closer you can get the more fun you have! Riding a wave is a breathless experience. And the first wave ride is always unforgettable!
Top Rope Climbing at Paradise on the Brazos near Dallas
If you’re ready for a mental health break – ever think about rock climbing as a stress-release? Rock climbing is a great way to reduce stress and it helps put the “fun” back in your brain function. With picturesque views and challenges that come with getting there, you’ll lose yourself in the flow of the climb and gain clarity.