Meet The Women Breaking Down Bias In The World Of Adventure Travel
In honor of International Women’s Day, Bannikin is highlighting five incredible adventure travel and tourism professionals who are inspiring change and forging new paths.
This year, the theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8, 2022, is #BreakTheBias. The announcement, made on the United Nations website, imagines a gender-equal world, one “free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive.”
Women are impacted disproportionately by the climate and economic crises, both of which amplify gender inequalities and put women at risk. Although women are impacted more heavily by economic and environmental burdens, they are at the forefront of driving change, shifting the global narrative, and discovering radical solutions.
Travel and tourism play a key role in cultural understanding. They have the power to increase climate appreciation, contribute to environmental conservation, and can have a pivotal economic impact on local communities.
In honor of #BreakTheBias, Bannikin would like to celebrate five incredible adventure travel pioneers. These women are working hard to ensure tourism and travel have a positive and long-lasting impact, and to break down the bias surrounding women in the adventure travel world.
Jade Chang Sheppard
Entrepreneur + Surfer
“We don’t always leave space for the important things. At Malibu Popoyo you reset, relax, and discover something in yourself. It’s truly a space that brings people together. If you’re traveling alone or in a group, you always come away from a stay here with friends and connections. Our staff is so, so amazing. People in Nicaragua are just the most beautiful and authentic people. We love showing off the magic of this land, and doing what we can to protect it.”
For Jade Chang Sheppard, home is a feeling rather than a place. It’s a state of mind. Sheppard finds those feelings in Costa Rica, Hawaii, and Los Angeles, but she feels most at home when she can hear the waves crashing on the sandy beaches in Popoyo, Nicaragua at her surf and yoga retreat.
After visiting Nicaragua on a surf trip with friends, Jade fell in love with the vibes, the raw and pristine nature, and the incredible people. In 2018, when the opportunity to buy Malibu Popoyo came up, Sheppard didn’t hesitate.
Today, the 12-room resort welcomes surfers, yogis, families, and groups of friends from across the globe. Having 10 world-class surf breaks nearby means that groms and seasoned surfers—from 7 years old to 70—can all experience the pure bliss of floating on warm South Pacific waves as they absorb some solar rays. In addition to the beautiful beaches of Popoyo, Sheppard is honored to share the warmth and hospitality of Nicaragua with the world.
While sharing that magic is a key feature of Malibu Popoyo, sustainability and conservation lie at the core of it’s ethos. Sheppard and the entire MP team are deeply committed to the preservation of Nicaragua’s gorgeous coastline, and work tirelessly to support the environmental conservation of the region.
Mate + Expedition Guide
Outer Shores Expeditions
“The adventure travel industry is important because it can really help get people out and connect with the natural world. It shows people how wonderful and magical it can be. This so often serves as a big step towards having people appreciate the value of conservation, of helping to save the incredible things we see in the natural world for future generations to experience as well.”
Born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Sam first found her love for adventure travel when she did a semester of high school aboard a tall ship sailing the Atlantic Ocean for a program called Class Afloat.
Wanting to stay near the ocean, she then studied biology at the University of Victoria, but after looking into some more traditional science-based jobs, she realized she really needed to be outdoors and exploring. She loved adventuring and showing people just how diverse and wonderful Canada’s natural world—especially the British Columbia coast—really was.
She had seen the challenges more traditional science routes faced in trying to turn people on to science and discovery and she was committed to finding a way to make her love for science more communicable. Which is how she found herself joining the Outer Shores Expeditions team, combining her sailing experience with her science background and her commitment to sharing the super remote and enchanting places along the outer shores of British Columbia with people from around the world.
Vania De Paoli
Expert Tour Leader + Exodus Travels Leader of the Year Award Winner 2019
“I am a licensed hiking guide, and even if the number of female representatives of the category is growing, it is still considered a man’s job. I think it is important to change stereotypes and this is definitely one of them, at least in Italy. It is a complex job that requires many different skills and qualities, but gender is surely not one of them. I don’t think there are jobs specifically for men or women—everyone is free to do whatever they like. I feel very lucky to do something I really love and this is what I want to represent.”
Vania De Paoli was born and raised in Nervesa Della Battaglia, a quaint village surrounded by rolling vineyards and ancient abbeys, nestled at the foothills of Montello, in the Veneto region, about 40 kilometers north of Venice.
Growing up in the idyllic countryside helped her develop a deep connection and respect for nature and the outdoors from a young age. Her childhood memories are made of humid summers, colorful acacia forests, family hikes to spectacular mountain peaks, frosty winters, the scent of burnt wood, and the sight of pinewoods at dusk. Every smell, color, and changing of the seasons left a vivid mark, which she still cherishes.
Vania’s passion and knowledge of nature expanded after her degree in Natural Sciences at Padua University and then drove her to embark on a professional career as an educational guide, working with children and adults in the Botanical Garden of Padua.
Since 2018 Vania has also been working as a tour leader for Exodus Travels, one of the most renowned adventure tour operators in the world. She regularly leads group hiking tours across Italy, from the rolling Prosecco Hills, her homeland, to the jewels of the Amalfi Coast.
Head of Travel
“Having worked in travel for over a decade, I feel that now, more than ever, we are at a junction in which there is an opportunity to push toward a more sustainable, diverse, and inclusive industry. The inspiration behind our Women in Adventure trips was to create a space to encourage understanding, support, and confidence for women who want to explore wild spaces. These trips focus on connection, with the opportunity to do something for oneself in the absence of competitiveness or pressure. Our intent is not only to encourage more female-led adventure in the world but also to create a space for change. Inequality exists in the travel sector because inequality exists in the world. We, therefore, want to act deliberately and decisively in a way that uplifts and supports women who wish to work, travel, and play in wild spaces. I hope that the presence of these trips is a small step towards a bright future for women in adventure.”
From a young age, Rachel loved exploring Scotland, finding adventure in the mountains, glens and coastline. As an adult, she’s just as passionate about her home and recognizes that spending time in wild places is good for your soul. Gavan’s role at Wilderness Scotland allows her to share the landscape she loves with others who also find inspiration in nature. She feels very privileged to be able to do so.
More information on Wilderness Scotland Women-Only Departures.
Manager of Nat Hab’s Alaska Bear Camp
Natural Habitat Adventures
Caprice Stoner manages Bear Camp, a fly-in wilderness lodge in Alaska’s Lake Clark National Park, and will be returning in May for the seventeenth season. In addition to overseeing its operations, she is a naturalist guide herself, introducing guests to the wonders of watching brown bears in their native habitat, and inspiring people with her deep passion for conservation.
Growing up in rural Tennessee, Caprice spent most of her time hiking and biking in the woods with her four siblings, but she credits her dad with cultivating her passion for the outdoors, which blossomed on long exploratory fishing and hunting trips. Yet Caprice’s unique career in the wild didn’t start until she was 40. She had studied business in college in the 1980s and had two kids. She was working in Atlanta as a makeup artist for CNN and The Weather Channel when she decided she needed to get back to nature. An ad for a seasonal summer job managing a remote bear-viewing camp in Alaska caught her imagination. Caprice held a private pilot’s license, and her familiarity with navigating challenging weather gave her a leg up in communicating with the bush pilots who brought guests to and from the camp. She got the job.
As manager of Bear Camp, Caprice oversees a comprehensive daily schedule of activities, accommodations in 10 weatherproof tent cabins, procurement of food, and meticulous training in “bear etiquette.” Caprice is hunter-safety certified, although the bears are thoroughly disinterested in humans since abundant food is readily available, including the region’s famous salmon runs. Summer days at Bear Camp are very busy, but the rewards more than outweigh the workload. “It’s an exhausting job,” she says. “I get very tired, but I don’t get tired of it. I get energy by seeing the twinkle in somebody’s eye when they can hear a baby purring as he’s nursing or a bear steps around us like they just don’t care. For them to realize how important this place is, this spot on the map—it’s our mission. People leave with tears in their eyes.” She misses her five grandkids when she’s away, but the camp has satellite internet now, and they love to FaceTime. Managing a wilderness camp among wild brown bears in Alaska is not a job that many southern grandmothers are drawn to… but Caprice Stoner pulls it off with aplomb.
More information on Natural Habitat Adventures Women-Only Departures.
About Bannikin Travel & Tourism
In operation since 2010, Bannikin Travel & Tourism has built a reputation as a leading travel trade development, integrated communications, and destination development firm that specializes in delivering outcome-based professional services to tourism stakeholders of all shapes and sizes.