Marika Martinez is an adventurous soul, which is why she started Australia’s very first women’s only travel group, Women’s Own Adventure. Lauren Baker took a closer look at how the group travels.

Some of Marika’s clients had never left the country before, never even had a passport. She says that their eyes are like saucers when they see the world.

Marika Martinez: The very first time I ever hopped on an aeroplane, was when I was on my honeymoon, I was nineteen, and I had never been on a plane before. And after that it was like, wow. So I was inspired to travel from the very first moment. I was in my late forties and I was really getting itchy feet. So I used to come home from work every day, and I’d say to my husband things like “Okay, I know! Let’s sell the house, and we’ll go and backpack around South America” then the next week, I’d come home and say “I know! Let’s sell the house and go and sail around the Mediterranean.” And I’d come home the following week “Okay, I know! Let’s go and buy a farm!”

Lauren Baker: It was Marika’s love of travel that prompted her to start Australia’s very first women’s only travel group, Women’s Own Adventure. But Marika’s husband wasn’t onboard with her unorthodox ideas, so Marika took it upon herself to figure out a way that she could balance her relationship and her love of travel, something she was inspired to pass on to others.

Marika Martinez: So I thought, there’s gotta be a better way of being able to travel, enjoy the adventure, and be in the company of like-minded people. Because that’s really part of the experience. So when I thought about women’s own adventure I thought, nobody’s doing that in Australia at the time, specifically tailoring to women’s travel, and some people thought I was a bit crazy, but yeah I stuck to it and learned how to do it and the business and here we are.

Lauren Baker: Women’s Own Adventure is Marika’s creation, born out of her everlasting passion for travel. Founded in 2007, it was the first tour company specialising in women’s travel, taking its model from similar American travel groups. Since then, Marika has been a finalist in the Stevie Awards for Women in Business and a nominee for the Telstra Business Women’s Award.

It would seem Marika’s whet the appetite of Australian women, as since she started Women’s Own Adventure the market has grown in Australia, tailoring more and more of its trips towards women. There are now three major women’s only travel tour groups in Australia, and many other small operators. Although Marika encourages women of all ages to participate, the main demographic is middle-aged women.

Marika Martinez: We actually do target ladies in the 45+ sort of age bracket so I find that most of the ladies have gotten to a stage in their life where they want to have some adventure for themselves. Often they’ve raised their children who are now grown up and they want to do something for themselves.

Lauren Baker: Jennie Small is a senior lecturer in tourism and gender at the University of Technology Sydney. She says that their increasing popularity may have something to do with the fact that women travelling alone has less of a stigma now than it did in some women’s youth.

Dr Jennie Small: And one thing that the older women report is that it wasn’t something that was sanctioned when they were younger. So they now want to have this opportunity to do this because in the past their holidays have all been caring for their families or for their husbands or other people, and now it’s sort of almost a holiday from all that.

Lauren Baker: She also says that there are many benefits for women who choose women-only group tours.

Dr Jennie Small: They can be attractive to single women, solo women travellers, who don’t have somebody to travel with. They offer safety, a number of the groups match people so they can share rooms with women travelling on their own and not pay the single supplement which makes it a lot more expensive for one person travelling and it’s often a way to meet people and perhaps to feel emotionally comfortable that they might not feel in a mixed group.

Lauren Baker: Women’s Own Adventure offers what Marika terms ‘soft adventure.’ These range from Antarctic expeditions, desert treks, Balinese Yoga retreats, mountain climbing in Nepal, and even a writing retreat in a Tuscan castle.

One participant in the women’s tours is Lee Monty, a 55 year old woman from Mona Vale. She’s enjoyed the day trips on offer, where women bush walk along coastlines or in the Blue Mountains. She’s also signed up for the next Italian trip and says that through teamwork, she’s gained a renewed sense of confidence and independence.

Lee Monty: I think for me, I grow as a person because I’ve done it myself, because I’ve done something myself, but at the same time, it’s been a team effort. But I’ve gotten out of my comfort zone and yeah it makes you feel good, it kind of empowers you a little bit, yeah, that you’ve achieved it.

Lauren Baker: Some of Marika’s clients had never left the country before, never even had a passport. She says that their eyes are like saucers when they see the world. Which is something she’s proud to be a part of.

Marika Martinez: They come home so inspired and courageous, and they come home thinking “Yeah, it wasn’t that hard, I was scared to start with but now I feel confident and I can travel now with friends or I can travel on my own or I can come back and do another tour and I’m confident.”

Image: Women’s Own Adventure

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