The idea for taking women on adventure trips was conceived on a jeep in Sedona, Arizona in 1996. Cheryl Fleet guided tours over the red rocks and every two hours she greeted a new co-ed group. Occasionaly the group was all women. The women, strangers to each other just two hours previously, bonded easily and often had lunch together afterwards. She noticed that quiet women, who would unlikely have said much in a co-ed group, had plenty to share. Co-ed groups politely listened to information about Native Americans but the all-women groups showed a keen interest, asked questions, and really understood the native connection to the land. She realized something extrordinary happened when women traveled together and she wanted to make this a more permanent option.
Cheryls business degree taught her that extensive research was the key to successfully entering a marketplace. Great if you have the money! However, she had to rely on her intuition! The idea just felt right to her. The Internet had barely begun and search capabilities were rudimentary so she didnt know if this was a new idea or if others were offering trips for women. She knew enough that to be successful, the business had to be something that she enjoyed and it had to service an under-served or non-existing market. Shed also learned that with limited resources in a large industry like travel, to enter the market, she had to have a niche. Her studies taught her that only 5% of new businesses survive the first five years and that those that did survive did it with excellent customer service and by not trying to be all things to all people.
I knew that I loved the Southwest and had explored much of the Colorado Plateau, said Cheryl. Id grown up hiking and camping as a Girl Guide in New Zealand and was home in the outdoors. So I designed a trip for women in Northern Arizona visiting all the special places that Id found, such as Canyon de Chelly, Lake Powell, Havasupai and, of course, the Grand Canyon. Calling it the Arizona Spectacular was a no-brainer!
Rita and Claudia from California were Cheryl's first customers. At the end of the trip they wanted to know where she would take them the next year, adding theyd like to see all the National Parks in Utah. After three site inspections, our Utah Canyonlands trip was completed and they and six others joined her on that trip in 1998. Wendy, Candace and Tana were customers on the second Arizona trip. Tana hailed from Calgary and told Cheryl that the Rockies would be a great place for one of her trips. Later that year Tana guided Cheryl through all her favorite places in Banff, Jasper and Yoho National Parks and the Canadian Rockies trip was launched. After their Arizona trip, Wendy and Candace were headed to Southern Colorado and invited Cheryl along. The Desert Mountain Escape trip was designed on that journey through the San Juans. They asked her on that trip when she would lead a trip through New Zealand! Initially I thought they were nuts but slowly the idea gained momentum and soon I was in New Zealand visiting favorite haunts and discovering some new ones.
By 1997 Cheryl learned that there were two other women, in San Francisco and Montana, offering hiking trips for women. She loved to hike but forced marches at Outward Bound had taught her that carrying a backpack was no way to spend a vacation! I wanted to offer a product where all women, not just the fit ones, could enjoy the outdoors, said Cheryl. I loved canoeing, sailing, white water rafting and sea kayaking and hoped those pursuits would appeal to others so our multi-activity format was launched. I also knew that there are too many wonderful places in the world to see, to be able to afford the time and money to return to a country or region more than once. Therefore, I wanted to ensure that my trips included all the amazing natural things to see, at the best time of year to enjoy the outdoors while avoiding the crowds a tall order but I believed it could be done. Id also learned that connecting with the locals is the essence of any travel experience and that all my trips would ensure this vital element.
In 2000 Cheryl decided that her company needed a new name that better defined what it had become. She changed the name to Womens World Adventures. Throughout that year shed been receiving gentle feedback from repeat customers who understood why shed changed the name but really missed Canyon Calling. One day I picked up the phone and just started randomly dialing 40 customers to ask their opinion on the name change. They overwhelmingly voted for a return to Canyon Calling. I had a brand name - I just didnt realize it! However, the name still didnt deliver the message of what the company had become so I compromised with Canyon Calling, Adventures for Women.
Destinations subsequently added have been a mixture of customer ideas and her own. Judith, from Maine, was on the first Fiji New Zealand trip and helped Cheryl design Mainely Magic. Several customers had asked for a trip to Yellowstone and her first Tetons Yellowstone trip went in 2000. Hawaiian Islands was also added in 2000. The Greek Islands and the Swiss Alps were Cheryls favorite places in Europe after a year of backpacking in 1983, so it was natural to want to take others to those special places. Go Greece was launched in 2001 and Swiss Alps in 2002. Costa Rica had been a favorite vacation destination for her in the 90s so it was easy to return and develop the Costa Rican Explorer in 2002. Aurora Alaska was added in 2003 purely from Cheryls desire to see the northern lights. Iceland seemed a superb adventure vacation destination and after a site inspection, Fire & Iceland! was designed in 2003. When are you going to add Australia? became a common refrain from customers on her New Zealand trips. Cheryl knew that you couldnt see all of Australia without spending a month there so she chose the Tropical North and the Outback and designed Awesome Aussie in 2004. Magic Morocco and Peruvian Andes are our most exotic destinations and our most recent additions.