Nurturing a connection with nature
When Cassie Harrison started taking friends and family members on adventures in nature she could see it was sparking something special in them.
In fact, the trained guide and Outdoor Education teacher quickly realised her passion for connecting women with nature had the potential to be much more than a hobby shared only with loved ones.
So, in the January of 2018, Women of Wonder (WoW) guided journeys was brought to life.
The purpose of WoW was to create intimate, multi-day adventures for women wanting to explore some of Victoria’s most beautiful landscapes.
“As someone who enjoys going out on adventures and spending a lot of time in nature, I found myself taking friends and family out and seeing how they were connecting both with each other and the natural environment around them,” the Anglesea adventurer recalls.
“I knew I had the right skills and background to offer these types of experiences to others outside of my community.
“I saw a real desire for female-only experiences where women felt safe and comfortable with others like them.
“I was inspired to create something that could instil more confidence in people to go on adventures by helping to organise all the elements that may be roadblocks for them if they were to attempt it on their own.”
When it comes to the amount of hiking experience and fitness level required, Cassie says she has created itineraries to suit most women.
“The Glenelg journey is designed for anyone and is perfect for beginners whereas the Grampians journey is designed for those with more experience who are used to being active,” she says.
“The Glenelg journey is a gentle introduction to hiking, canoeing and camping and the Grampians journey involves hiking over rocky peaks making a higher level of fitness more important.
“We also offer the Great Ocean Walk which involves staying in self-contained cottages right on the trail for those looking for a hiking experience without camping.”
Cassie says the response has been wonderful and there is not a particular type of woman who is attracted to a WoW journey.
Seeing the confidence build within participants between the start and finish of the trip brings unparalleled joy to herself and the other guides.
“The feedback has all been very positive with a few tears at the completion of trips,” she says.
“More than ever, people seem to be looking for experiences that enable them to get out into nature and form deeper connections with the environment and with others.
“Participants have said that the experiences helped them feel like themselves again and made them realise what they are capable of.
“The experience and community they build can help them to find themselves again and remember who they are outside of being a parent, grandparent, employee, partner, etc.”
Importantly, she says the lack of phone reception helps them to truly switch off and focus on self-care.
“The experience is different for everyone but one thing that has been consistent is how much everyone gets out of them and their feeling of achievement and community at the end of the trip,” she says.
“As well as the skills and confidence to go on more adventures, I hope that women also make new friends and truly understand the importance of self-care and taking time out of their busy lives to work on, and look after, themselves.”
Those who sign up for a trip don’t need to bring anything more than suitable clothing, a day pack and a positive attitude. Everything else is provided and participants are only required to carry their day pack and bottled water when hiking, everything else is transported for them.
Food is a highlight of the trip, with nutritionist Kirsty Urquhart responsible for a delicious plant-based and organic menu that ensures proper nourishment is provided on the trips.
“The food that we provide is one of our main points of difference and the feedback from participants is always positive with some being surprised how much they enjoyed plant-based meals, especially if their normal diet includes a lot of meat and dairy,” Cassie says.
“On trips like these, it’s really important that participants have the right amount of energy and sustenance and our menu is built around that.”
Cassie says the WoW team is currently working on a number of different experiences including ‘Bush Banquets’.
These will be local to the Surf Coast and involve participants hiking to a spot for a bush picnic.
“There are always more trips being added to our programs, to keep up with the interest and desires of participants.
“We now have a few women who have been on all three of our current offerings.
“Kirsty and I are also putting together a recipe e-book inspired by the menus provided on Women of Wander trips.
“We’re hoping to have this published in the next few months.”
Upcoming trips in early 2022 include the Glenelg River Canoe, Hike & Camp from April 4-8, and the Great Ocean Walk Hike & Stay from March 24-27.
Discover more on the Women of Wander website or on Instagram @womenofwander.