WOMEN @ WORK

Blazing a trail: Women in tourism

Posted June 09, 2011, at 3:37 p.m.

Miriam Beard wrote “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”

From the first Maine guide to the leaders of today’s recreational adventures, women in tourism are blazing a trail. Their passion for place and spirit for adventure attract visitors to Maine and bring Mainers to every corner of the globe. Through their business leadership, women generate long-term effects on the Maine economy and leave deep impressions in the lives of the customers they serve.

Born in 1854, Cornelia Thurza Crosby became the first registered Maine guide in 1897. Better known as “Fly Rod” Crosby, she marketed the Maine outdoors through her syndicated newspaper column and appearances at expositions, fairs and sportsman’s shows throughout the eastern seaboard.

Today, women like Lindy Howe carry on her legacy. According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, approximately 12 percent of registered Maine guides are women. Though a minority, they are excelling in their chosen careers. Lindy epitomizes this example. After being laid off from the local school system, Lindy turned her passion toward entrepreneurship and created her own job, transforming her sled dog kennel into an outdoor adventure business.

Working in partnership with Kevin Quist, Howe runs Heywood Kennel Sled Dog Adventures while Quist offers Northern Maine Outdoor School and Services. The two combined their businesses in April 2011, and market their services through AroostookOutdoorsOnline.com. Together they serve around 1,000 customers each year through guide services, community events, custom outings for family and corporate groups, experiential education in outdoor skills and conservation and a new line of dog sled equipment for fellow mushers.

Howe notes, “It is mostly women who call for dog sledding rides. We have given rides to 6-year-olds and to our eldest grandmother, 83. It seems that the older generation has ‘riding in a dog sled’ on their bucket list and the younger generation wants to share the experience with a partner or child.” When Howe works the bear season, her partner is another woman guide from Stockholm.

“When our sports harvest their game, we take over and do all the physical labor. We would never be treated differently. Guiding is hard physical labor and we are very proud of our work,” Howe said.

Women in tourism are setting the compass to far-flung points as well. After years of traveling for work, Delaine Brown took her knowledge and passion for travel and turned it into her life. Starting her own tour company specializing in Southeast Asia, FollowDelaine.com, she leads small groups to locations throughout the world. Currently, Brown is preparing to open Wanderlust, a boutique travel store in Portland.

“I see my role as a woman no different than that of a man. Yet, for what I do – leading people to countries they may not be, at first, comfortable in – I think the maternal side is a benefit,” said Brown. “I am very accustomed to taking on that role and making people feel well adjusted on their trips.”

Women in tourism create a successful relationship that is sensitive to the needs of each customer. Brown reports, “I was reading a study for my business plan that said women book and make the decisions 92 percent of the time on where and what vacations are planned in a household.”

Reflecting on how her business took shape, Brown notes that “the clientele is mixed, though a fair bit more women than men. I often wonder if that is because I tend to come across so excited when talking about the places I go – I can convey to woman that these destinations are amazing, beautiful, life-changing and very safe!”

Jen Deraspe, founder of Nurture Through Nature (www.ntnretreats.com), also attests to the power of women leading women. “While leading my first holistic canoe trip for women, I got to witness transformation first hand. That experience guided me to the core of what was being created, a space of healing. I offered everything I knew at the time. Nature and heart did the rest.”

As a Maine guide, Deraspe led retreats for seven years without a base before launching her center on 33 acres in the Western Maine Lakes Region in Denmark. Now, the center sports two cabins, a yurt, a steam sauna and a yoga-meeting house accommodating up to a dozen guests at a time. The business offers a range of services, including retreats and workshops on yoga, meditation, healing, canoeing, carpentry and other topics as well as eco-cabin packages and holistic coaching. Deraspe describes the transformation of her vision into reality and the growth of her business as “creation creating. Evolving with sustained interest, zest, and adventure on the path.”

Over the course of a century and a half, from “Fly Rod” Crosby to Howe, Brown, Deraspe, and many others following in their footsteps, women in tourism are making their mark. They are guides and group leaders, nurturers and entrepreneurs. They are breaking new ground and blazing a trail. The words of poet Antonio Machado are apt in describing women in tourism today: “Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar.” (Traveler, there is no road, one makes the road by walking.)

Erica Quin-Easter is Microenterprise Coordinator for Women, Work, and Community in Aroostook County, where she provides training and technical assistance to clients from Sherman to Fort Kent.

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