We travel to understand ourselves better. We don’t have to recognize it, it’s always there, a question – how do I fit into this world? – that inaudible frequency hidden below the sounds of a plane’s tires gripping the asphalt, the endless swarms of people in a terminal, the click of train doors. It’s not something you need to look for, it’s just there, the answer finds you when you’re open and elsewhere.
In a sense, that’s where the travel industry sometimes misses the mark. It overmarkets as though it needs to be given to us, as though we won’t find it ourselves. It packs tours with experiences and misses freedom, points our attention instead of letting us see for ourselves. And it does it at a premium, especially when it's trying to cater to women.
“Women's specific experiences are largely focused around things like detox, mindfulness, meditation – Instagram influencer lifestyle travel,” says Britt Kasco, founder of Origin Travels. “For an average woman who has an average amount of money to spend on travel, none of these experiences were accessible to me and my budget.”
Origin Travels coordinates “off the beaten path” adventures for women in the 18- to 39-year-old age group. Because Kasco knew she wasn’t alone.
“Millennial female travellers are one of the fastest-growing demographics,” says Kasco. “Women within this age range are travelling at a higher rate than they ever had in history.”
She’d seen it first hand while working at G Adventures, a Toronto-founded operator of small-group escorted tours.
“There needed to be more access to these off the beaten path places, these authentic, immersive experiences that would allow women to actually connect with the places that they're visiting and the women they're visiting.”
Launched in January 2018, Origin Travels offers international trips with themes like Change Makers, Beaches + The Wild: Kenya, which has travellers exploring Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, meeting the “change-making women of Zawadisha” and staying with Mama Mercy, a local working tirelessly to remove the AIDS stigma in her community. Another trip called A Feminist Journey of Paris, takes a look at the city's women-led “herstory” through art, architecture, food and drink.
Origin Travels also runs camping trips in Northern Ontario. “Living in a place like Toronto and in a country like Canada, the great outdoors and the northern terrain and the cottage lights… these are all images that are so deeply ingrained in our identity,” says Kasco. “But it’s extremely hard to access these types of spaces if you don’t have a car or friends to go with or camping gear.”
Canadianness comes up a lot when Kasco talks about building the business. Not the isolated view, rather the notion that the world is a very connected place and Toronto, where Kasco grew up, has a tendency to imprint this sense of possibility through its multicultural inputs. “The city celebrates diversity and its difference in culture,” says Kasco. “I was very much brought up in a culture that allowed me to be curious about the world beyond my own neighbourhoods.”
She also channels the women founder spirit in the city, having tapped into two different women-focused coworking spaces: the now-defunct Shecosystem and Make Lemonade, her current home.
“There's something about being around like-minded women that has this ‘come as you are' atmosphere that is so similar to the vibration I want to promote in my business,” she says. “I found that in Make Lemonade with all the girls around me putting their heads down and working towards their dreams and that was really nice and inspirational… the energy just kept me going.”
So much of what Origin Travels is built around is that exchange of energy between women – those you travel with, those that call the places you visit home. It’s not forced, sifting through the itineraries for the trips ahead, you’ll notice space – that often overlooked concept – the idea of just being somewhere without an agenda, open to that world and the women you share that world with.
With travel, says Kasco, you learn about how different that experience is for everyone. “But at the same time, people are the same at their core.”
Photo credit: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)