Meet Sonya Stephens: WWE’s Expedition Support Specialist
Sonya Stephens is our shiny new Expedition Support Specialist and a rock-solid addition to our ever-growing team. She brings years of experience in solo travel and a framed blood, sweat and tears Master of Tourism Management diploma to the table. In fact, if you want to go toe-to-toe on history trivia, Sonya can do that as well—she has a BA in history from the University of Florida!
She has travelled solo around Iceland, climbed Kilimanjaro and has run marathons and half-marathons in Europe and North America. Half-marathons are the only thing Sonya does halfway! She’s also an aerialist–yep. And she knits. And crochets. And sews. And paints. Grab a coffee or Negroni (you’ll see) and sit down for this groovy meet and greet!
How did your solo experience in Iceland inspire your career trajectory?
Iceland was my first solo trip in 2015! I went a few years after exiting a pretty tumultuous relationship that lasted for most of my twenties. I had the idea to run a marathon somewhere new and fresh and settled on Reykjavik about a year in advance of going and I just started slowly booking things and saving money and researching the trip. I didn’t know anyone who had been to Iceland at that time and the scariest thing about the trip for me was running out of money because I was afraid I didn’t budget enough for my trip! That is a legitimate concern for travel in Iceland. It was such a fun adventure, and I made a friend on that trip whose wedding I attended in the UK in 2018. We are still friends and are in contact regularly. I learned from that trip that I can do anything. After sharing photos on social media, I inspired and then informed A LOT of friends after that on their trips to Iceland. I started blogging about my trips to preserve my own memories but also to link to the companies and activities that I did so that when friends asked I could just send them the info easily. I have been trying to find a job with a tour company like WWE for a few years and maybe I just had to make some big life changes like grad school and a cross-continental move to make them happen. I am excited for the future with WWE and my future travels!
Where did you dream of travelling as a kid?
Russia. I know that sounds weird, but I was obsessed with gymnastics as a kid and in the 80s and 90s, Russia was such a gymnastics powerhouse. I’d still like to travel to Russia and see Moscow and St. Petersburg. I also dreamt of going to Australia and now I have a cousin there and I’d like to go visit them and see a lot of the country.
Now for Barbara Walters favourite question (as posed to Hepburn): What tree would you be?
I’d like to say something like one of the beautiful and majestic trees that thrive in the Pacific Northwest but I know I’d be a palm tree. I think they’re so unique looking. There are desert and tropical palms and the different species can weather a few climates. They’re resilient and flexible and I can relate to that. They symbolize peace and I like to keep things peaceful.
What “take-home” recipe has been inspired by your travels as a reminder of a place you’ve been?
I have not been to Italy in YEARS and I’d like to change that very soon but I love a good Negroni. I am usually a beer girl but a Negroni reminds me of summer and sitting under an umbrella on a terrace somewhere in Italy, people watching.
What’s on your running playlist?
Oh jeez, it is such an eclectic mix! My most current list has the Beatles (I’m a huge Paul McCartney fan, so that makes me a Wings fan too), Cardi B, Donna Summer, Hall & Oates, ABBA, Run The Jewels, Dua Lipa, Wilco. I am truly all over the place and listen to nearly everything except for country music!
Favourite go-to trail snack?
Anything with peanut butter!
Three things you can’t live without when you’re on the road…
Something to read, chapstick and a phone to stay in touch with people and take photos.
What name brand do you live by in the wild?
I’m not super loyal to any one particular brand. I am more loyal to a colour: pink. It’s a very particular colour of pink–think dusty rose (a few of my friends actually call it “Sonya Pink.”) For example, I’ve needed a new rain jacket for a while and I finally bought one only because I found the perfect pink one at Mountain Equipment Coop.
What was your most memorable family trip or what triggered your love for travel….
My parents took us on long road trips when we were kids. We drove from Florida to Wisconsin to “pick up” my great grandpa on a trip out west when I was 4 and 7 because he didn’t fly. I remember seeing the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, Mesa Verde, the Petrified Forest and all of these really cool landscapes that were so foreign in comparison to where I grew up. We took a lot of road trips when I was a kid and I am thankful that my parents gave me that experience because it inspired my love for travel. I also had this gigantic National Geographic book when I was a kid called Our World and I would spend hours looking at it. I think I still have it in my possession now. In grade 11. I was lucky to be able to take a spring break trip with my school to Scotland, England, and France and that was it. I was hooked on international travel for good!
Favourite travel memoir?
Can we have a tie? Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing, Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer and To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Request for a Life with No Regret by Jedidiah Jenkins. My usual genre is adventure disaster nonfiction which the last one isn’t but I loved it anyway. Any story where people are tested or on a journey that is more than just physical appeals to me.
Where to find Sonya…
Email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and say hey!