On the Wild Side: Introducing Alex Macdonald
This is a shiny new feature where we spotlight an awesome member of our Wild Women Expeditions community. Grab a coffee or a kombucha and lean in on a chat with Alex Macdonald of Barrie, Ontario. She has earned a few Wild Women badges now from her participation in northern Ontario paddling camps, Belizean jungle kayaking and a honeymoon with her wife in the Galapagos Islands. Now, over to Alex–
What is a WILD WOMAN?
WILD WOMEN are courageous, adventurous, passionate, independent, diverse, strong, curious, daring, witty, creative, motivated…
WILD WOMEN are also fragile, sensitive, compassionate, intelligent, adaptable, caring, introspective, funny, spiritual…
WILD WOMEN are awesome!
I am Alex.
I am a Wild Woman.
When asked to describe myself, my perception of self is constantly evolving. While what I call my ‘true essence’ is steadfastly present in my core, I am learning new ways to define and describe myself. I am aware of ME.
Tell us, where have you travelled with Wild Women?
My connection with Wild Women began in 2012 at a Women on Water weekend (WOW) in Parry Sound, Ontario. I loved it. It was a whole weekend of fun at paddling camp, with a great group of leaders and fellow ‘campers’. In my much younger years (7 to 18) I attended summer camps and WOW was similar in structure, but designed for adult women. WOW was indeed a wow, and I returned to the paddling camp for several years. I am still connected with a few of the amazing women I met that first year. Kudos to the partnership with WWE, Dympna Hayes of the Ontario Sea Kayak Center, and YWCA Camp Tapawingo for creating such a wonderful space for women to learn and grow and play and connect. (*Editor’s note: You can read all about Dympna Hayes here or hang out with her in person as she is a WWE guide and kayak instructor on our small ship expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic.)
What destination did you dream of as a child? Have you been there yet?
As a child, I always dreamed of going to Greece. In pictures, Greece looked blue. The water looked blue. The villages had buildings with blue rooftops. The flag has blue in it. I love the colour blue.
In 2014, nearing the end of my teaching career, I took a semester off to travel and ‘practice’ being retired. I went to Greece for a guided swim holiday. I traveled solo, and met up with the group at our hotel. It was a small hotel on a remote island in the Sporades in the northwest Aegean Sea. This was our home base for the duration. Each day we boarded a local fishing boat, and ventured out to a different location in the sea. We jumped in and swam until lunch. After lunch, we jumped back in and swam until mid afternoon, swimming about 5 km (3 miles) each day for 6 days. It was a co-ed trip with another company and I was the only Canadian (and one of only two from North America). It was brilliant! This trip stoked me for organized group international travel. I began looking at the exciting women-only trips hosted by Wild Women Expeditions.
Fast forward to 2016 and WWE’s Belize Rivers, Reefs and Rainforests Adventure. I love the water. I am a swimmer. I am a paddler. I like to be in, on, or around water. This trip called to me. Jennifer Haddow (the owner of WWE), posted some pictures from her exploratory Belizean excursion. I was hooked when I saw the kayak pictures taken on the Moho River, especially the ones with waterfalls. Then I saw the snorkelling pictures from a remote outer caye, on the second largest barrier reef in the world: the Belize Barrier Reef. I had to experience this adventure. This trip was everything I had hoped for, and more.
What have you accomplished on a Wild Women trip that you never thought possible?
There were quite a few moments of overcoming fears on the Belize adventure–coupled with feeling the exhilaration of success. We flew in a small plane (one of the doors actually flew open in mid-flight but we handled it), we went zip-lining in the jungle (our own screams mixing with the screeching of howler monkeys) and we hiked up to a river and waterfall where we immersed ourselves in the cool rushing water. We jumped from a high rock into the water to join our kayaks below on a river in the jungle. The highlight for me was kayaking over many waterfalls. It was not uncommon to fall out of the boat and end up swimming in the river. What fun! Most of the women from this trip have remained in contact through Facebook. We continue to delight in each other’s new milestones and adventures.
My most recent Wild Women adventure was in 2019. My wife, Karen, and I had our honeymoon with a group of amazing Wild Women in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador on the Galapagos Islands Yacht Adventure.
I had been out of town visiting my mother when Karen phoned me, bubbling over with excitement.
“Guess what I just did?” she asked. “I have made a deposit on our honeymoon. We are going to the Galapagos with Wild Women Expeditions.” Can you say DREAM TRIP? Karen really wanted to see the stars in the night sky at the equator. One of my biggest travel goals was to swim with sea turtles. I even have a sea turtle tattoo. There were so many amazing things that happened on this trip. We saw a blue whale–it actually swam right under our yacht. This was a first for all of us, including the captain and crew of the Tip Top II. Our adventure exceeded our expectations.
Do you still keep in touch with anyone from your Wild Women trip?
The women on the Galapagos trip have become lifelong friends, again keeping in touch mostly through Facebook. In 2020, just before Covid changed the world, we had a Galapagos reunion in Toronto, organized by Gail M. She treated us to a matinée performance of Come From Away. The night before the play, we had a Newfoundland-style kitchen party in one of the hotel suites, complete with guitar and ukulele and lots of singing.
Why did you choose us?
I have chosen to travel with WWE because the trips are very well scouted and organized. I like the women-only vibe. I love that each trip adds something to the local communities they visit through labour and/or donation. I appreciate the effort that is made to promote women in communities where women are emerging as leaders and guides. The itineraries allow travellers to really engage in an immersive and intimate experience, often visiting with local people in their homes for an authentic home-cooked meal. I feel safe travelling with WWE.
Name three things you MUST travel with—and we’re not talking about necessities per se, but what’s necessary (but kind of frivolous and luxury) to you?
I have a few things that I like to take along on trips. I like to take a few Buffs, my headlamp, a knife/multi-tool and a lighter. These items make me feel prepared as my head is always full of what-ifs. Essential to me are walking poles, good shoes and two sets of orthotics. One pair of shoes and orthotics is designated as my ‘wet’ pair for getting in and out of the water. I have a steel plate and four screws in one foot and cannot go barefoot. Since my last trip, I’ve had total knee replacements on both knees and I recently had shoulder surgery too. I have also been diagnosed with sleep apnea so I will now be traveling with a CPAP machine. From now on, I will be looking for gentler adventures with a few more luxuries such as electricity. I like trips with boats and water. The Seychelles look pretty sweet!
What travel memoir or movie do you insist that EVERYONE reads or watches? Why?
The film Shirley Valentine really strikes a chord with me. Check it out if you haven’t already seen it. I love that the protagonist starts out needing a change from her unsatisfying life, and eventually she finds her strength and begins to find the joy in life again. Oh, and it takes place in Greece.
Where do you dream of now?
I turned 60 this year. Over the years, some of my interests have changed, my abilities have changed, my body has changed, but still I seek fun, fellowship, and adventure.
I have found my place among Wild Women. 🐢