Meet Lauren Bates, the one-woman powerhouse behind Wild Terrains, a women-only travel group that spotlights female-run businesses in Portugal and Mexico City.

Rachael Ray Every Day: What was the inspiration behind Wild Terrains?

Lauren Bates: Most women-only trips are centered around a single activity—yoga, or surfing—or a specific age group. This frustrated me because I'm a more dynamic traveler and I wanted something that incorporated local culture, food, art, design, shopping, and history, and exposed me to a more diverse group of women, not just women like me. Globally, we tend to market to women in a very one- or two-dimensional way that misses the mark on what women are really craving in terms of experiences and connections. Just because you like yoga doesn't mean you want to do yoga every day on vacation, and just because you're 70 years old doesn't mean you want to be on a seniors-only trip. So, I started a travel company where those labels don't exist. Wild Terrains exists for women from all walks of life, in all stages of life.

Why was highlighting women-led businesses on these trips so important to you?

If you look at the itineraries of other women-only group tour companies, you'll find the majority of the businesses they support with their tours are male-owned. That felt like a true disconnect to me. If I was going to be bringing groups of women to a destination, I felt a responsibility to support local, women-owned businesses. Every aspect of our itinerary partners with women business owners, chefs, artists, designers, and architects. What we've seen is that this actually creates an incredibly powerful and inspiring dynamic between our travelers and our partners.


How do you discover the women that you feature as part of Wild Terrains?

I typically spend several months in a destination before it launches to get to know the culture, meet the creative women who live there, and brainstorm unique experiences with them for our travelers. When I am scouting a new destination, I usually arrive with a list of a few women I'd like to connect with. These women are typically not women who are working in the tourism industry—they are fashion designers, artists, historians, people who tend to be overlooked by other travel companies. Once I connect with them, they usually help me get plugged in to the rest of the community of creative women in their cities.

You currently have trips available in Mexico City and Portugal–what other travel destinations do you want to hit?

Because our partners are so crucial to creating our travel experiences, we've launched destinations slowly, about one per year. I personally tend to gravitate toward spots that are off-the-beaten-path and have a warm, inviting culture, which is why we started with Mexico City and Portugal. For our third destination we're really interested in the Nordic countries, given how progressive their cultures are in terms of women's rights and equality. We're hoping to launch our next destination in the first half of 2020.

What makes you feel most "like a boss"?

Honestly? Our partners! They are the coolest people I have ever met. Sometimes I have to pinch myself in disbelief that I get to collaborate with such incredible women. Wild Terrains has allowed me to build a network of incredibly talented and stylish women around the world who have become true friends. Then, I get to share them with all our lovely travelers. I have the best job in the world.

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