by Ellen Barone
I first learned the Spanish word 'tocaya', the feminine form for two people having the same name, more than a decade ago while living in Mexico. I thought it was lovely that they had a unique word to honor the special bond of a shared name. So when I was introduced to CMH Summer Adventures' host Ellen Slaughter, this past summer, I knew that I had met an extraordinary Tocaya. Ellen is the inspiration behind CMH's Bodacious in the Bugaboos (a great girlfriend getaway) and women-only travel programs. And as the entrepreneurial mother of three, a wife of 32-years, and the super fit, über high energy CMH marketing maven, she is, in my book, the ultimate Bodacious Babe. When she's not leaping mountains in a single bound, Ellen can be found at home in Calgary, Alberta.
EB: How did you get into leading and creating women-only travel experiences?ES: "I have always loved the mountains and from a very young age spent as much time as possible engaged in year-round active mountain adventures. My sister Cari was the same. At one point, I owned a corporate event planning business and Cari was working and traveling a lot for a job at Disney. So when women colleagues of Cari's from New York said they were looking for an active vacation, Cari suggested that we organize a trip to the Canadian Rockies for them. It was a huge success and they immediately asked, "Where next?" So Cari and I formed 'Soulsister Tours' and began leading and crafting active adventure trips for women.
Eventually, I met a friend at CMH and we brought a Soulsister group to the Bugaboos. It was a fantastic success. By then, Cari, 12-years my junior, was a new mom with her first baby and busy juggling a thriving corporate career, marriage and growing family, so Soulsister Tours was put on hold and I began working exclusively with CMH to design and implement new women-only travel programs."
EB: How would you describe the appeal of women-only adventure travel?
ES: "As women, we are by nature connectors and very supportive of one another. When women come together in a beautiful place without our traditional roles and labels, we drop our guard, share who we are, form bonds, support and encourage one another. Plus, there's a level of conversation that's unique and special when women of all ages - single, married, mothers, daughters, etc., gather. Not necessarily better than mixed company, just different. I think women crave connection and it's not always possible in our busy lives when we play so many roles. There's something liberating and inspiring about being in the company of women. Together we're more willing to push our limits – emotional and physical."
EB: Can you give me a personal example?
ES: In my 20s I took a pretty bad fall in the mountains and over the years I noticed that I was fearful in a certain type of exposure – steep ascents in particular. I love being in the mountains and I didn't want fear to play any part of the experience. So when they installed the via Ferrata climbing route at the Bobbie Burns lodge, I knew the vertical pathways, fixed cables and metal rung ladders would provide the perfect opportunity for me to push through it in complete safety. And I did it! The fear is gone. Now I love sharing my story with other women and cheerleading them on to overcome their own fears when, or if, they're ready."
EB: When we met, I was struck by your exuberance and wisdom. Have you always had such confidence?ES: "I'm in my 50s and proud of the wisdom and experiences those years include. Like many, I've reached a point in my life where I treasure the time I have and am willing to make choices I might not have, say in my early 30s, because this is my life and I intend to make the most of it.
That said, I'm really blessed. My husband Dave is an awesome guy and for 32-years has been a fantastic partner who encourages me to go out and be bodacious every day in every way. I'm very lucky."
EB: What's on your Bodacious Bucket List of life experiences?ES:"I'd like to go back to school, get to Nepal and see the Himalayas, hike Newfoundland's East Coast Trail, enroll in a sculpture class and discover new ways to draw out my creative side and travel with each of my kids on a trip of our own.
Dave and I are talking about moving out of the 'burbs' to a more downtown location and we're both up for anything that keeps us learning and growing."
EB: Is there anything on the Bodacious horizon at CMH that we should know about?ES: "We're always listening to our guests and refining and adjusting our programs as a result of their comments and suggestions. We've added a few more helpings of Yoga to appeal to those who told us they'd like a little more Zen with their Bodacious girlfriend getaway, teamed up with two amazing sisters for Stretch 'n Stir, a vivacious mix of yoga and culinary fun, and are thrilled to be hosting Bikini Boot Camp for a new Bugaboos getaway. Of course we still have a few new surprises for next year, so keep in touch."
Travel expert Ellen Barone did what many of us only dream of doing: at the age of 35, she traded a successful academic career for the wild blue yonder and set out to explore the world and herself. In the dozen years since that intrepid decision, she has turned passion into profession journeying to more than 60 countries in search of evocative images and life-enriching adventures. Learn more at EllenBarone.com. Ellen travelled this summer on Bodacious in the Bugaboos and wrote this story about Becoming Bodacious in the Bugaboos.
Photo: Ellen Slaughter (right) with Bodacious co-Host Angie Smith in the Bugaboos.