No (wo)man is an island, and this is especially true when it comes to adventure! Our Group Adventure Leaders are the heart and soul of WHOA, and your go-to GALs whenever you're traveling with us. (See what we did there?!) They are awesome, passionate, talented, smart, funny ladies who'll be there with you every step of the way to make sure your WHOA adventure is as positive and empowering as humanly possible. Not to mention, you'll always have peace of mind knowing they are working tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure everything is running as smoothly and safely as possible. Bottom line, we want you to feel at home with your new travel crew, no matter how far out of your comfort zone you are! So, whether you need trekking tips, a shoulder to cry on, or a good old fashioned dance party, these are the best GALs around:
Amanda was born in South Korea, adopted and raised in Westchester, NY. Always playing in the dirt, digging up worms, swimming until sundown, breaking bones snowboarding, fishing fresh and salt waters, stargazing whenever and wherever possible - her love of being active and outside was a great match after finding WHOA travel. Whilst not outside biking around New York City's five boroughs she spends her time as a User Researcher to create better user experiences on digital products; serves on the board of Heights and Hills, an organization that supports and provides resources for Brooklyn's elderly; plays music (guitar, bass, vox) with her band The Heavy Howl and The Old Fashions; and has a tendency to talk to herself on social media #conversationofone. She loves people, eating the crust (best part!), and isn't afraid of telling you if you have sh*t in your teeth. She was voted most unforgettable by her HS classmates in 1999 #old
HOME BASE: Brooklyn, New York
DREAM ADVENTURE: Go back to the mother, South Korea, and hang out with the female divers of Jeju Island
THEME SONG: All is full of love - Bjork
GO-TO TRAIL SNACK: Salty nuts
CELEBRITY DOPPELGANGER: Data the kid from Goonies
Nicole grew up in Southern California where she spent most of her time reading, and daydreaming about traveling. When she was in high school she convinced her family to start hosting foreign exchange students, and that was when her love of exploring foreign cultures was cemented. Nicole's work in the hospitality industry took her to Aspen, CO, where she developed a passion for hiking, which eventually led her to hike Kilimanjaro with WHOA. When she's traveling with WHOA, you can usually find her attempting (and failing miserably) to speak Swahili with the guides and porters, or starting a dance party around every corner. Nicole's favorite thing to do while traveling is to find a local dive bar where she can get some good food and make a few new friends. When she is back in Aspen, Nicole is usually snowboarding, hiking, or having a drink with friends on a patio somewhere.
HOME BASE: Aspen, Colorado
SPIRIT ANIMAL: Bear, relentless in the pursuit of food
THEME SONG: How am I Supposed to Live Without You - Michael Bolton
HIDDEN TALENT: Fluent in sign language
FAVORITE QUOTE: “Awesome things will happen today if you choose not to be a miserable cow”
Karen Zoe Kelley is a California girl that found her way to loving life living in Moshi, Tanzania. After a couple decade career of being an artist in California, she decided to free herself from (almost) all of her possessions (which are largely just keeping us from our heart's desires anyway), packed just two carry on bags, got a one way ticket to Tanzania, found her place in the travel biz and absolutely loves it! Tanzania is a wild and adventurous place and she is enjoying exploring Mt. Kilimanjaro, as well as checking out the lions and elephants out in the national parks and scuba diving and basking in the sun on the island of Zanzibar. Even though Karen is the mama of the WHOA ladies, she reveals that this lifestyle makes her feel like she is 30 again! She has instilled a serious sense of adventure and confidence in her two amazing daughters, and they are out there in the world choosing their own paths of passion and fulfillment. She and her daughters camped out of their VW vintage camper bus on the Big Island of Hawaii for a year when they were 7 and 10, and this is when she showed them that there are many options in this life!
HOME BASE: Moshi, Tanzania
SPIRIT ANIMAL: Golden Retriever... chill, laid back, always happy, loves people!
DREAM ADVENTURE: A few months in the Caribbean, snorkeling and messing around in a little boat, soaking up the sun
HIDDEN TALENT: Free hand lettering (35 years of practice, seriously!)
FAVORITE QUOTE: “To love and be loved is like the sun shining on both sides”
Trish is New Jersey born and raised (#Springsteen #Bagels #WhatExit). She's from Sussex County, the little known country part of Jersey where bears will come into your garage and make a picnic with your leftovers. Everyday was an adventure back home with her mom, 5 siblings and dad who wasn't afraid to drive a plow onto the lake to clear snow so they could play hockey. It's where she learned that the more things don't go as planned, the better the story will be, so just go with it! She now lives right outside of NYC working as a software developer and also volunteers as a teacher for a Girls Who Code club at a Manhattan High School. She teaches programming; the girls teach her the latest trends in SnapChatting. She keeps busy by playing soccer, floor hockey, and planning for the annual Jersey Wakeoff. Trish loves a good outdoor travel adventure and is totally at home on the mountains. Her fellow hikers on Kilimanjaro quickly learned Trish isn't usually the loudest person in the crowd, but if you catch a seat next to her in the dinner tent, she'll keep you laughing.
HOME BASE: Hoboken, New Jersey
DREAM ADVENTURE: One with my family!
HIDDEN TALENT: Hula-hooping...with a record time of 27 minutes
THEME SONG: The entire discography of Eric Church
FAVORITE QUOTE: This quote reminds me of a lot of things, one being Kilimanjaro and how we all get to the top. “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be...This is the inter-related structure of reality.” – Martin Luther King Jr. in Letter from Birmingham Jail
Retha grew up in Massachusetts (GO RED SOX!) and lived throughout New England before building a house in the Green Mountains of Vermont with her boyfriend. Her love of the outdoors and all things girl power were set in stone when she joined the Girl Scouts at age 5. Outside of teaching her how to make the perfect s’more, Girl Scouts instilled in her the idea that girls can accomplish anything. It’s safe to say she’s been smashing stereotypes and raising hell from a very young age. From her former career as a Roller Girl, to being a Camp Director, an Outdoor Educator, and a member of her local Lions Club, Retha is a positive force in her community. She is a self-proclaimed purveyor of smiles, outdoor junkie and lover of wildflowers. Currently, she is a Super Nanny to 4 Hooligans who fill he heart and inspire her to be a better person. They (and the folks of Instagram) know her as the @roamingnanny. She works so she can adventure because travel feeds her soul in a way nothing else can.
HOME BASE: Camp Dorkus in Sunderland, Vermont
SPIRIT ANIMAL: Sasquatch (I think I’m bigger then I actually am)
THEME SONG: Don’t Stop Me Now - Queen
CELEBRITY DOPPELGANGER: Wonder Woman
Briana grew up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and was lucky to have amazing parents who encouraged her to travel. In high school, Bri played field hockey in Spain, visited public schools in Cuba, and explored the jungles and beaches of the Dominican Republic. From those experiences, she knew that traveling was her life’s passion. In 2006, Bri started bartending at her favorite local watering hole in Brooklyn, which afforded her the flexibility to continue her travels, plus all the fun of working behind the bar! On any given Friday, you can find Bri slinging drinks at the bar with some of her closest friends and regulars. As an avid runner, she runs half and full marathons. In 2012, Bri started teaching vinyasa yoga and yoga for athletes. Incorporating yoga into her routine has helped her handle injuries and maintain a base level of fitness for amazing experiences like hiking Kilimanjaro! After meeting the fabulous WHOA GAL Amanda Chessa, she knew that working with WHOA was her ultimate dream job. Everyday Bri strives to bring people positive, rich and empowering experiences, either through a fun day at the bar in Brooklyn, a challenging yoga class in Manhattan, or now, by leading people on the travel experiences of a lifetime. Dance party on the summit anyone??
HOME BASE: Brooklyn, New York
DREAM ADVENTURE: Scuba diving in the Maldives
SPIRIT ANIMAL: Narwhal (because who doesn’t want to be a unicorn-whale?!)
THEME SONG: Flava in Ya Ear – Craig Mack
FAVORITE QUOTE: Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.
Ren was born in Moldova, (former USSR), which is now a tiny country that few people know of (it’s wedged in between Romania and Ukraine). She grew up on the east coast, outside of Philly, and while fortunate to travel internationally often for family vacations, it wasn’t until she studied abroad in Prague during film school, that the travel bug bit her. Whether it’s flying solo or with her husband, she’s traveled to 23 countries so far. Some of her highlights from those trips were getting her advanced diving certification in Thailand, bungee jumping off a bridge in the middle of nowhere in France, getting certified to teach yoga in India, and climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. While living her entire adult life in Brooklyn, she did a 2 year stint in Northern California and that’s where her love for the outdoors developed. She got addicted to rock climbing, hiking, camping, and being in nature with friends. She also discovered her love for photography there, which she now does for a living. Ren tends to pinch herself on a daily basis because she can’t believe she gets to take photos for a living, often in locations she’s never dreamed of. Check out this talented GALs amazing photography HERE!
HOME BASE: Los Angeles, California (via Brooklyn, New York)
DREAM ADVENTURE: Currently, I’ve been dreaming of a long road trip, visiting a number of US National Parks
SPIRIT ANIMAL: A cat (I love the sun, especially if I’m sleeping in it, I like to cuddle and get scratched, and then I like to go off and do my own thing)
HIDDEN TALENT: Making the best fried chicken you'll ever eat
FAVORITE QUOTE: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.” - Maya Angelou
Meganne was born in Connecticut but escaped to the bigger mountains and rivers of Maine in 2011. Growing up, Meganne was encouraged by her parents to be anything she dreamed of being. After a childhood of hiking, boating, fishing, snowboarding, and summer camp, Meganne pursued a degree in adventure based tourism. She has spent little time at a 9-5 job since! Meganne’s life in Maine has brought her to many exciting jobs including a white water raft guide, bartender, and Outward Bound Instructor. Her passions lay in nature and teaching and she finds ways to incorporate them both in professional and recreational ways. When she is not working she can be found cuddling with her dog, catching up on shows, bike riding, running, or attempting to learn new crafts like knitting or felting.
HOME BASE: Newry, Maine
SPIRIT ANIMAL: Chocolate Lab puppy (gets really excited and exerts all its energy, loves to eat but quickly, really good at napping)
GO-TO TRAIL SNACK: Dried Mango (unsweetened) or chocolate…depends on how I’m feeling
FAVORITE QUOTE: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” I found this written on a friends’ sea kayak and it has stuck with me.
ODD FACT: I own over 15 Nalgene water bottles. Most are layered with stickers from places I’ve traveled. I have retired some that are wearing out and the stickers can’t be replaced.
Megan was born and raised in northern New Jersey and was lucky enough to have a family with whom she experienced an awesome array of adventures — from hiking and camping near home, to horseback riding on a dude ranch in Colorado, to exploring castles in Scotland and Germany, to swimming with dolphins in Hawaii. From this, her love of travel was born. 33 countries and countless memories later, it's safe to say the travel bug is here to stay. A marketer by day, geography nerd and fantasy vacation planner by night, Megan is known for her love of maps, cider, and live music. She has found an amazing camaraderie with the women of WHOA Travel. With #WHOAPeruCrew2015 and #OktoberfestLikeWHOA2016 in the bag, she's looking forward to more adventures (and more laughs) to come!
HOME BASE: New York, New York
SPIRIT ANIMAL: A bird, so I can just fly anywhere whenever I want to!
DREAM ADVENTURE: Taking a year to do a round-the-world trip and just travel everywhere. The world is so enormous and has so many amazing and beautiful things I want to experience.
HIDDEN TALENT: I can name all the countries of the world, including their capitals, and show you where they are on a map. I've got almost all their flags down as well. #geographynerd
THEME SONG: Mmmbop. Yup :)
Lindsay is a proud Canadian prairie girl who grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. With a background in social justice, she works to recruit and retain underrepresented groups in construction with a goal of a more inclusive and diverse industry. Lindsay’s favorite activities include witty banter, personal growth, connecting with people, learning what makes people tick, wine, and of course daydreaming and planning her next international travel destination! She says summiting Mount Kilimanjaro with WHOA was the most challenging thing she's ever experienced physically and mentally, yet also, the most rewarding. The mountain guides nicknamed her “mboyoyo” (which means “talking a lot/chatty” in Swahili) because she was always goofing off and laughing with everyone. Her talkative and outgoing nature has been getting her into trouble as far back as elementary school. Some things never change...and we're glad about that!
HOME BASE: Quebec, Canada
DREAM TRIP: Everywhere! My latest obsessions are Spain, India, Japan, Brazil, Norway and all of the Caribbean islands
HIDDEN TALENT: I can spend an entire day in bed watching Netflix guilt free
FAVORITE QUOTE: “Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.” - Anaïs Nin
GO-TO TRAIL SNACK: mixed nuts, dried fruit, turkey jerky and fuzzy peaches (Canadians will know what these are!)
Nicola grew up beach side in Australia, where her backyard was a jungle and vacations were spent camping amongst the multitude of terrifying and deadly Australian animals. Her first trip off the continent at 20 landed her in India where she was greeted with a healthy dose of culture shock followed by what has since become a life long love of travel, adventure and different cultures. Before becoming a Photographer, she spent years leading fundraisers on sponsored charity challenge trips to places like Nepal, Pakistan, Romania... Then after moving into photography, she continued to travel for work, documenting the work of international human rights organizations worldwide. Close to 70 countries later, her thirst for visiting new places and meeting new people doesn't end.
HOME BASE: Brooklyn, New York & Sydney, Australia
HIDDEN TALENT: Moving her little toes in isolation to the others, riding my bike hands free, and speaking Spanish
DREAM ADVENTURE: Horse riding through Mongolia, staying in yurts and visiting vast barren landscapes
SIGNATURE DANCE MOVE: My ex used to claim I look like a kangaroo when I dance. I still don't really know what they were referring to, but I'll take it as a compliment!
Allissa was born and raised on a farm in Orange County, New York, but moved to the San Diego area in 2009 so she could give up shoveling snow and wearing shirts on her daily runs. A trip to Australia and New Zealand at the age of 16 fueled what would become a lifelong wanderlust, and sparked a return to the land Down Under for a semester abroad while studying at Duke University. In 2001, on a whim, she booked a flight to Thailand, where, equipped with little more than a bag full of clean underwear and a Lonely Planet guidebook, she visited ancient temples, went scuba diving in the Andaman Sea, and convinced a fisherman to drop her off on an uninhabited island to explore. She has since concluded that clean underwear is not a travel essential and credits WHOA Travel for this epiphany while climbing Kilimanjaro in 2017. Although she’d been a NCAA Division I track athlete and lifelong runner, it was while recovering from an injury that she took up hiking and rediscovered her passion for the outdoors, which has provided endless inspiration for her writing and photography. A development professional at a private school during the week, she escapes on adventures every chance she can get, whether it’s climbing a 14er in the Eastern Sierras or road tripping through national parks in her trusty Subaru Forester named Boots- Dora the Explorer, anyone?
HOME BASE: Carlsbad, California
DREAM ADVENTURE: Trekking through Patagonia
HIDDEN TALENT: 10-second tripod selfie challenges. Sometimes I’m in a dress, sometimes I’m in a dress while climbing a tree, but it’s all happening with 10 seconds on the timer.
GO-TO TRAIL SNACK: Sour Patch Kids & Sour Gummy Bears
FAVORITE QUOTE: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” –Mary Oliver
Jen, aka Bibi, grew up near Scranton, PA (yup, home of The Office). Sandwiched between two athletic brothers, Jen became an athlete too, taking up basketball, track, cheerleading and dance. To this day, her energy has not let up! She won’t admit to being a runner, but she’s got 7 marathons under her belt, and she’s hiked and danced around the world with WHOA from India to Kilimanjaro to Mount Elbrus (that's right, she's conquered two of the Seven Summits)! Traveling, connecting with other cultures and exploring the world’s natural beauty is Bibi’s #1 passion - she's at 40 countries and counting. Even when she’s not on the move, she’s still moving as a group fitness instructor. Most importantly, Jen is a proud Social Worker, empowering and advocating for the most vulnerable populations. She earned a master’s degree from UPENN’s School of Social Policy & Practice and currently works as a Healthcare Consultant assisting Hospitals and Long Term Care facilities navigate systems and implement practices for better patient outcomes. Jen is all about women supporting women making her a perfect addition to the WHOA family!
HOME BASE: Hoboken, New Jersey
FAVORITE QUOTE: “There is nothing permanent except change”– Heraclitus
GO-TO TRAIL SNACK: Chocolate and anything with caffeine
DREAM ADVENTURE: Eating and hiking my way around Japan (and making a stop by the Pug Cafe)
Born and raised in Northern California, Megan grew up in the middle of two of her favorite places – the San Francisco coast (Go Giants!) and Lake Tahoe mountains. Before her 30th birthday, she embarked on running 30 half marathons in less than a year…and she hasn’t stopped running since. In the past year, trail running has become one of her passions, including finishing a 50k, 50 mile, and 100 mile race. When she isn't outside skiing with friends, hiking with her pups, and exploring new places, Megan is an operations analyst in the tech industry. Her hike up Kilimanjaro with WHOA was a personal challenge to prove that mental toughness is key, no matter how much experience you may have. Traveling internationally, she has learned you never really travel alone, the world is full of friends waiting to get to know you.
HOME BASE: Folsom, California
SPIRIT ANIMAL(s): A Labradoodle (loyal, social, & friendly)
HIDDEN TALENT: Making Mountain Coffee taste like the real thing
GO-TO TRAIL SNACK: Snickers (and I bring a Costco size box for sharing!)
FAVORITE QUOTE: “For what it’s worth, it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be” –F. Scott Fitzgerald
Kaci grew up in sunny San Diego, CA where she spent her childhood surfing, playing every sport imaginable and eating at a record pace to beat out her 5 siblings to a plate of seconds. She took her competitiveness and foodbaby to college where she got in involved with everything from Roller Derby (derby name: Savage Patch Kid) to Special Olympics volunteering to Inner Tube water polo and most memorably, UC Davis Outdoor Adventures. Her love of the outdoors truly took off here after her first backpacking trip brought her deep into the Redwoods of Northern California and no one has been able to keep her indoors since. Kaci currently resides in Monterey, CA where she “works” as the Coordinator of Outdoor Recreation at CSU Monterey Bay providing students with the same transformative and empowering experiences that she had in college via hiking, camping, backpacking, surfing, and biking. In June of 2017, Kaci embarked on her first WHOA adventure after spontaneously agreeing the month prior and the rest is history.
HOME BASE: San Diego, California
DREAM ADVENTURE: Visiting all the National Parks via an epic year long road trip
GO-TO TRAIL SNACK: Sour Patch Kids & Sour Gummy Bears
FAVORITE QUOTE: “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try” – John F. Kennedy
Sarah grew up on her parents' farm in Northern England, where she spent most of her time outside, riding her horses, learning to windsurf, whitewater rafting and skiing. Needless to say, her thirst for adventure kicked in at a young age and has stuck ever since. After graduating from university, where she studied Textiles and Fashion Design, she went on a road trip around the USA. Experiencing the vast national parks was when her love affair with hiking and mountains really began (and is still going strong)! Fast forward 10 years to when her dream job brought her across the pond from London to Philadelphia, where she now leads a team of designers in creating beautiful authentic products for Anthropologie. This move is what led her to hike Kilimanjaro with WHOA and continue to explore the USA, with 25 states visited so far! You'll always find Sarah armed and ready with her camera, doing her best to capture that magic moment. Sarah's happy place is up on a mountain, so look for a big smile and the sound of laughter and you'll find her!
HOME BASE: London, U.K. and Philadelphia, USA.
DREAM ADVENTURE: Hiking in Patagonia and exploring Antarctica
GO-TO TRAIL SNACK: Jaffa Cakes - a 90s British favorite. A delicious combination of orange jelly, dark chocolate and sponge cake. Try them, you'll like it!
FAVORITE QUOTE: “Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” –Jack Kerouac
Kim is 55 years young, and was born, raised, and lives in Burlington, Ontario Canada. Growing up, she spent her summers outdoors in Southampton, Ontario, and was the only girl there who could put a crawfish on a hook! Kim wouldn’t have described herself as an active person until her mid-30s when she took up running. Now she loves triathlons, and has several 8 - 9 hour adventure races and half Ironmans under her belt! Just a few years ago, at the age of 51, she rode her bike halfway across Canada to raise money for a friend who had cancer. It took her a month, riding about 120 km a day, but she did it, and ended up raising $44k! Kim has been married for 29 years and has two beautiful daughters who are her pride and joy. She currently works for the Halton Police at the Central Lock up facility (better known as the Drunk Tank), but when she grows up she wants to be a grandma more than anything! When she’s not training for her next big adventure, you can find her training her 5 year old retriever, Brody, to be a therapy dog for victims of assault. Kim is the mastermind and GAL leading our Wise and Wondrous Women of WHOA Kilimanjaro Adventure! Needless to say, she’s a force of nature, and just the type of energy you want by your side on the mountain.
HOME BASE: Burlington, Ontario
HIDDEN TALENT: I can recite, verbatim, the entire Calgon Laundry Detergent commercial from over 35 years ago! I also believe with all my heart that I really am a good singer, and I’m happy to sing with anyone who needs a singing partner (much to my families chagrin)!
SPIRIT ANIMAL: Dolphin, an animal that always looks like it’s smiling and has a loud laugh!
THEME SONG: Holiday - Madonna (Yup, I was an 80s child all the way! From big hair, big shoulder pads, and big earrings!)
LIFE MOTTO: Just do it! How many times do you live? Just once, so just do it!
Christa lived in central North Carolina for most of her life, but it wasn’t until she married her husband and took on the role of military spouse that she discovered her love of travel. She balances her quiet life at home with adventures far outside her comfort zone such as camping in the Amazon jungle or climbing Kilimanjaro. Christa is passionate about sharing her love of travel on her blog Travel Fearlessly, and especially with her daughter Charlotte who’s been filling her own passport since the age of 2. Christa is leading the charge in plus size travel encouraging other curvy women to explore the world. She’s the mastermind behind the 2019 Curvy Kili Crew, WHOA’s first plus size climb, and our newest division, WHOA plus! She knows there are unique challenges that plus size women face in adventure travel, whether it’s researching weight limits on zip-lines or finding gear that fits, and she wants plus size women to know that adventuring is for them. Join Christa and other courageous and curvy adventurers on an upcoming WHOA plus adventure!
HOME BASE: Manassas, Virginia
DREAM ADVENTURE: The Galapagos Islands! I can never get enough of wildlife travel.
THEME SONG: Raise Your Glass by P!nk
GO-TO TRAIL SNACK: Cheez-It’s and Slim Jims!
FAVORITE QUOTE: “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” –Joseph Campbell