2021 West Virginia Wild Recap

How in the world do I even begin?

Last weekend Explorer Chicks converged upon the New River Gorge National Park for 4 days of camping, rafting, adventuring, and maybe drinking an adult beverage or two for our 5th annual West Virginia Wild Weekend.

I kicked off our weekend sharing my story about how I reinvented myself from a “happily” married woman doing the damn thing but secretly drenched in fear of a living a life on repeat to who I am today – a woman who built an adventure travel company from nothing.

And when I say nothing, I mean not even a background in travel or any clue how to properly camp. #PinterestFail But after launching Explorer Chick in 2014 I set out and ticked off a bunch of adventures for the VERY FIRST TIME. Surfing. Mountain Climbing. Rappeling. Waterfall Jumping. Traveling Solo.

In the room with me that night were dozens of women whose hands shot up when I then asked them if they were camping for the VERY FIRST TIME, whitewater rafting for the VERY FIRST TIME, climbing/ziplining/kayaking for the VERY FIRST TIME, and traveling solo for the VERY FIRST TIME.

I was surrounded by women who were taking a chance on themselves doing something for the FIRST TIME. And they had already completed the scariest part: Signing up. Showing up. That took a lot of courage.

What’s more is that they were also there with supportive women who have already done these things for the VERY FIRST TIME. We’ve all been there. We get it. And we were there to grow, connect, make new friends, and heck, even laugh a little.

Thursday night was also 80’s night, ya’ll. And our Explorer Chicks SHOWED UP!

Friday Night – Inspiring Female Speaker

Every year at Wild, we invite an inspiring woman to come out and share her story, her wisdom with our Explorer Chicks on Friday. A lot of time goes into searching for our speaker. I listen to a lot of podcasts. Watch a ton of YouTube videos. I’ve attended events to watch women speak. And I do all of this because it’s important.

inspiring female speaker and triathlete khadijah diggs with nicki bruckmann entrepreneur and ceo of explorer chick

What I love about Explorer Chick is that we’re ordinary women with the courage to go out and try extraordinary things. So, when I’m looking for our next speaker, it’s important to me that our Friday night speaker is relatable. That we can maybe see a part of ourselves in her. That the impossible becomes less intimidating. To me, that’s actual inspiration.

This year was no exception. I first heard Khadijah Diggs on the Tough Girl Podcast. As soon as I heard Khadijah’s voice in my head phones, I knew. I could hear the warmth. I heard a woman who was humbly sharing her journey not to brag or prop herself up, but to actually inspire others to do the same.

But what got me hooked was hearing about her very first Triathlon at the age of 40 and she finished 3rd to last. Despite thinking she was having a near death experience, she fell in love with the sport. From those humble triathlon roots she has since earned her spot as the first woman to make the US Long Triathlon Team and is a silver Ironman All-World Triathlete. She is the first Muslimah to represent the US – not because she chose to but sometimes we have no choice be to be the first.

But above all of her accomplishments as a Triathlete, she is a servant of the creator and a Mother.

Khadijah shared a bit about her background and how she got into racing. She shared the evolution of her triathlete uniforms – from Walmart to so FANCY! She talked about coaching new Triathletes with the goal of diversifying the sport. But it was mostly a conversation fueled by questions from our Explorer Chicks. When does she find the time to work out? How does she not feel the mom guilt being away racing? What’s next?

Khadijah reminded us the the greatest gift you can give is your smile and we shouldn’t ever have to ask for permission.

Saturday was THE DAY! We showed up ready to paddle the Lower New River! It was AH-MAZING! Instead of my blabbering on about it, here are the YouTube Videos to both of our trips. (We were too big for just 1 bus!)

Whitewater Rafting the Lower New River in West Virginia

Saturday was THE DAY! We showed up ready to paddle the Lower New River! It was AH-MAZING! Instead of my blabbering on about it, here are the YouTube Videos to both of our trips. (We were too big for just 1 bus!)

Why Traveling with Women is Special


What I was MOST impressed by was the vulnerability on our last night together. When I asked if anyone wanted to come up and share their story in front of everyone, I expected crickets. 🦗 You know when people just look around the room at each other hoping someone will go up?

Instead, the community and the support by our ECs created a space where women felt safe to stand in front of former strangers to pour out their heart. And without judgement! That is POWERFUL.

It was a big ol’ love fest and boy, is that rare to find these days. We heard stories about:

👏 No shame in knowing your limits.
👏 Being proud of yourself.
👏 Taking back your life.
👏 Frist time solo drivers.
👏 Finding a crew of female friends for the first time.
👏 Putting your trust in Explorer Chick.
👏 Finding EC after devastating ends to relationships
👏 To not waiting for something big to happen, but to go NOW.

Thank you to everyone who shared their stories with all of us and those who shared their stories with me directly.

I might have had the idea, but you are the LIFE of Explorer Chick.

I just want to send one more THANK YOU to all of our Explorer Chicks who showed up last weekend to make our 5th annual Wild so incredibly special.

Your kindness, support, courage, vulnerability, encouragement lives on.

Til next year, Cheers to boundless adventure!

Nicki Bruckmann

Founder of Explorer Chick


From our Explorer Chicks

This was my first EC adventure. Going in, I wasn’t sure what to expect and almost decided not to go at the last minute. My fear was that I would arrive and be surrounded by 20 somethings and they would all be physically ready for anything.

That wasn’t t

he case, there were women of all ages and sizes. I met several amazing women and was inspired and spent a weekend of saying yes to new things.

-Explorer Chick DeAnna

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