“Sometimes people need a buddy to make travel happen and I want to play that buddy,” says Portlander Mary Cecchini. The PSU graduate once worked in events production and brand management before realizing her career didn’t leave enough space for travel, the activity she found most fulfilling. So the PSU graduate left her job, flew to Turkey, and traveled west through Europe for five months by herself.
Cecchini blogged about her European trip and heard from many would-be-travelers who “wanted to travel but were hesitant about doing everything, the trip and the planning of the trip, all by themselves,” she says. So Cecchini began to think about founding a travel company expressly designed for women who’d like to experience the joys of travel but little to none of the stress that comes with planning. That idea became Living Big, the women-only travel company that launched this month after a successful “tester trip” that took nine women to Costa Rica in November of this past year.
How it works: Female travelers can sign up to travel on one of Living Big’s pre-planned adventures, which are all led and planned by Cecchini. Clients pay a flat fee that includes the activities specified on the trip’s itinerary, so they can relax and enjoy the trip of a lifetime.
“I want to build a community of women travelers who want to go off the beaten path but don’t necessarily want to be alone on their trip,” Cecchini says. “I work on finding authentic ways to visit these countries. We’ll go have dinner in someone’s kitchen, things that get us away from those big tourist buses.”
Before taking a Living Big group on a trip, Cecchini travels to the destination—she’s heading over to research Iceland in June—and scouts out local interest points so that she can create a tried-and-true itinerary that includes both well-known and more hidden destinations.
So far Cecchini’s clients have included mother/daughter pairs, small groups of friends, and solo women looking to travel with a small female community. “I really advocate for women spending time together,” Cecchini says. “Living Big is about fostering those opportunities for women to come together.”
Upcoming trips in 2015 include Switzerland, Costa Rica, and Spain. Living Big also offers “local adventures” around Portland such as snowshoeing on Mt. Hood and paddle-boarding in the Willamette.: “It’s all those things you’ve always wanted to do but just never made happen for yourself. Travel is a conduit for creating memories, and I see my role as a trip host as pulling those levers to create the right circumstances for my clients to make memories."