A few years ago, I began a recreational binge of sorts.

Bored with my usual menu of deepwater running and fitness walking, I signed up for yoga, Pilates, Frisbee golf, Tae Kwon Do and rowed crew on my local lake. I chopped a board in half with my bare foot, ran 10 miles in a relay and took an eight-day kayaking trip into Canada. I've always been an active person, but this was a whole new buffet of fresh experiences (and a few sore muscles!).

Why the sudden shift? It was time to shake up my comfortable, predictable life. I wanted excitement and longed to obliterate my safe routine. I was a woman seeking adventure—and I'm not alone.

Many industries are experiencing major growth, fueled by the purchasing power of the "adventure-seeking woman." This woman crosses all ages, family configurations and fitness levels. She's carving time in her schedule and finding wiggle room in her budget for new adventures that involve everything from rock climbing to Tuscan cooking to snowshoeing.

In many cases, she's entering traditionally male spaces with a "do-it-herself" attitude and trying her hand at auto repair, fly fishing and home improvement.

Dangerously Inconspicuous

The adventure-seeking woman is surprisingly hard to define with traditional demographics. She may be a single woman—of any age—who has extra time and disposable income. Or, she could be an empty-nest Boomer or a woman with kids in high school and beyond. New moms also often have a thirst for adventure, but they may need to scale it down to accommodate their extra-busy lives and additional demands.

In other words, the adventure-seeking woman is not an age or life stage—it's an attitude.

This influential woman may be hard to pinpoint, but she sure is fun to serve. She's open to new opportunities and has a spirited desire to play and learn. Often, she views her adventures as a way to connect with other people, especially friends, family and other women. She wants to feel a sense of accomplishment and conquer new territory, whether that means boating down the Amazon or trying an exotic new fruit from a Chinatown market.

There are four basic adventure categories:

  1. Skill building: home improvements, auto repair, shooting and creating home movies, composing music with computer software and figuring out how to use all the features on her new digital camera

  2. Outdoor: snowshoeing, kayaking, fly fishing, hunting, boating, adventure travel

  3. Intellectual/cultural: wine tasting, fine dining, coffee, book clubs, gallery visits, opera tickets, Spanish lessons and salsa dancing

  4. Spiritual: journaling, retreats, group or church membership, writing a personal memoir, yoga, meditation classes, Tai Chi

Your customers—women and men—crave highly interactive experiences that teach, challenge and stretch their limits. These activities boost women's self-awareness and can change how they see themselves through the eyes of others.

For many people, adventurous travels and pursuits (parasailing in Belize, a five-day surf camp, trying stand-up comedy) are more desirable than an expensive new car or slick gadget. Think about your last cocktail party. Were the guests talking about their stock portfolios or that weekend they spent in a former Portuguese convent?


1. Apply the cascading effect

Action breeds confidence. Every time the adventure-driven woman tries something new, she expands her sense of possibility: "If I can take down a load-bearing wall and put in a sun room, I can certainly learn to kayak." Friends and family can also spark her adventurous flame: "If Susan can run that marathon, I bet I can, too."

Remember that adventure is an attitude. How can you partner with other companies and industries that are attracting these spirited women? What will attract customers who crave adventure—even if they have limited time and budgets?

2. Make the first time fabulous

Companies that give customers a safe learning experience will reap major rewards. Women respond well to programs and opportunities that make it simple to try something new, have fun and stay connected and involved.

Make it easy for a newbie to dive in, and she'll be far more likely to stick with it. Why? Women who want to try a new sport, activity or hobby are often deterred by time-consuming details. If she's got to research the whole process, find someone to teach her the basics, convince a friend to do it with her and figure out how much it will cost, she may forget it altogether and settle in with some TiVo.

3. Emphasize experience

Help customers to experience your products and your brand in distinctive ways. Add special events or unique opportunities. If your travel company specializes in backcountry trips, let your hikers try a traditional First Nations sweat lodge or cook campfire risotto with fresh-picked forest mushrooms. Think about how you can develop contests, prizes, add-ons and upgrades that will provide adventure and novel experiences.

4. Take a cue from TV

Curl up on the couch these days and what do you see? Everyday people having extraordinary adventures.

From "The Amazing Race" to "Apprentice" to "Survivor" and "America's Next Top Model," it seems everyone is out there trying, tasting, competing, creating and playing. Reality TV has upped the ante on our two-weeks-in-a-Maui-timeshare vacation and a steady career path. We want to take a risk and come away changed.

One Canadian newspaper draws readers to its Saturday travel pages with a breakdown of the week's "Amazing Race" episode: What's the best way to get to Ethiopia? Is it safe? What should I bring? Readers who are eager to visit the countries and attractions featured on the show are sure to buy the Saturday paper—and maybe renew their full subscription. What can your brand do to build on women's desire for adventure?

Why All the Adrenaline?

A manic schedule can prevent your customers from getting outside, pursuing spiritual goals or using their hands instead of their brains. They're overworked and under-stimulated. For millions of women, free time is the ultimate luxury.

I looked at the kayak and to a martial arts master for a new perspective on my life—and myself. I wanted to test my limits and peel back the layers in what had become a comfortable existence. Three weeks in Scandinavia wasn't a viable option, so I found adventure in my own backyard.

When the daily grind wears into your creativity, enthusiasm and energy, a dash of challenge and novelty can make all the difference. Give your customers some adventure—and see what wonders happen.

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image of Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson (lisa@reachwomen.com) is the CEO of ReachWomen (www.reachwomen.com). She is also a coauthor of Don't Think Pink: What Really Makes Women Buy—And How to Increase Your Share of this Crucial Market (AMACOM, 2004).