Jennifer Palmer is an impassioned global connector, inspirational speaker, environmental entrepreneur and intrepid lover of nature and wildlife.
Through curiosity and mindfulness, she builds bridges across industries, elevates meaningful causes, inspires female solo travellers, and gives rise to individuals and companies who strive to have a positive and authentic impact on our world. Over the past two decades, she has been a trusted advisor, strategist, consultant, guide, speaker, writer, and spokesperson for esteemed companies, non-profits, government agencies, foundations and businesses. As founder of Women for Wildlife, she leads an international movement dedicated to support, empower and connect women and girls devoted to wildlife and conservation.
To read more about Jen’s story, click here.
How did you fall in love with travelling? When I was 19 years old, I ventured to Mexico with my brother to explore the Mayan ruins and dip my toes into powder white sand and turquoise blue waters. We hiked through jungles, watched massive iguanas scale the steps of the ruins, swam in a cenote, and connected with locals. It was the first time I had ever been outside of the United States and I was forever changed. I realized that there was so much more to this world than the town I grew up in and I was hooked. I made a promise to myself on that journey, that I would visit at least one new country every year of my life. I’m happy to say that I’ve kept that promise, 45 plus countries later, I know I have only just started!
What kind of traveller are you? When I travel, I am the seeker of new experiences, liberated from feeling as if I “should” belong anywhere. My mind and heart are open, I find beauty in the small moments, and I light up with each random connection I get to make along the way. Given that much of my life has been inspired by protecting wildlife and supporting communities, I think it is safe to say that sustainability is a key part of the kind of traveller I have become. I’m mindful of my footprint and tend to seek expeditions and adventures that offer a sense of purpose and authenticity. I take time to listen, to observe, to watch and to feel what is going on around me. I thrive at the chance to find meaningful, kind, warm-hearted moments with different countries. Connection – be it to nature, to one another, or to self –is what gives life its fullest meaning.
What’s your travel philosophy? Bring kindness with you wherever you go. Travel has a way of stripping down our perceptions and unveiling a rawness to our soul and spirit, if you let it. Showing up each day with compassion, empathy, and warmth has a way of helping you feel into humanity, even if you don’t speak the language or you are the most lost you have ever been (perhaps in more ways than one). But when you smile, offer help to those around you, and lean into the lessons and teachers that are offered to me, that is where the magic of travel takes flight.
What are your top travel essentials? As sustainability and conservation is truly important to me, there are a few items I don’t ever leave home without: my trusty water bottle, stainless steel coffee mug and a sarong – it can be used for a skirt, towel, scarf, sheet, headwrap, dress, even a shopping bag. As a former girl scout (*she says with pride), I always have a small medical kit with a little bit of everything (especially headache tablets, antihistamine, and things to settle the belly such as peppermint oil, probiotics, and activated charcoal). If I have a few long flights ahead of me, I also pack a nice stash of protein bars, nuts/dried fruit, and of course chocolate. I mean, come on, we must survive those marathon flights somehow!
Where was your most memorable trip? Papua New Guinea. Looking back, I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was truly the place where I learned to completely surrender to being immersed in unknown cultures, food, languages, livelihoods, wild nature and unprecedented beauty. Living in jungles, trekking through leech-infested waters, eating grubs, paddling wooden boats, witnessing ceremonies, speaking pidgen, researching wildlife, swimming with sea snakes, and always having a mass of children and women surrounding me wherever I went. I was one of the first white women many of the locals had ever seen, my blue eyes, light hair and fair skin ignited laughter and in some cases tears (*the little ones thought I was a ghost). I was only 25 years old and I felt as if I went back in time. I’m beyond thankful for what Papua New Guinea taught me and have carried those lessons with me all around the world.
How has traveling changed your life? To explore uncharted lands and seas, to be open to the unknown, and to realize the simple fact that fear is almost always overrated are merely a few gifts that travel has given my life. It has taught me that we are all more similar than we are different, we all want to belong, to be cared for, and to love. Travel has taught me that I am braver than I ever thought I was and that each day, regardless of if it is euphoric or tragic, has something to teach if we are willing to listen. There is no question that I am who I am today because I became a world traveller and was willing to push past barriers and opened my heart.
When borders open again and the world starts to return to ‘a new normal’ what’s your first travel destination on your list? I’m extremely fortunate to be in lock down in South Africa – the destination I embarked upon back in January. Once the borders open, I honestly don’t know where I will go. At some point, I will likely need to return to the U.S. but now, I would happily continue my time in South Africa or elsewhere in Africa. If I have learned nothing else, the one thing I know when it comes to travel is that regardless of whatever “plans” you may have, the universe is likely to turn it upside down. As such, I tend not to plan too far in advance, and when I pack, I pack for the ultimate unknown!
Best travel advice you can share? Be open to whatever experiences await you. The more you surrender to what is rather than what isn’t, the more authentic your journey will become. Every single day, you have an opportunity to make someone smile, to bring kindness and to share love.