I began putting this piece together a few weeks ago. I spoke with Jessica by phone after she found out she had won the National Geographic Traveler Magazine award for 50 trips of a lifetime. Since then, I had the absolute pleasure of spending a week with her at her home, on Tranquil Point, just outside of Traverse City. We explored the entire area, and explored what it means to be human. She is a dear friend, and someone who has helped me remember that every sunset should be chased, any dream is attainable and that patience is the one true virtue.
Travel isn’t always bell hops and banana boats. For a long time the concept of travel was associated with hardship, something that wasn’t easy. The word travel itself is from the Old French word, travailler, which means to toil, or work strenuously. Well luckily for us, technology and the tourism industry has significantly softened the blow of leaving home for an extended period of time.
The concept of travel has many dimensions. Some people associate travel with a cushy hotel, and a margarita in each hand. For others, travel may mean a good book and view of their favorite lake. There are even people who willingly admit that they don’t travel at all.
Then there is a whole separate category; the people who see travel as an adventure, and a chance to test your limits. Travel is a vehicle to expand the horizons of your humanity, and experience an ever changing world in which many of its treasures are disappearing from the map. I suppose you could call them adventurers, or explorers, and the popular conception is that these individuals are all men.
Jessica Pociask was born in Detroit. She is someone you would categorize as an adventurer, but most importantly she is someone who wants to help others experience the exotic places that don’t come with a shimmering, 18 hole golf course. Over the past few years, Pociask (poh-see-ack) has turned what was a dream into a reality with her company WANT EXPEDITIONS.
First and foremost, WANT is a conservation-orientated travel company. The trips are highly personalized, and aimed at helping people access the lesser known spots of the globe. Jessica, is the owner, operator, and she leads the trips herself. People are prone to using the phrase “trip of a lifetime.”
She has led people successfully, and safely to over 80 countries, and every continent. As I mentioned before there is an inherent risk in travel. For example, while leading a group in Mali, the military took over the government in a coup d’etat, trapping the team for a week.
“Despite the sounds of gunfire and the possibility of real bad scenario, we managed to navigate through it. It was also a testament to the sort of great people who travel with me. Many of them have been on multiple trips. After we made an overland escape essentially, we met another group I was slated to lead, and the other group decided to stay and continue their trip,” Pociask mentioned.
Her background is as extensive as the 50 pages of stamps in her passport. She first went to Michigan State for her undergraduate studies, and then carried on to a Masters of Science from John Hopkins University. In 2006, she was one of 50 women chosen by the National Wildlife Federation to participate in the Women’s Leadership and International Sustainable Development conference in Washington, DC. Additionally, Jessica was one of the keynote speakers at the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in New York City in 2013.
The trips she offers are wild. There really isn’t anywhere, or anything she won’t help you explore. You want to experience Giant Pandas, no problem. Maybe you’d like to whale watch off the coast of the Baja Peninsula, climb a volcano in Borneo, learn about Voodoo culture in Central Africa, experience the birth of Harp Seals, or even visit the remaining Mountain Gorillas in The Congo, she will get you there, and back in one, elated piece.
She has done so well, that besides being voted one of National Geographic Traveler’s Tours of a Lifetime, she was featured in The Washington Post recently. For someone who started an adventure travel company on hope and hard work, that is akin to a struggling actor, landing a major role.
There is a lot of talk about entrepreneurship in Detroit, Detroit’s Do-It-Yourself culture, and the whole ‘hustle harder’ mentality. In my mind, Jessica embodies that spirit. She created a successful company with her imagination, and she didn’t have access to any blueprints. It comes as no surprise that she was born here.
“To be honest, trips to the Detroit Institute of Arts as a kid really sparked my imagination. Every time we went I would want to look at all the things in the Egyptian exhibit, staring at a sarcophagus made me want to see these things in real life,” Pociask said.
Her family is all still here, she currently lives in Traverse City, and Washington D.C., but she has always considered Detroit home.
“I love Detroit. I always look forward to coming down here. Detroit gets a bad rap, I hate when people dog the city. If people just took the chance to explore Detroit a little bit, they would realize how cool it is,” She mentioned. “Just one example, Detroit has Belle Isle. Such a great place to get outside. The more kids can be exposed to outdoors the more kids will be curious and want to explore, its really important.”
In my mind that is exactly what Jessica has done. She harnessed her curiosity, and her desire to experience the world out-of-doors and has shared it with others. Inside all of us is a little kid who wants to get their knees dirty, jump in the swimming hole and pet the lion. WANT Expeditions is one of the leading outlets to experience those things. Jessica has a bulletproof success rate. If you, or anyone you know, would like to step out the proverbial box, this would be a great place to get started.
There is talk of her opening an office in Detroit.