Katherine Donnelly | 06.27.2018

As part of Outdoor Project's Women In the Wild series this summer, I have had the honor of working with outdoor women from all over the industry to dig a bit deeper into who they are, how they got to where they are now, how they approach the outdoors, and more. These women are all rad in their own right, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, or how "badass" they might be. Whether they're mothers, daughters, sisters, professional athletes, beginners, weekend warriors, "instafamous," or anywhere in-between, their unique stories, journeys, opinions, and perspectives are incredibly valuable and insightful as Outdoor Project - and the industry as a whole - progresses and evolves to become more inclusive to every type of outdoors person. 

Through in-depth and often thought-provoking interviews, I hope to highlight these women's stories, their work, their adventures, and so much more with an eye toward giving them their well-deserved share of the spotlight while inspiring and empowering even more women to get outside!

In this feature we talk to Mary Cecchini.

Months into global travels, this Woman In The Wild made the decision to jump from her current place within corporate America to chase her dreams. Not only is Living Big Travel now the name of her women's travel business, but it's a way of life and her mantra day in and day out. Get the full scoop below.


OP: Give us the skinny on who Mary Cecchini is.

Mary Cecchini: I’m a curious traveler who professionally (and personally, as much as I can!) manifests that curiosity into a business I started about five years ago, Living Big Travel. Here I help women pursue their ambitions to travel by hosting adventures around the world for small-groups of women, and I design the vacations women take with their friends and family.

OP: When did you first know that you were going to spend your life in the outdoors?

Mary Cecchini: I was actually sitting on a bench in Scotland, outside the Eileen Donlan castle. I was coming up on the end of my first long-term trip (on about month five), and realized there just wasn’t a way to convince myself that I could find happiness returning to my former life in corporate America. I had gone too far to the other side, my curiosity was piqued, and I realized I opened a door I just couldn’t close without giving it a shot. 

OP: What does it mean to you to be a woman in the outdoor industry?

Mary Cecchini: I view my role in the outdoor industry as part inspiration, part enabler and part advocate. I want to inspire more women to connect with themselves, their bodies and their passions in the outdoors. Through the trips I host, and the private trips I design, I hope to enable more outdoor adventures, and as an advocate - give me a stump to preach from or a rooftop to shout from, and I’ll advocate for the impact that time/space/connection in the outdoors has on women.

OP: Who has inspired you along the way?

Mary Cecchini: I get the greatest inspiration and energy from my clients. They all come on a small-group trip with such different life experiences, unique challenges, and exciting opportunities. We all do "life" somewhat differently. Hearing their stories, especially when the transformative powers of traveling have been at work, inspires me to keep persevering forward. 

OP: What does adventure mean to you?

Mary Cecchini: I take a pretty broad view of adventure; I don’t think the only way to check the box of ‘adventure’ is through epic rock climbs, scaling mountains and riding waves. Adventure happens anytime a woman stretches her comfort zone to do something she previously thought out of reach, physically impossible or dismissed as ‘not for me.’ 

OP: How have you managed to align your career with your passion for the outdoors? And do you have any advice for someone who is looking to do the same?

Mary Cecchini: During my first long-term solo trip I spent a lot of time thinking about this exact question and sorting through what it was that gave me the greatest energy. I came up with things like indulging curiosity by traveling and being outside, connecting with people, making culturally rich or logistically difficult experiences happen, etc. Once I developed this list of energy-producing activities, the search of "what do I do next?!" was more focused and easier to develop because I had the criteria for what I was looking for. (NOTE: This process is definitely easier said than done, and it certainly came with a heavy dose of discomfort, tears and trial/error, but it was totally worth it!) 

OP: What mantra or set of words do you live by?

Mary Cecchini: This is probably going to be cliché because it’s also the name of my business, but really the idea of "living big" is a daily mantra of how I want to live my life.  Everyone has a different way of "living big," but to me, it’s all about living each day with intention, instigating a stretch of my comfort zone, and learning to integrate rest and relaxation into my full life. (That last one is probably the hardest these days!)

OP: What is one thing you never leave home without?

Mary Cecchini: Baby wipes. They’re my favorite travel tool because you can buy them anywhere, and they’re the instant calm your face wants after an intense hike, and what your body needs after a salty swim. 

OP: What is the greatest piece of advice or direction that you’ve ever received, and what’s the story behind it?

Mary Cecchini: My favorite piece of advice, as simple as it sounds, is being told that I get to choose what my days look like. I get to choose what I do with my time, how I interact with people, what energy/attitude I let into my life, etc. I’ve worked hard to get to this point of control and flexibility over these things, so now I know it’s mine to guard!

OP: If you could give one piece of advice to yourself when you were just starting out with Living Big Travel, what would it be?

Mary Cecchini: Don’t get stressed and wrapped up in developing a buttoned-up business plan and long-term vision! I was so wrapped up in this for the longest time, and put so much pressure on the process. When I finally let go of that obsession, I found a new lightness to the work that brought even MORE energy!  Now this isn’t to say there isn’t a strategy, but for me the process was better served in a more organic fashion where I allowed myself to pivot, test new approaches and then calibrate with the learning’s along the way.

OP: What’s next for you in the coming months and years?

Mary Cecchini: I just bought my first house, am getting married this fall, and hope to start a family in the coming years. (Ah - #adulting!) So right now I’m spending a lot of energy working through plans to make sure the company continues to grow and serve women as I enter a new season of life. 

OP: The title of your autobiography would be...

Mary Cecchini: Catching Balloons – ha! Most days the world of entrepreneurship feels like I’m running around catching balloons just before they hit the ground and pop! But for us the beauty (and devil!) of the work is in the details, so it’s worth the sprint!

OP: In your next life, you will come back as...

Mary Cecchini: A bed and breakfast owner and host in the most charming estate that’s walking distance to that super cute town you love to come back to each year, with a lake for swimming, mountain for skiing, a few restaurants with locally sourced menus, a bar where everyone knows your name, a daily hot homemade breakfast, and an early evening happy hour around a long beautiful wood table with people who started out as strangers but quickly become friends. 

OP: Tell us one thing about yourself that no one knows :)

Mary Cecchini: I’m a major introvert and homebody. I realize this might sound at odds with my work, but when you’re so passionate about something, when something gives you so much energy, and when it’s the work you were meant to do, you overcome these kinds of things. But with a few strategically scheduled weeks at home between trips, and ample recharge time.

OP: If our readers were to take one thing from this interview, what would you like it to be?

Mary Cecchini: When you’re carving your own path, feel empowered to carve it in a way that suits your life, in a way that adds value to your life and empowers you do to your best work. While some might say this is for the dreamers, it’s actually the best way to let the ideal version of you out in the world.

Learn more about Mary and Living Big Travel online, and follow along on her adventures on Facebook and Instagram


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