Meghan Brennan unites aspiring adventurers with Outdoorshe, a travel company that offers surprise excursions catered exclusively to women
By Jennifer Lovy
On a bright Saturday morning last July, 10 women gathered in a parking lot a few miles outside of Ann Arbor, creating a buzz of nervous anticipation. Most didn’t know each other — and more importantly, no one knew how or what they would be doing the next seven hours.
The only thing they did know: They were about to embark on a day trip planned by Meghan Brennan, founder of Outdoorshe, a Detroit-based travel adventure company that caters exclusively to women.
Brennan started Outdoorshe in early 2020 to recreate the feeling of “being a fun-loving, fearless kid going out to play,” she says. “There is something about that free spirit and sense of accomplishment that most of our adventurers remember from childhood and then get to experience throughout the day.”
Here is how it works: Participants pick a trip based on a vague description on the Outdoorshe website, then show up at a designated meeting spot for an outing that includes drinks and a catered meal. (All adventures take place within 90 miles of Detroit.) The only information they’re given is instructions about what to wear and a short gear list.
Brennan started Outdoorshe just before the Covid-19 crisis snowballed, and she says the pandemic made it challenging to execute the monthly excursions she initially wanted to offer. Although everything is done outside and in a Covid-safe manner, Brennan has only led four adventures so far: nine miles of paddle-boarding on the Huron River; a day of sporting-clays shooting (think golf, but with guns), archery, and ax-throwing; ice climbing and, most recently, a horseback-riding trip.
Brennan, who lives in Detroit, has a passion for everything outdoors. If she had a sporting resume, it would read something like this: mountain biker, yogi, swimmer, paddle boarder, sporting clays shooting league participant, former Division 1 college athlete, and more. She was inspired to start Outdoorshe after social media posts about her excursions — including a recent solo-kayaking trip to Florida’s Everglades — generated attention from aspiring adventurers. “Women in particular would reach out to me and say things like, ‘Ooh my gosh, that’s so cool.’ ‘I would love to learn how to wakeboard’ ‘Were you nervous hiking alone?’ or ‘who taught you how to shoot a gun?’ ”
The comments and questions fueled the desire to turn her passion for the outdoors into a second business. (She also owns a marketing events company and is a former journalist who spent much of her career at WXYZ-TV (Channel 7.) “I recognized that there was an interest for some women to spend more time outdoors and try new things,” says Brennan, “but there was maybe a little bit of a barrier to entry.”
For Nadia DeDonatis, a 30-year-old physical therapist from Livonia, that barrier was finding someone willing to try a new outdoor activity. When a friend shared a post about Outdoorshe, she fell in love with the idea of a mystery adventure. “I like to be in control, but if it involves something I don’t know much about, it’s nice to leave it up to someone else,” says DeDonatis, who has been on three of the four trips and keeps in touch with some of the women she’s met.
Brennan adds that each trip brings together women from various backgrounds with different fitness levels and outdoor experiences. By the end of the day, she adds, they’re bonding over dinner and building friendships. “What I’ve found is that these women are living beyond Outdoorshe,” says Brennan. “They are connecting and finding like-minded friends that they didn’t know how or where to find.”
As for why she keeps Outdoorshe excursions a secret, Brennan draws on childhood memories of her dad taking the family on fun mystery bike excursions around the neighborhood. Second, she noticed that some women would see a post about an adventurous activity and think, “It looks fun, but I could never do that.” She wanted to give women the chance to step outside their comfort zone — and feel the sense of pride that comes along with succeeding at something they never thought was possible.
Take the adventure that Brennon led in February. When participants arrived at an ice-climbing wall in Fenton, Brennan could sense their apprehension. She told them that if they could climb a ladder, they could climb ice. “We will get each and every one of you up on that ice wall,” she promised the group before all got at least 20 feet off the ground. “They were so incredibly proud of themselves,” she says. “A lot of the women said they thought there was zero chance they would be able to ice climb, but they did it. And that’s what this is all about.”
Outdoorshe offers two-hour adventures every Saturday ($20) as well as full-day trips ($275; scholarships are available). Visit outdoorshe.co for more information.