You know the country standard, made famous by Hank Snow, with the hook: “I’ve been everywhere, man, Crossed the deserts bare, man, I've breathed the mountain air, man” and its tongue-tripping list of places? That’s Jen Martin.
Jen is one of the few people at Lindblad Expeditions who has been nearly everywhere. In expedition development meetings, anyone can point to a map, any map, or any place on it—and chances are good she’s been there.
She began her career in Alaska, as a guide on land and then on competitors’ ships, working there for some time before expanding her travel portfolio worldwide.
Jen was hired by Lindblad as an Expedition leader in 2008. She successfully led dozens and dozens of expeditions for Lindblad over the next five years. Then, in 2012 a slot opened up for Field Staff Manager in the Seattle office. Jen was convinced (possible synonym: strong-armed) to come in from the life she loved to try on a new one—in an office. Ever creative and motivated, she crafted a blend, managing to still lead expeditions while running our far-flung field staff operation. Slowly but surely, she began to pare down leading to focus on training a new cadre of expeditions leaders, and running the expanding department as Field Staff Director. Recently, Jen was promoted to Director of Field Staff & Expedition Development. But she still finds herself leading the occasional expedition. In fact, anyone lucky enough to score a cabin aboard our Across the Bering Sea: From Katmai to Kamchatka expedition, will have her as an EL, as she trains a new EL for next year.
Lately, Jen has been significantly more office-bound. But, because her knowledge is in demand, she’s been able to use her skills to help design, and implement, innovative new itineraries in her Expedition Development role—our pioneering tropical expeditions in Polynesia, and the Russian Far East exeditions among them.
We celebrate Jen Martin for being a boss. A true leader in the implicit and explicit sense. Her gravitas, and deep vein of fun, makes her the one you want to be with—when the Drake Passage throws everything it’s got at your ship, and when the beers and guitars come out.
Why do you explore?
From a young age, I was interested in seeing the world and was fortunate enough to get exposure to it. My parents loved to travel and they often took us with them. It made it seem easy and it rarely felt intimidating. When I started exploring on my own, I realized that I truly love going to a place, not knowing much of anything about it, and soaking up as much as I can find. Beautiful scenery, any and all wild animals, culture, people, world religions, history, food, music...I love it all! I keep exploring because I know I am immensely fortunate to be able to do so. I don’t want to squander a minute.
What is your favorite Lindblad destination?
This is what every guest asks me and I find it so hard to answer. I will answer in the way that I do for them, which is that I can’t pick just one!
For nature: I have spent a great deal of time in Alaska’s Bering Sea and Russian Far East, and am thrilled that we will be headed there this year! It’s amazing. Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falklands have the most unbelievable wildlife and I was almost in tears seeing nesting grey-headed and wandering albatrosses.
For culture: A big piece of my heart will always be in Cambodia and Vietnam—the people and places are nothing short of extraordinary. The Baltic is hard work as an Expedition Leader, but I love leading those voyages and every single day brings something different.
What is the dream exploration you haven’t done…yet?
Mongolia/Trans-Siberian Railway in the north: I have been fascinated by seeing the Mongolian Steppe for a long time now and it seems an incredible thing to be able to cross Asia by train. Lake Baikal is another place that I have wanted to visit for many years and it’s accessible via this route. It’s the deepest in the world and I’m a bit obsessed with the idea of seeing land-locked, freshwater seals!
The Pantanal in the south: I have been learning more and more about what an amazing place this in, only in recent years. It’s an incredible, vast wetland system, with really impressive wildlife: Giant river otters, maned wolves, giant anteaters, caimans, and jaguars! I don’t think it’s been overrun by tourism just yet and it seems as though it’s still possible to go and experience incredible diversity.
Name a female hero(es) and why.
Madeleine Albright: She is gracious and elegant and yet is never a pushover. She’s exceptionally smart and accomplished and humble enough to be grateful for so many things in her life.
Diane Ackerman: I read her book “A Natural History of the Senses” maybe 20 years ago and loved how she made science so accessible. I went on to read many others and she has an incredible way of describing the natural world and our place within it.
Mary Oliver: I have never, ever read nature-based poetry as beautiful as anything Mary Oliver wrote. She had a gift for making one of my favorite subjects (nature, in all its forms) seem magical and tangible all at the same time.
What’s your advice for the next generation of women explorers?
Don’t ever let travel intimidate you. Yes, there will always be places that women cannot go for safety or political reasons, but there are countless others where we can. Keep finding new places to see and ways to be inspired. Don’t be afraid to travel alone.
When you explore and travel, listen to and learn from local people. Hear their stories, ask questions and be open minded. Learn the local history and try the local food. Learn to say hello and thank you in every country you visit—it really does matter and shows respect and humility.
Be present and try your best to take it all in. It’s always over before you know it.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I genuinely love to sing and I have very little shame left when it comes to karaoke as a medium.
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