TRAVERSE CITY — Jessica Pociask learned travel is all about trust.
She would know. Pociask has been to almost 80 countries and has a business guiding travelers to remote destinations to experience culture, nature and wildlife.
“They want to go to these off-the-beaten places,” Pociask said. “They’re looking for something that’s very genuine, authentic. They want that Indiana Jones-type of expedition and the feeling that they’re discovering something that no one else has seen.”
Wildlife And Nature Travel Expeditions is headquartered in Traverse City and led more than 100 excursions since Pociask started it nine years ago.
Pociask, 33, was adventurous even when growing up in Traverse City, where she caught insects in the yard, collected pet snakes on hikes and taught classes at Eastern Mountain Sports.
She can recall countless experiences most would consider once-in-a-lifetime, such as seeing a Ethiopian bull jumping ceremony or finding her way out of Mali during a military coup.
Pociask does the research for WANT Expeditions trips. She visits destinations, plans itineraries, partners with local conservation organizations, finds local guides and learns local customs before leading groups.
She teaches travelers how to behave patiently around wildlife to see authentic animal behavior, even if it means more quiet observation time.
“By respecting boundaries and taking time, they’re coming home with amazing photos and they’re coming home with amazing experiences that they wouldn’t have if they took the approach of pressuring wildlife,” Pociask said.
Respecting people, wildlife and the environment is a WANT Expeditions principle. The company gives water bottles to customers rather than disposable plastic bottles, organizes and markets trips online to avoid paper use, uses recycled office material and teaches travelers how to interact with other cultures.
WANT Expeditions gave Pociask other opportunities to improve the world she loves. A customer led her to work on a Smithsonian research project on Carabid beetles in French Guiana. She is on the board of Mothering Across Continents, a nonprofit for at-risk youth worldwide, and was on the board of the Traverse City-based Utopia Foundation.