Nicole Dreon, a freelance writer and photographer, has travelled the world in the most spectacular of ways. Dreon is funny, easy going and sincere and it reflects in her writing, storytelling and photography. Her photographs are evocative and moving, eliciting emotions that tell a story of her subjects through the lens of her travels.
Raised in upstate New York, her family took a road trip every summer. It was a catalyst that planted the seeds for a lifetime of travel. At 15, she attended Green Mountain Valley High School where she was on the ski race team. It was here she met longtime friend Sharon Rahlves and her brother, Daron, who both attended and skied at the school.
“People talk about how travel changes you and it does but the importance
of a home base, stability, friendships and a sense of community is key
and Tahoe provides this.”
While studying creative writing at St. Lawrence College, Dreon fell in love with Africa. “My cousin was in the Peace Corps and living in Mali,” she explains.
The postcards that were sent from Mali created a longing in her to visit Africa, she says. She spent a semester is Kenya, lived with the Samburu Tribe, travelled to the Serengeti and experienced living with both urban and rural African families.
Pam Houston’s novel “Cowboys are my Weakness” shaped her trajectory.
“As soon as I read the book, I knew I wanted to be a writer and move West,” says Dreon. She eventually settled in Tahoe.
“There is nothing about Tahoe that’s average. I wanted to live in a place that I would be excited come back to.”
Africa still called Dreon. She signed up for a tour of Eastern and Southern Africa.
“The tour was six weeks and cost $800. After the tour, I travelled around with a woman I met and then travelled solo.”
Returning home, she was offered a job as a researcher for the X-Games in Aspen, Colo. Inspired by the book “Shutter Babe,” she decided to become a photographer.
“I would assist on photo shoots and carry bags. I did whatever was needed.”
Little Mama Congo | Nicole Dreon
In 2005, Dreon became fixated on the Ruwenzori Mountain range in Uganda. Her plan was to summit the mountain and ski down. The trip combined the two things she loved most, skiing and Africa. The range bordered the Congo.
“It was exotic and romantic, components that were important, but it was also a war zone,” explains Dreon.
An inexperienced mountaineer, she travelled with five other local Ugandan women who were trying to summit the mountain. She was the only one with skis. The inexperience and conditions were grueling and she never reached her goal. It would be two years before she returned to Uganda with Shannon Rahlves to ski the range. Rahlves returned home and Dreon headed to the Nile.
“Africa is wild, raw and untamed, and travelling is not always comfortable as a solo female,” she explains.
While working for the X-Games in France, Dreon was inspired to write about women athletes in Africa.
“Most stories about women in Africa reflected war and suffering. I wanted to tell a different story. I wanted to create a bridge and felt like sports was a tool people respect and understand.” Dreon has been chasing stories about women ever since.
Motorcycle Man | Nicole Dreon
She returned to Uganda to write her first story about women athletes. Then she went to the Congo to find a women’s soccer team called the Lady Simba’s and then to Kenya to write about women runners. She’s covered the prestigious Gazelle Rally in Morocco where women from around the world race across the desert using old maps and compasses to navigate their way to the finish line.
In 2015, Dreon founded the organization She Guides. It was born from her love of travelling solo. In her hopes to help make other people’s solo travel and experience easier, the travel company looks to connect solo travelers with local women in the U.S. and around the world to help facilitate their journey. She is currently organizing off-the-beaten-path trips to Africa.
For more information, visit nicoledreon.com or sheguides.com.