Jill is a Canadian currently traveling around New Zealand. She likes to get outside and explore, run around roads and trails, and do things that simultaneously make her laugh and scare the crap out of her. Currently in her downtime you can usually find her listening to podcasts, trying to master the art of omelettes that eventually end up turning into scrambles, thrift store shopping for books, or sharing a beer with friends.
Where do you currently call home? Where are your favorite hiking and trail running spots there?
My home at the moment is in beautiful Wanaka, New Zealand. I wound up here after travelling the majority of the country and knew that it was perfect for me to settle in for a few months. As far as the trails go, there are tons of great trail running spots right outside my front door. The lakefront and lake outlet trails are the ones I frequent most often for running or mountain biking, while Mt Aspiring National Park is all around me to get out in the mountains and go for a tramp (Kiwi term for hike). I just recently went up to Cascade Saddle between Mt Anstead and the Dart Glacier and enjoyed panoramas of the entire park by myself. It was pretty mind blowing.
How did you get into hiking and trail running?
I originally got into trail running when, after being unable to play soccer competitively because of my ankle injuries, I wanted an alternative to road running (this is somewhat ironic considering how tricky trails can be for ankles anyway). I just happened to be living in Ottawa at the time, which has Gatineau Provincial Park in our backyard full of trails that you could quite literally get lost in all day long. As for hiking, I’ve always loved to get to beautiful places with my own two feet, but wanted to expand into multi-day hikes. When I started planning my trip to New Zealand, I knew it was time to invest in some great equipment and get all the experience I can get here. Bonus: Because New Zealand has no natural predators, it’s perfect for beginner hikers that could be nervous about dangerous wildlife. It’s essentially a big playground. Just mind the cliffs and the unpredictable weather, and you’re good.
How many countries have you been to? What are some of your favorite destinations?
I don’t think I have a “country count” yet but I’ve been lucky enough to have some great adventures internationally. My personal highlight reel would include cycling the hills and roads of southern France back in 2014, the fish and chips in Cambridge, England, rebuilding homes in New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, and living in a Monastery for a week in downtown Kingston, Jamaica. The country that takes the cake for me is the one I’m currently in, New Zealand; probably because I’ve been able to really get to know the vastly different landscapes & climates, stay with local families, and settle myself into a community here. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to have more experiences like this.
Have you traveled solo? What advice would you give to potential solo travelers?
I travelled solo for a week in France, and currently for 7 months here in NZ. My advice: just dive right in, and show up wherever you are. When I was in France, I was making the best of my time when I was trying to practice my french with patient locals. Now that I’ve been travelling in New Zealand, I purposely try to open myself up to any new opportunity that comes my way. Recently I’ve started to adopt the mindset of “if it scares you, that’s probably a good thing.” Sometimes this involves crossing rolling rivers, other times meeting new people, and most recently starting a run club here in Wanaka.
I think empathy is also a massive part of travel; in my experience being in New Zealand, there are international travellers and tourists almost everywhere you go. We are all guests of this magnificent country trying to see the beauty of our planet, and with it, we come from different cultures, countries and customs. A few of my best experiences have been meeting other travelers from countries I’ve never been to, trying to get to know where they are from and what their perspective allows them to see. I’m excited to experience even more of this when I get started on the next leg of my traveling.
What draws you back to the mountains?
At first it was the beauty, and now it is the silence. When I’m in the mountains, my head is completely clear and I can focus on bettering myself physically and mentally. The mountains are all-consuming: frustrating, challenging, fortifying, and humbling. I grew up in Southern Ontario, Canada and didn’t have a chance to be in mountains regularly until recently. Now that I can take advantage of them traveling, I can’t imagine my life without them. I think the people you are there with make your experience as well: whether it’s being able to share a morning camp coffee, or fall waist-deep in mud, or cheers-ing to a summit beer after hours of climbing to the top, having someone to share it with can make it even better and help you tackle challenges you might not have been able to complete by yourself. Not that solo hiking is any worse: I think having a headspace to yourself for a few days can be just as rewarding.
What are your most memorable adventures?
Follow her on Instagram: @jillrunshills
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