This week our inspiration series moves to the Yukon with Friend of FINDRA and outdoor teacher/trainer Alison Motion.
Hi Alison, let’s start by introducing yourself and tell us what you do!
I’m Ali Motion and I’m based in rural Stirlingshire doing teaching and training and have been working in outdoor learning across different roles for all of my working life. I originally trained as a primary teacher, but soon discovered that being outside and introducing kids to being outdoors – working and encouraging others be the best they could be – was where I was happiest.
In January, I gave up my role with an outdoor learning charity to go freelance in outdoor learning, to train up in Scottish tourism and take a stronger role in my husband’s arboriculture consultancy (very poor timing on my part)! It’s a fact that you get out less the further up the promotion ladder you go and it was time for me to try to redress that. The hardest part was stopping working with a truly inspirational team of people who totally “got” the transformatory effect the outdoors has on your own personal health and wellbeing.
So how did you get into the whole outdoors thing?
For the outdoor learning I love, I probably owe my Duke of Edinburgh leader Dave Stibbles (at Harris Academy, Dundee), for having such an impact on my whole life alongside my racquet sport loving parents. Dave was, and is, responsible for a lot of people's love of being outside. And he was a great teacher of all things navigational.
I’m not a natural competitor (and therefore don’t compete), but I do like to do stuff and go places to try things out. Particularly I hill-walk, and have done around 65 Munros, some of them more than once. If I carry on at this rate, I’ll be around 200 years old if I complete! I also cycle, preferably on trails; and relatively recently I’ve taken up sea kayaking.
Are there any trips that you'd like to share with us that involve your love of the outdoors?
We’ve had two spectacular trips to Canada. One with our then teenage-aged kids for our silver wedding anniversary in 2014 where we sea kayaked up Johnston Strait and stayed in a semi-permanent summer camp on West Cracroft Island in British Columbia, then 5 years later for our 30th wedding anniversary last year on our own. This resulted in us embarking on a Canadian canoeing trip down the Yukon River from Lake Laberge to Carmacks. That trip was really the catalyst for deciding to move on from my charity role. I enjoyed the opportunity to step back and re-evaluate and was very grumpy on my return!
Was there anything specific you took away from that trip?
I’m not really sure I’d appreciated just how far away the Yukon territory was and how desolate and short the growing season is there – and how slowly the land recovers after fire. The river looks serene, but it is fast: 6-10km/hour at all places which meant that if you missed your landing, you were not able to paddle back to it – it was way too quick!
This meant there were many periods of gentle paddling followed by sudden action as you realised that although the landing was a kilometre away, you only had about 5-10 minutes to get yourself in the right place. We travelled about 100k+ in just over 4 days (first day was too choppy to get over Lake Laberge, so we had to hide out as far up the Lake as we could get!)
And your motivations behind the trip?
I wanted to go there because:
a) I’ve been fascinated by the gold rush history and place for quite some time
b) The trip down the river was fast flowing but there were no rapids in the bit we were in :)
c) I wanted to be far from cities and doing something interesting
d) I got to be outdoors for most of my holiday
e) Calvin and Hobbes once seceded to the Yukon, and I’m a big fan of those cartoons!
How do you find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities?
I think the balance between work and play is always difficult to get permanently right through all the times with your children as they grow up. Mine certainly hated walking growing up, and could sulk for Scotland when they wanted to. But now both can’t be somewhere without green space around them. Total result!
Neither is particularly keen on hill walking, but they’ll get there. One day when they do a spectacular ridge walk, or on a day of temperature inversions I think they’ll concede I was right… They both have trees planted from them in our garden when they were born.
So how did you come across FINDRA?
I discovered FINDRA when a friend tagged me in a post. I was looking for specific packable, lightweight clothing for the Yukon trip and visited their stand at the Royal Highland Show, got chatting and bought the long sleeved merino-light zip top and some other bits. I ended up wearing it for the week we were canoeing and it worked brilliantly. The weather in August in northern Canada was chilly at night, and layering up during the day was spot on.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Onwards and upwards”, which I’ve always taken to mean there is always a way forward, no matter how difficult it seems.
And your favourite quote?
Quotes? Hard to just pick one, but I like this from John Muir; “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
And a Gaelic one which I can’t say, but knew a version of in English growing up: ‘An ni a thig leis a' ghaoith, falbhaidh e leis an uisge’ which means ‘What comes with the wind will go with the rain’.
As someone who has had otosclerosis and operations and hearing aids on and off since my late teens, I find wearing ear buds difficult and think listening to music outside is such anathema. Why would you choose not to hear what is meant to be there and overlay it with something else? I have an absolute need to be fully aware when I am outdoors.
That said, I do love music and play it loudly at home! One of my all time favourites is Closing Time by Tom Waits. It signals to me the end of a good day and whenever it starts I feel myself smile.
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts Alison and wishing you further inspiring adventures post-lockdown!