This week we speak to a local friend of FINDRA, Gillian Steele who shares with us how the outdoors has been a part of her life since. From camping and caravan trips to the West Coast as a child, biking and climbing in her teens to one very special trip, that involved driving from Innerleithen to Morroco on a family adventure!
1. Hey Gillian, can you tell everybody where are you based and what you do!
I have lived in Innerleithen since 1991 and it’s the longest I have ever lived in one place so clearly it’s home! I’m the Events, weddings and marketing manager for Traquair House, now into my 5th season there. A very busy and people focused role that I love.
2. How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?
As long as I can remember, from camping and caravan trips to the west coast as a child, then biking and climbing in my teens over the Pentland Hills and in France, and Glencoe and the Highlands, and then moving to Innerleithen to be outdoors more often and to have a complete contrast to my then city job.
3. What’s been your favourite trip or adventure?
So many but one really stands out – 2012 Morocco overland in our Land Rover Discovery. My husband John, and kids Lewis and Caroline (then aged 14 and 12) left Innerleithen in the snow, drove all the way through England, Spain and then onto North Africa. 10 days as part of a group of 12 like-minded Land Rover travellers through scent and noise filled cities, the majestic Atlas Mountains, green valleys, and then the vast Sahara Desert. It was like nothing we had ever done before, new, fun, sometimes scary but just completely awesome – it’s quite difficult sometimes to find just one word of sufficient magnitude to describe that adventure!. 4500 miles and 3 weeks away. We loved it so much, my husband and son went back again in 2016, and John and I went again in 2019.
4. How do you make find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities, i.e. work and family?
It’s quite hard with the job that I do, especially looking after people’s weddings, as it’s such a personal thing and so important for them that it runs smoothly. But I’m getting better at taking a day off during the week (!), and often it’s something as simple as walking my 2 dogs out to the Golf course and back, or planting seeds in my new polytunnel. And I play tennis every week which is a great way to feel better after a busy day. I do plan my holiday dates well in advance too, so we can do something together as a family which is hugely important to me. Lewis and Caroline are both in their 20s now and I love that they still want to be with us on holiday sometimes (although the cynical would say it’s because mum and dad are paying) – but we’ve had some great travels and adventures together and we are a close family!
5. Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?
I’m not really a person who gets ‘inspired’ by other people – maybe I’m quite self-motivated or just do my own thing! But my dad was a big influence – we were always outside whether skimming stones on lochs, camping or climbing hills. I climbed my first Munro Beinn Eighe at the age of 9yrs with my dad. And we had a fantastic history teacher at school, Mr Gibb, who took a group of us on regular climbing trips up north – probably wouldn’t be allowed now but we had a great time in all weathers and I have very fond memories of those trips!
6. Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?
Absolutely! Even a ½ hour walk with the dogs helps me de-stress and fill my lungs with fresh air.
7. What is it about walking specifically that you love?
I’d probably pick hill/forest trail walking as a favourite. It’s just something about senses – light through a tree canopy, ferns unrolling, spotting wood sorrel, the coconut smell of the broom, and sometimes just silence (I’m not a music/pod wearer while I walk), and more often birds or the whistle of wind through trees – All sounds quite poetic but that does it for me. Sometimes I just sit still for a few moments and feel the tension go out my shoulders and my lungs fill with fresh air. And then my energetic German Shorthaired Pointer comes bounding down the hill and we’re off again!
8. When did you first discover FINDRA?
I met Alex when she first moved to Innerleithen and suppose became aware of this person who was something in design and fashion at Heriot Watt in the Borders. My daughter was very keen on fashion design, so we got talking. And then she launched FINDRA and I think I have one of the first Marin tops – it’s been mended twice now – and I now have 3 of them in different colours.
9. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Phew – no idea! I give lots of advice to my children so maybe I’m repeating what I was told and remember best. Probably ‘do something you love doing and don’t worry if it takes you a few years and a few path changes to get there’. I started life off in IT as a programmer and analyst, and soon realised it wasn’t my passion so jumped when an opportunity came to change direction in my 30s. 'don’t be scared to change’ would be another one. And ‘there’s a big, amazing world out there - go see it’ I think I say that quite a lot 😊
10. On writing this blog, what do you feel is the key motivational or inspirational message you would like to highlight to our followers that would inspire them to get outdoors more.
Life is always better after a walk outdoors. Simple.
The Purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly for newer and richer experiences. -Eleanor Roosevelt
FAVOURITE TV SHOWRick Stein’s ….France, India, Venice to Istanbul - I love to cook, am a real foodie, and love travel so his books and stories inspire me on both fronts.
Might be a bit weird, but I’m going to choose Emile Sande ‘It Hurts’. I’m a bit of an ad-hoc runner, usually taking up some challenge in the winter for charity, and this song not only sums up the last kilometre of my run but has a great positive beat for lifting the spirits and getting me to my front gate!