Indigenous people have lived her for thousands of years. I just thought: I’m going to go out on this trail and I’m going to make this a journey about reconnecting to ancestors; my ancestors but also the ancestors of this land.
This week on the podcast I’m joined by award-winning Canadian filmmaker, photographer, author and speaker, Dianne Whelan.
Dianne is the first to admit she isn’t an ‘extreme’ or endurance athlete.
She describes herself as “just an artist from Vancouver”.
But there is no doubt the project she’s currently undertaking is pretty extreme.
In 2015 she set out to travel the length of the Great Trail (or the Trans Canada Trail) which is the longest trail in the world.
It’s a 24,000km / 15,000mi journey across Canada - including 7,000km of water - that she is travelling by foot, bike, canoe and snowshoe.
Dianne initially thought it would take her about 500 days and so she named the project, and the documentary film she is simultaneously making in the process, ‘500 Days in the Wild’.
5 years later, she is about 3,000km from finishing her epic journey.
And when she does so, she’ll become the first person to complete this epic traverse of Canada.
What makes Dianne’s perspective unique (at least to this podcast) is that this journey is not about the challenge or the athletic achievement.
Instead, she describes as an ecological pilgrimage to honour both the land and to pay respects to the First Nations people of Canada, to learn their stories and share their lessons.
It has only been in hindsight, looking back at her career, that Dianne has realised many of her previous film projects on the surface appear to be adventure films.
But at their core, they are essentially about the blending traditional knowledge and wisdom with modern science and technology.
In this episode, she shares:
* the major realisation she had in her 20s that completely changed her direction in life,
* where her love of the outdoors and nature came from,
* how the interplay of traditional knowledge with modern science and technology has become central to her work,
* when she realised her pilgrimage would take longer than 500 days,
* how her European and First Nation ancestry has impacted her life and her spiritual connection with the land,
* the challenges associated with undertaking the journey while simultaneously making the film on the trail, and
* how her perspective about the pilgrimage has changed since she started in 2015 and the lesson she’s learnt along the way.
Notes and resources: