Photographer discovers self on cross-country journey

Jeep trip of lifetime was spur of the moment decision

Jill Brown had long wanted to see the whole country. 

Roughly a year ago, Brown left a difficult, toxic relationship and headed back to Squamish.

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To mark the anniversary of her return, she decided to hit the road this spring and began a cross-country trip in her Jeep.

“It was a very spur of the moment decision,” she says. 

“It really came together so easily and with very little effort.”

Part of the motivation was to explore her passions of kayaking and photography, but even more so the journey was really about reconnection, especially after rebuilding her life.

“I had overcome so much and proven so much,” she says.

She left Squamish on March 27 and, in total, was on the road for 77 days, taking back roads as much as possible. 

Along the way she had many adventures, such as one involving owls in Saskatchewan. 

She photographed her first great horned owl one day, but next she found a dead owl that had been hit by a car. Its body was intact, so she moved it to the roadside, apologized for what humans had done to it and saved some of its feathers. Soon after, she saw a snowy owl, then nine more snowy owls and one more great horned owl.

“It was such an emotional day,” she says. “I still have owl feathers hanging in my vehicle.”

Then there was the time she discovered the “meaning of life” while in Quebec. 

Unable to speak French, Brown found herself feeling a bit lonely until one morning when she was making breakfast outside. She turned to put her camera away when she found a squirrel helping itself to her breakfast, and in the end, she ended up sharing the meal with the small animal.

“It was such a highlight,” she says. “I had this amazing moment with the squirrel.”

She has also had the chance to reconnect with loved ones, opening up to her family back in Manitoba more about her painful relationship. She ended up going on a kayak trip with her dad, though she had never even gone camping with him before.

Her trip has attracted the attention of Canadian Geographic, as well as companies like Jeep and Necky, which makes the kayak she is using for her adventures.

Jeep Canada has been particularly interested because she has been driving an old vehicle, all with original parts, including the tape deck. She only had a couple of minor issues along the way.

“My Jeep is amazing. It’s celebrating its 20th year,” she says.

Brown made it as far as Nova Scotia but did not get to Newfoundland or to northern Canada. 

So far, she has paid for her travels but is now looking for sponsors to help with costs in order to travel up north and get to all provinces and territories, ideally before the year is out, through she knows the weather will not be as friendly as the year progresses.

Still, Brown was stuck in a nasty blizzard in Saskatchewan early in the trip, so she isn’t too intimidated by winter weather.

Long term, she would like to use her experiences, good and bad, to inspire other women, especially those in toxic situations. 

“My life now is so open,” she says.

In the meantime, she is focused on getting back in her Jeep and out on the road to see the rest of the country. 

“My goal is to get to every province this year,” she says.

Brown’s photographs can be found at jillianabrownphotography.com

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