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Adventure Outside Your Comfort Zone with Endurance Athlete Hollie Woodhouse

Hollie Woodhouse - The Adventurous Kiwi - Completing NZ's iconic Coast to Coast race, running the Marathon des Sables& most recently crossing the Greenland Ice Cap!

At 27 years old, Hollie Woodhouse knew something needed to change. Although she had a comfortable life with a good job and a stable living situation, she could feel that something was missing. Somewhat serendipitously, Hollie came across an advertisement for an Outward Bound scholarship and quickly lept at the opportunity.

One thing led to another and, soon enough, Hollie was ready to leave behind her comfortable lifestyle for a little bit of discomfort and challenge, all in the name of learning more about herself and the world around her. After her experience at Outward Bound, Hollie committed herself to one big adventure a year.

Coming up, we’ll learn more about Hollie’s time at Outward Bound, gain insight into how this experience affected her, and hear about fantastic tales of pure adventure in some of the world’s most remote places. Here we go!

From the Office to the Mountains

After answering the siren call of an advertisement for Outward Bound, Hollie found herself in a group of fourteen strangers on an eight-day wilderness course on New Zealand’s South Island without technology and far from the comforts of home. The time passed quickly as the group sailed, navigated, paddled, and climbed through adversity and challenge, but what Hollie gained most from her experience was not technical skills, but rather the realization that the world is full of opportunities that are just waiting to be taken.

Soon after completing her Outward Bound course, Hollie signed up for what would be the first of her life’s many big adventures: the New Zealand Coast to Coast, an iconic multi-sport race on the South Island. Held in February of every year, the Coast to Coast race starts at Kumara Beach on the South Island’s west coast, crosses the width of the island and finishes at the Pier on New Brighton Beach in Christchurch.

As one of the longest-running multi-sport events in the world, the Coast to Coast race sees nearly 1000 competitors every year, so Hollie knew she needed to give it a try. After a year of training (and learning how to kayak), Hollie completed the race in two days in 2014, only to do it again in 2017 in just a single day.

What Hollie took most from her experience training for the Coast to Coast, however, was not mental fortitude or physical fitness; rather, it was the realisation that she is lucky to live in a place as beautiful as New Zealand and that there are unlimited opportunities for adventure waiting for her right outside her doorstep.

Following in Nansen’s Footsteps

After her first two Coast to Coast races, Hollie wasn’t done with getting uncomfortable. Not long after finishing that second Coast to Coast race, Hollie was listening to the radio one morning when she heard an advertisement for an opportunity to join an expedition to Greenland. Naturally, Hollie jumped at the chance.

The expedition was being organized by the Antarctic Heritage Trust, a Christchurch-based charity dedicated to inspiring the next generation of young adventurers in the polar regions while simultaneously honouring past explorers, like Ernest Shackleton and Fridtjof Nansen. Hollie quickly filled out an application, made it through to the final round of applicants, and was ultimately chosen to join the expedition. Now it was time to prepare.

As part of the expedition, Hollie would need to pull a sled that was over 60kg (132lbs) across the Greenland Ice Sheet in honour of Fridtjof Nansen, who made the first crossing of the Ice Sheet in 1888. Due to New Zealand’s lack of a similarly sized ice sheet to practice on, Hollie pulled a huge tire around the streets of her home town - an odd sight for the neighbours, to say the least. Soon enough, it was time to head off to Greenland for what was sure to be the adventure of a lifetime.

Once in Greenland, it was time for Hollie to take on her next challenge: learning how to nordic ski. After a few weeks of practice, Hollie mastered the noble art of nordic skiing and soon found herself getting into the zone when gliding over snow. What Hollie learned however, is that the meditative flow state that she found in the remoteness of Greenland’s Ice Sheet can transcend the boundaries of the ice and countries, propelling you forward through a vast landscape, wherever you might be in the world.

Toward the Future

Although Hollie may never seek out another polar experience, she hasn’t stopped exploring. These days, Hollie has committed to spending more time adventuring in her own backyard after ticking off some major endurance achievements during long-distance runs through the Sahara Desert and the Amazon. From an Outward Bound course on New Zealand’s South Island to a 560km ski across Greenland’s Ice Sheet, it’s safe to say that Hollie has embraced the art of adventuring through discomfort.

For more insights and updates on Hollie’s adventures, check out her full interview on Tough Girl Podcast!


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