There is an emotional power associated with outdoor adventure. It has the power to be both transformational and empowering, and nobody knows this better than Jill Wheeler.
A climber, skier, and kite surfing champion; a yoga, mountaineering and white water kayaking instructor; Jill is an advocate for women’s health and fitness, and advocate for achieving both emotional and physical wellness through adventure in the outdoors.
She has traveled all over the world for her various sports, and continues to inspire and encourage others to do the same, leading international adventure travel expeditions which combine outdoor adventure with personal growth, through Florida’s Wellfit Institute.
Jill Wheeler is this week’s inspiring traveler.
You have turned outdoor adventure into a career – why is this lifestyle so important for women?
Being adventurous and spending time in nature has shaped who I am today; confident, happy and eco-conscious. I have met the most down-to-earth people from spending time in nature and I have challenged myself and felt my own power and strength from those challenges.
I have worked with many women and teen girls over the years, blending adventure/nature and psychotherapy/life coaching–it’s a beautiful way to embrace ourselves fully. Especially in groups, women learn to take risks in a safe and supported environment, which makes them able to lead and direct their entire lives more authentically and powerfully on their terms!
You’ve been quoted before as saying there is an emotional power associated with outdoor adventure. Can you explain this a bit further?
Personal transformation and growth are a focus on most of the outdoor pursuits I organize for Wellfit. I have had great adventures where I was scared, challenged to the extreme and quietly awe-struck while outdoors.
All of it is life and perspective changing. Quite often, the most difficult adventures, the ones that went all “wrong”, are the ones that inspired and empowered me the most!
What is the Wellfit Institute all about?
Wellfit is a discovery-based, experiential, multidisciplinary approach to health and fitness that empowers and sustains. We are a group of professionals that offer holistic practices to enhance clients’ lives and promote longevity.
We are the guides, facilitators, instructors, trainers, partners, teachers, coaches, mentors and therapists throughout a client’s Wellfit experience. Wellness is not a one-size-fits-all, authoritative approach to better being; our clients are actively involved in creating a program that best meets their needs. We meet clients where they are physically and emotionally and tailor specific programs to fit individual and group needs. No two programs are the same.
To be part of the Wellfit Institute is to take a journey and a have a relationship with one’s self and with others. Individual programs can be custom fit to meet personal needs and location. We offer ongoing coaching, counseling and training for a specific event—or an entire expedition—or to attain life goals.
Adventure travel, expeditions and small group experiences are designed to stretch the individual and strengthen interpersonal communication and personal growth. We see nature as a great teacher. It heals, is uncertain and real.
What inspired you to start the Wellfit Institute?
Wellfit has been a vision of mine for many years. I love so many aspects of doing sustainable, personal growth work with people but don’t always want to be indoors, so having a blend of working in the office and outdoor pursuits and adventure travel has been a dream come true!
What kinds of messages do you send to women through outdoor adventure?
I encourage women to tap into their deep desires and act from an authentic place and everything else will come together!
That, and take some healthy risks and find out things about yourself you didn’t know were possible!
You’re also a big adventure traveller – tell us a bit about your international travel to date.
I grew up on a boat and have always loved being on the move. Most of my travel has been to surf, rock climb and kitesurf, so I have been to some beautiful places! Thailand, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic are some of my favorite places for the diversity of adventures they offer!
How do you fit international travel into your busy lifestyle?
Last year I went to 7 countries in 6 months (and they weren’t a hop, skip and a jump away like Europe). It was exciting but a little too much time away from my children.
Now that I am making a documentary for the Wellfit Girls Challenge, I am sticking closer to home this year. My most recent trip was out to Peru with the girls at the end of May.
The Wellfit Girls Challenge is a wellness and empowerment program for teen girls which concluded with a life-changing trip to Peru and trek up Machu Picchu. The 11 carefully selected teen girls from Lee and Collier Counties in Florida will be featured in a full-length documentary as they embark on the expedition of a lifetime.
The Wellfit Girls Challenge is more than a movie, it’s a movement. The documentary will be spotlighted at major international film festivals and theaters across North America and throughout the world. The hope is for the film to have a global impact spreading the Wellfit Girls Challenge mentality that women and girls can change the world.
You’ve travelled the world, volunteering your time for various causes, can you tell us about your most memorable and meaningful time abroad?
I went to Haiti in 2012 and 2013 and was moved by the contrast of beauty and desperation in that country. A group of us adventurers went to scout the country for surfing, kiteboarding and mountain biking to plan and prepare for Travelcology’s MTB Ayiti (first mountain bike race in Haiti), which ended up happening the following January in 2013.
After our scouting trip I spoke with the team about incorporating body work, wellness and yoga in the multiday stage race. Wellfit selected Haitian body workers and some other volunteers to create a wellness component during the race in 2013. It was empowering for the locals to see how important yoga and wellness work can be in their country!
How did you get involved with so many meaningful international projects?
I am just completely attracted to good people doing good in the world!
You run international retreats as part of the Institute – can you tell us a little about these?
My retreats and adventure camps are the whipped cream, hot fudge and cherry on the top of everything else I love about Wellfit. Everything from teen yoga camps to women’s kitesurf adventures are designed to embrace the inner wild in all of us, to go beyond our comfort zones, play and explore!
My first Boulder, CO camp was in June. The design of this trip came naturally to me. I combined everything I love to do and made a trip out of it. We stayed in vintage Airstream trailers on my friend’s luxury estate in Boulder and traveled by bike and on foot. We were walking and riding distance from hikes in the foothills, great healthy food, entertainment and rock climbing! It was an opportunity for women to completely be themselves and have a blast, while meeting new friends and trying new things!
My fourth Kitesurf/Paddleboard/Yoga trip to Costa Rica is coming up in December 2014. I selected this remote location, which happens to be one of the windiest places in the world for a unique and empowering adventure camp. Some women have come on this trip without planning to kitesurf at all, they just want to do the daily yoga, eat good food, hike, paddleboard (and paddleboard yoga) and spend time with amazing women.
There is something for everyone on these trips! Also optional on the Costa Rica trip is heading across the border to check out Lake Nicaragua and the cultural areas surrounding Grenada, Nicaragua. It’s beautiful and there’s a lot to learn!
You now have a beautiful family – what kind of adventures do you get up to on family vacations?
Our (now) 7 and 8 year-old girls have been traveling since birth, mainly back and forth to Colorado and NC in the summers, but they have been to Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Dominican Republic, as well. They love to rock climb, surf and skate on their longboards! You would be surprised, it’s actually incredibly easy to adventure travel with kids!
We have every intention to take them on an adventure for at least a year coming up in the near future. We will live somewhere else or travel the world. Haven’t decided which one yet!
How has outdoor adventure changed your life?
Please refer to my blog about this…adventure didn’t just change my life…it SAVED my life…
It was bear country and hunting season, but I was determined to face the fear of being alone by embarking on a solo backpacking trip in Wyoming when I was 21. I wandered, walked and explored the vast landscape, mine and the wild Wind River Mountain range, and for some reason in the smallness of my being among the vastness of my surroundings, I discovered the deepest sense of connection and knowing that I am never truly alone, that I do belong in the Universe of all beings.