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Jillian's Story

I was a tenacious child, meaning stubborn. Still tenacious, though tempered. I dreamt of becoming a dancer. After frazzling my nerves and reaching abnormal heights of anxiety going through countless auditions, I eventually was leaping, twirling and singing myself across many a stage.

When the big lights dimmed, I leapt over the fence to the management side of the arts working with dance, theatre & music companies, showing me that a life in the performing arts, on either side, requires determination, strength and above all passion. The most challenging, yet amazing experience was as Company Manager on the road with the world-renowned company La La La Human Steps. The company delighted sold-out audiences around the world while I gained valuable skills in keeping a company happy, healthy, paid and on time. Brushing shoulders with celebs on the road was the norm especially when we joined David Bowie on portions of his ‘Sound & Vision’ tour. Feelin’ like rock stars we were!

Another leap took me to the Canada Council for the Arts, Touring Office, another fence altogether. I became a government employee, responsible for the development and management of programs and policies designed to strengthen the opportunities and marketplace across Canada & abroad for dance, theatre, music, the multidisciplinary arts and mixed-media.

When the economy shifted so did I, across the waters back to Europe. After 4 years with the Dutch National Ballet as head of Communications & Marketing, I opened my own company ConsulArts International, became my own boss and continued down the path of developing international programs and seminars in ‘Socio-Cultural Exchange and Development’. I was invited as a guest teacher/lecturer to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Siberia, Kiev, Prague, Riga, Zagreb, Krakow, across South Africa, throughout The Netherlands, Turkey and Central Asia.

Then I met photographer Frits Meyst. Both at a cross roads in our careers, we realized that a combination of our experience and talents had potential. In 2001, with the recipe right, Adventure4ever was created. From that moment on, I quickly broke all chains with the office desk, put on my hiking boots and backpack and headed off on a journey of almost 14 years creating photo feature stories on outdoor adventure, travel, diving and unique cultures around the word. I milked cows, goats and even camels to later make bread and cheese in Turkey, drank vodka with Kazakh artists and fermented mare’s milk with Kyrgyz shepherds, even participated in ancient Sangoma ceremonies in the depths of Africa. The adventures continued; gorge swinging in Zambia, flying with the thermals paragliding. I’ve come face to face with great whites, giant mantas, orcas and charging bull elephants. I’ve paddled rivers and rapids, climbed high alpine passes, jumped off of or out of my fair share of bridges, mountains and helicopters plus so must more.

During all of these adventures I also managed to squeeze in the co-production of three documentary films between South Africa and Thailand. The documentary about the disappearance of my nephew in Thailand later prompted me to move forward with the screenplay, leaving travel for the time to concentrate on writing.

The universe spoke again with the onset of a global pandemic stopping all travel. The pandemic stirred the desire to take a look back at Adventure4ever; what we had been doing, why we wrote the stories we did, and how we could do it better, for our environment. Though the screenplay is still a work in progress, my concentration shifted again back to travel stories. But this time with a message, through film and the realization of project Back to Basics – Sustainable Forces of Tradition’, possibly the largest task I have ever undertaken and am determined to achieve.

The next chapters of my life are clear, to be realized in writing and film, hoping my past years of experience will culminate in artistic expressions with a message: how we can all contribute to saving our planet, to make a difference and continue celebrating life.


Jillian Macdonald

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