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‘I sold my five-bed house to go travelling in a motorhome – now I’m helping others find their passions in life’

Gillian Cockburn changed her life after discovering her passion for travelling.

When Gillian Cockburn reached her mid-40s she felt something was missing in her life.

Her son had grown up, and while she enjoyed her work, she didn’t feel completely fulfilled.

“The future was looking a little boring, a little dull,” she said.

“And inside me, I knew there was something else – I knew there was more that I was capable of and that I could achieve. But I had no idea how to start.”

It wasn’t until Gillian reached the age of 52 that she found the courage to change her life.

‘I started putting myself first and doing things I wanted to do’

After attending a course helping women feel more empowered, she told her husband, Steve, she was ready to start making changes.

Gillian Cockburn and her husband Steve.

“I had always been into yoga and so I applied to do yoga teacher training,” Gillian, of Alford in Aberdeenshire, said.

“That was something I didn’t feel confident to do before being in this group and I thought I had left it too late.

“But I got support and encouragement from the other women.

“I remember going through the application process and hitting the send button on the computer with butterflies in my stomach thinking it was too scary.

“That was the start of me starting to put myself first and doing other things I really wanted to do for myself.”

‘I was scared’

Her husband had always been keen on travelling.

Steve worked long hours away from home as a long-haul lorry driver in the hope of taking early retirement one day.

He kept asking Gillian if they could explore the world and would remind her that life was too short.

“But I pushed back for so many years because I was scared,” she said.

“I thought that it wasn’t something we were supposed to do, that we were supposed to have nine-to-five jobs.”

Gillian on her travels in Portugal.

Realising how much she had benefitted from the 12-week Women at Pause course, Gillian signed up for the alumni programme.

She said: “During the next 12-week group I was [participating] in, my friend passed away with bowel cancer, she was only 49.

“It was then that I decided we needed to make a lifestyle change.”

‘I got caught up with having a beautiful house’

Gillian and her husband had emigrated to Manitoba, Canada, from their home in Scotland with their six-year-old son in 1997.

And it was during one of the group life coaching sessions nearly two decades later that she realised her home had come at the cost of her relationship.

The first day of the big adventure when the couple left their house to take off in their motorhome.

“I got caught up with having a nice, beautiful house.

“We had a five-bedroom, three-bathroom house in Canada with a big garden and it was full of things,” she said.

“I realised that I put so much attention on what my home looked like and what was in my home, rather than the time that it cost with my relationship with my husband.

“He’s a long-haul truck driver, he was away a lot.

“The cost of that home for me was the time that I wasn’t spending with my husband and my family. And that really hit home for me.”

‘It was a really big life lesson for both of us’

When Gillian got home she told her husband she was ready to make the big change.

She said: “I told him ‘I don’t want to give up any more time with you going on adventures, which is one of my passions’.”

Gillian in Miami.

On May 1 2018, the couple took off on their great escape after selling their home – and the bulk of their belongings.

They were ready to get behind the wheel of a motorhome and drive off into the sunset.

“Just before our first garage sale I sat at the top of the steps going down from the house into the garage,” Gillian said.

“I was actually quite disappointed in myself that I’d put so much value in the stuff that I was so willing to let go.

“It was a really big life lesson for both of us.”

Exploring the world

And the couple had no plans on where their adventure would take them.

They just hit the road driving west and ended up spending the summer at a campsite next to Mabel Lake in British Columbia.

The couple spent the summer at Mabel Lake.

Eventually leaving the area, they travelled on to Phoenix, where they left their motorhome in storage so they could fly to Mexico.

Their next stop was Belize, then they were off to Miami for a cruise before jetting over to Portugal and Spain.

Gillian, who is now 54, and 57-year-old Steve returned to Scotland for a family wedding, and have stayed in the north-east throughout the pandemic.

And the mother-of-one was so inspired by her life-changing experience that she decided to train and become a Women at Pause coach.

Now she’s helping others discover their passions in life.

Gillian launched her first group in March and has been enjoying seeing the “magic” happen in other women attending the 12-week sessions.

What can women expect when they join the group?

“Connection, insights, clarity, empowerment and rediscovering their self-confidence,” Gillian says.

“And finding out they can put themselves first and nothing bad happens.

“In fact, the opposite happens in what we call the ripple effect.

“When they focus on themselves, their family and friends round about them will notice something has changed.

“Their work relationships will improve as well as their relationships with their spouses and their kids.”

The couple went on a cruise in Miami.

‘We’re dancing in the moment’

Gillian and her husband are still living in Alford but plan to go abroad exploring again.

“Right now we’re dancing in the moment,” she said. “I’ve adopted this as my mantra, to be open to what’s going to happen and what life is going to bring to you.

“We’ll need to go back to Phoenix because our motorhome is still there.

“We’re definitely going to do some travelling again, which is great because it inspires me for what I do.”

The next Women at Pause group launches on December 8 at 7pm with weekly Zoom sessions and is limited to seven participants.

More details can be found by visiting:

Gillian is also holding an information session on a small group coaching programme on Monday, November 29 at the Alford Bistro in Alford, Aberdeenshire at 2.30pm.

Pre-registration is required, email to register for the session.

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