By: Gillian Riley (Executive Vice President, Canadian Commercial Banking of Scotiabank)

It’s been just over a week since I returned from completing the True Patriot Love (TPL) Scotiabank Mackenzie Expedition in Central British Columbia. Words can’t describe what an exciting and hard-earned experience it was! I was privileged to be part of a team comprised of Canadian business leaders and military Veterans transitioning back to civilian life. Together, we hiked over the Coast Mountains, white-water rafted down the Bella Coola River and paddled ocean canoes to reach Sir Alexander Mackenzie’s historic inscription: “First crossing of North America by land, July 22, 1793” where we broke out into an emotional rendition of O Canada.

As I embarked on this two-week adventure, I had no idea what to expect. I knew it had the potential to be a life-changing experience, and indeed, it was. The expedition was transformative and pushed me to my limits. I returned home stronger – physically and mentally – more resilient, self-aware, motivated, and connected. Those two weeks entirely changed my perspective of what’s possible – both individually and collectively – when we have to depend on each other to succeed.

Since my return, I’ve been asked a ton of questions about my expedition. It’s hard to explain but I can tell you that the bugs and sleeping in a tent for two weeks were not the best experience! The Veterans and their stories were so moving and their commitment to the military is absolutely enormous and impactful. I have a much better appreciation for their contributions and was so honoured that Scotiabank could help support them through this sponsorship.

The pause from work also reminded me that, in a time when so many aspects of our personal and professional lives are pulling us towards the fast-paced digital world, it is important to take a moment to refocus. Unplugging from my daily routine allowed me to re-energize and reboot. The deep connections I made with these Veterans gave me a much better understanding of the sacrifices our armed forces make on our behalf, and the challenges they face when transitioning back into civilian life. I had a soldier as a mentee, but in fact, I think he taught me more about myself and what it actually takes to be a good leader. The greatest thing he reminded me of was that being a good leader means being a good follower too. That’s something I think all of us can take to heart.