Heather Hillier on The Road to Patagonia, and motherhood

The first thing that strikes me about Heather Hillier is how calm she is, when she joins our Zoom call from her friend's place in the Northern Rivers, in New South Wales, Australia.

The first thing that strikes me about Heather Hillier is how calm she is, when she joins our Zoom call from her friend's place in the Northern Rivers, in New South Wales, Australia. It's the kind of calm our bustling world could do with more of, and something I envy, in the chaos of startup life.

She's a long way away from the adventure we're here to chat about. The adventure that inspired the intimate documentary The Road to Patagonia. Initially, the documentary only follows Aussie Matty Hannon on an incredible solo adventure traversing the west coast of the Americas from the top of Alaska to the tip of Patagonia. Including footage from across 16 years of Hannon's life, the film charts an adventure of extremes.

Pushed to the brink, Matty is on the edge of throwing in the towel when he meets Heather, the girl of his dreams, during a stop in Vancouver. Suddenly, the film and the adventure becomes a love story after Matty, as is the height of modern romance, sends Heather an email. From there, the rest is history.

In a nutshell, without giving too much away, Heather joins Matty on the 50,000km world-fist expedition of a lifetime, riding south, meeting Zapatista rebels, Amazonian shamans, and Mapuche leaders who she says challenged her way of thinking, and approach to both life and her relationship with nature. That's a relationship you can tell is really special (and one that becomes clear after spending only a few minutes with her).

I'll leave my summary of the documentary plot here, but safe to say, I honestly shed a few tears when they parted ways with the horses (you'll see what I mean, I promise).

Much of the press coverage of The Road to Patagonia has focused on Matty, the adventurer and filmmaker behind this incredible documentary. But for me, perhaps for obvious reasons given what we do here at Missing Perspectives, Heather was the one who really struck a chord with me, and caught my eye the second I started watching. What a brave, bold choice for someone to give up the life they knew as an urban permaculture farmer and instead dive fearlessly headfirst into love, not knowing how or if things would work out.

When we finally got to chat, I was fascinated by Heather's interest and strong background, in permaculture (a philosophy that sees people work with and around nature, not against it, their practices dominated by paying attention to the natural rhythms of an area or landscape) and farming - something that I imagine to be a really male-dominated space.

"My parents are gardeners, but I had never really thought of farming as a profession," she says. "I studied international studies, and was reading about food systems, and did some work with NGOs. Then I heard about permaculture and fell in love with that way of thinking. But really, this trip with Matty changed everything." Now, her Instagram account documents her permaculture farming, from parasols to weeds.

It's also a space where she's really vocal about environmental issues close to her heart, however tells is quick to tell me she doesn't consider herself an activist. "I have never really felt comfortable in that space - I saw myself as more behind the scenes - but I know that space is so important," she says.

Post-adventure, Heather is based in Byron Bay, where she is continuing her permaculture farming. She and Matty have also embarked on a new life-changing adventure together; raising a child. Safe to say that a fearless dive into love worked out, I ask Heather how becoming a mother has continued to shape her as a woman - and her connection to nature. She says motherhood is some of the hardest work she could have imagined, while being the most sedentary she has ever been. "It really takes work [to remain connected to nature] and daily involvement, now more than ever," she tells me.

She says motherhood has so far seen her surrender herself to being a lot slower. "When I'm out in nature, I'm not going for a run - we're stopping and picking leaves - and we're going quite slowly. I'm not in it [nature] as much, but it brings it a lot closer and being in the garden a lot more, and what's super close to harm. So it's not about being in a wild pristine place - it's being present in nature."

Heather's not sure what comes next. Right now, all she wants is for people to find connections in her and Matty's story, while also building stronger awareness of the rich, wonderful world around them.

The Road To Patagonia is in select cinemas now