Olly Cohen Adventure Travel
Cohen left his home in Seattle Washington on January 1st and has been travelling north on foot ever since, mostly running. /SPENCER HALL

By Andrea Arnold

When 26-year-old Olly Cohen lost his job as a software engineer at Amazon last November, he decided that it was the perfect time to set out on the adventure of a lifetime.

Cohen invested in a baby jogging stroller, strapped skis to it and started the new year on the road. His plan was to jog and when the conditions were right, stash the stroller and head off-road for some backcountry skiing. He left his home in Seattle Washington on January 1st and has been travelling north on foot ever since, mostly running.

“It has been something that has been on my mind for a long time,” said Cohen. “I decided to design it (the adventure) from the ground up instead of looking for a new job.”

Cohen had been living in Seattle Washington and loved the active lifestyle that comes easily with living in the Pacific Northwest, specifically running and skiing.

Cohen was inspired by a pair of men who recently climbed 100 peaks around Washington in 100 days, and only travelled to these peaks by bicycle.

His planning led to a jogging/skiing adventure that would push his limits and feed his curiosity. 

“I want to see what I am capable of doing and enduring,” he said.

He said that although he has always been the independent and adventurous type with a desire to go mountain climbing, skiing, hiking and travelling, this is the first time he has tried a human-powered trip. He has found it similar to taking a road trip, providing opportunities to meet new people and experiencing their way of life.

“At first the lack of snow was disappointing,” said Cohen. “Then I challenged myself to see how far north I could get by jogging.”

He started first with the goal to make it to the US/Canada border. Then to Whistler BC. From there he thought he’d try to run to the Rockies.

At the time of the interview, Cohen was nearing the end of a rest period in Blue River before heading towards his next goal of Mount Robson. Although his path is not 100 per cent planned, he said the idea of travelling the Columbia Icefields Parkway appeals greatly, so that will likely be where he heads back south, heading towards the border again at Waterton.

“I did not set a final destination, more of a time cut-off,” he said. “I will be flying to the eastern US for my sister’s grad in May.”

Cohen has been averaging 40km per day and has been either camping along the way using the winter camping supplies he is hauling, or relying on the kindness of strangers for a roof over his head and a warm bed.

Cohen has been most surprised at the kindness of others he has experienced so far.

“I’ve always had faith in people, more so than many other Americans, I think,” he said. “I am blown away by the level of generosity I have been shown.”

In return, Cohen tries to help out while he is staying in people’s homes. For example, he took care of his host’s pets for a few days while staying in Blue River.

“People’s kindness comes when I need it the most,” he said. “When I’ve been exhausted, help finds me. I haven’t had to look for it.”

Cohn’s adventure has not been without its challenges. He has found that managing injuries, even minor ones, on the road and in the cold can result in longer healing times. Most recently, his knee has been giving him issues, and he hopes his extended stay in Blue River will help remedy that problem.

Cohen said depending on the type of day he’s having, the best part of each day can look a little different. Either the actual running and gaining ground, a day carving through fresh powder on his skis, or enjoying baked goods provided by a host — any one of these experiences can make a day great.

Along his trip, Cohen is raising money and donating it to an organization called GiveDirectly. This group gives cash directly to the world’s poorest people.

“I really like the simplicity of it,” he said. “Some of the people they help only have a monthly income of $50. By giving another $50, they are lifting that family above the global poverty line.”

Although Cohen views meeting people and building new relationships as part of his adventure, he is hoping that for the next two months he will not need as many recovery days, allowing him to cover more ground. Once he completes his adventure, he plans to participate in a marathon (42km) that he has signed up for in May.