Meet Your Walking Guide: Mark Watson

How did you get into active travel?

Malcolm Wade

I have travelled all my life. As a teenager I would go to the French and Swiss Alps, climbing and walking the high passes with friends. I summitted Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe at 18. In recent years, I have worked with many groups travelling to destinations in Europe and beyond, such as Iceland and Morocco. As I’ve been able to get more time off from full-time work, I’ve travelled to Central America and Nepal.

 

What is it about active and adventure travel that fascinates you?

It’s great to meet new people who share the same passions to visit locations. But also it’s great to meet people from new cultures, and experience first-hand varying landscapes, flora, fauna and history.

What do you do to stay fit and active travel-ready?

It’s really important to stay fit for these trips and to prepare in advance as much as possible. I am lucky in that as a guide, I can easily get out on the fells where I live in Cumbria. This keeps me hill fit. To be active travel ready, it’s a good idea to read up on your itinerary and country. Understand a little local lingo and know what to expect about the food and lifestyle, so you don't get any surprises. Look at the terrain you will encounter, think about your personal strengths and weaknesses and do a little extra fitness work before going out. I also review my clothing and kit carefully, to ensure it’s appropriate to the destination.

Which traveller or explorer has been your greatest inspiration?

I’m a bit old school, so my inspirations have been the likes of Chris Bonington, the English mountaineer and explorer. Although I haven't followed in his footsteps, I do take his philosophies on board. At 80 plus he is still climbing which gives hope to us all. Travellers like Ben Fogle give inspiration to get out there and explore more, and find out about our fellow humans.

Do you have any advice for first-time active travellers?

As mentioned above, preparation is everything. Know the destination you’re going to. Read, read and read a bit more – it’s part of the fun of getting ready. Make sure you’re prepared physically and don't underestimate the undertaking. Think about your kit and get advice if you’re unsure. Above all be prepared to be flexible. The best trips are those where things come up that you weren't expecting. Don't be too rigid in your expectations of a trip - things can and do go wrong. Treat these moments as opportunities. If you’re going with a group, think about others and be prepared to support or help them if required. You might be surprised how much you get out of the experience if you do.

What are your favourite active and adventure travel destinations in the world and why?

I have many favourite destinations, but the people, culture and mountains of Nepal are my favourite. I have been lucky to travel to Nepal many times and keep getting the calling.In this country I have discovered the Coast to Coast walk, which spans the breadth of England. This walk never stops fascinating me and is different every time I go. It brings together in one walk many diverse cultures, different scenery and is a favourite of mine.

 

What has been your best travel experience ever?

So many. But in 2017 I went to Costa Rica with a school party. They engaged with a small community on the pacific coast and assisted with an ongoing project to care for turtles. This was magical as the young people had a great time, working hard on the project, and they got to experience tens of thousands of turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs at night. The whole trip encompassed everything I love. Helping a community in a sustainable way, great wildlife and helping young people to develop.

If you like to join one of the guided walking holidays that Mark is leading this year, please get in touch with our team by email or phone. 


 

Read More