Meet Your Walking Guide: John Millen

How did you get into active travel?

Jon MillenI was really interested or inspired by a potent mix of Geography, History and Natural history. At Uni I was always out doing walks in the Dales, Pennines, or the Lake District and spending a lot of time canoeing. My first big trips were trekking across the Pyrenees into Spain, climbing Pico Aneto, then rolling off to Morocco on the Marrakech Express and up to Toubkal. Later I was doing research in rural Portugal and then studying fisheries in Kenya. In the end I became an outdoor pursuits instructor at the YMCA after which I did some sailing and trekking/climbing trips before working in East Africa on mountain safaris. One of the customers there was Sherpa Expeditions, and I have been with them for 17 years.

Which traveller or explorer has been your greatest inspiration?

It would have to be Ernest Shackleton, but there are so many "Great lives" such as Tilman, Franklin, Anson, Cook and Ross.

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

Different environments, getting energised by physical, but not monotonous activity, the people and places.


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

Well it is mainly jogging, cycling and walking. My beer gut is also exercised regularly.


How has your understanding of yourself changed after dozens of travel adventures? 

I think you gain some self-confidence, learn your very real limitations, and also feel a bit in awe of the amazing people that you meet on both individual as guided walking holidays.


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

I think be safe, but keep your itineraries realistic but exciting. I think like Shackleton the most important thing is to be flexible. Sometimes things take a different course to those intended, and so just make the most of it. We are very privileged being able to travel as we do.


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

  • Nepal - wonderful people and landscape, so much to do, so little time.
  • USA - Amazingly beautiful wilderness National Parks especially the Sierras
  • Ecuador - The glaciated smouldering volcanoes are brilliant
  • Chile - Torres de Paine is a fantastic area
  • France - It is just lovely being in the countryside!
  • Iceland - Raw sulphurous adventure and if you need it Strokker at Geysir makes an excellent Bidet!


What has been your best travel experience ever?

So Many! Crossing Los Picos de Europa at the end of winter with 3 friends 20 years ago was wonderful despite being snowed up in a tent for 3 days high in the mountains. Spending a month in Belize climbing a new peak, although tiny! Some of the 9 times I have done the GR20 in Corsica – a wonderful mountain journey, and then the Maritime Silk Roads Project with UNESCO.

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


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