Meet Your Walking Guide: Will Copestake

How did you get into active travel?

Will Copestake

I grew up in Ullapool, a small fishing town in the north west highlands. Surrounded by mountains, sea and some of Scotland’s best wildness I was privileged to an outdoorsy childhood, it wasn’t until I left to spend 10 months travelling alone in New Zealand when I was 18 that I really fell in love with active travel.

Which traveller or explorer has been your greatest inspiration?

While my mother was travelling in Spitsbergen my father was working in Antarctica (talk about polar opposites), as a result our house has been filled with books about the great polar explorers; Shackleton, Scott and Nordenskjold among many others, I think these tales of hard men in times of soft gear provided the greatest inspiration. My fathers saying ‘It is better to be Shackleton than Scott’ still plays a part in my decision making in most walks of life. Lately I have become a huge fan of Alastair Humphreys and his ‘go big on a small’ budget ethos. 

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

I have always been drawn to what Bertrand Russell called waste spaces; mountains and sea, the empty environments which make me feel completely irrelevant. Although I have travelled but a small ribbon of wilderness, I always find myself drawn to return and seek more and to escape a routine by following another perhaps more simple one. 

What do you do to stay fit? 

I have always been a firm believer of base fitness carrying into travel. I am totally normal just like anyone else, some days I go for a jog, others I sit inside sipping tea and eating biscuits. By living an active lifestyle as a choice I am almost always doing something to keep me active be it kayaking, climbing, hiking, biking etc. When it comes to an expedition I just accept the first week will be a little harder before setting into a river. 

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

In long expeditions I have found that I tend not to notice how I have changed until the journey is almost over, fitness of course gets better but more importantly my perception of the meaning of challenge has slowly shifted. I know exactly how far I can push myself before tears, how much exposure on a ridge I can tolerate before I feel uneasy, it is a constantly shifting border but one that progresses somehow with each adventure. I truly believe I have learnt more through the institute of travel than any other, and I have a lot more to learn. 

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

In the fine word of Nike® ‘Just Do It!' As much of a cliche as it seems, getting out and starting really is the hardest step, excuses lead to regret. Take each day at face value but look ahead to what is coming and if ever having a hard time just slow down, look around and remember you had the balls to start. Experience comes from making mistakes but always remember to try and find a lesson in each one to help in the future…I should only offer one warning; travel gets really addictive! 

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

Scotland is a pretty awesome place to explore, with plenty of wilderness the options are truly endless; even after a year spent trying to see as much of it as possible I still find myself drawn to come back. As far as abroad I would have to say New Zealand; it’s basically Scotland on steroids, the mountains are higher, wild-land more remote and has a fantastic cultural background. Overall though I don’t think the destination really matters but what you do when you get there. 

What has been your best travel experience ever? 

Like choosing which chocolate in the box is best in the end they are all pretty awesome, I have hitch hiked with a man with no arms in New Zealand and spent countless nights under sunsets at the side of my kayak in Scotland; I guess if I had to pick it would be the only adventure I have done in company, a friend and I walked across Iceland. Living for three months on a dirtbag budget in our tents it was the camaraderie that made the journey special. 

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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