The vicarious adventure dream with Sidetracked's John Summerton
When we started Adventurous Ink back in 2016 it wasn’t just about helping you guys enjoy and appreciate the outdoors more, it was also about supporting the people behind the publications. Folk who have dedicated their lives to living adventurously and inspiring others to do the same.
Its no accident that when our founder Tim is writing the letter that accompanies each month's issue, he tells the story of the people who made it happen.
But there is only a limited amount you can say on one page of a handwritten letter, so we found time to talk things over in more detail with John Summerton, the founder and editor of October’s Adventurous Ink: Sidetracked magazine.
So John, you’re obviously a massive lover of the outdoors, how did you got into it to start with?
That’s an interesting one. I’ve always been an outdoorsy type. I was lucky enough to grow up in the countryside, so it’s just my natural environment. I loved being able to roam the fields and wander through woodlands. As I grew up, that love for nature just grew with me.
Of course I did the usual outdoor things that kids do, like being part of our local Scout troop, which was always a good excuse to head off outdoors with my mates.
Sidetracked is the pinnacle of outdoor publishing, and includes some of the wildest adventures of any of the journals we feature in Adventurous Ink, is that what you’re into personally?
Ha, actually no. In terms of what I enjoy doing I’m more of a generalist, happiest having a gentle mooch about on foot, maybe a bit of cycling, fitting in the odd road trip and overnight stay. I’m always keen to seek out new experiences and push beyond my own comfort zones... but if I’m honest, I don’t think the extremes are really for me.
I get my extreme kicks vicariously. I probably always have, but since creating Sidetracked I’ve had an incredible opportunity to experience some of the most extreme adventures out there, through the eyes of people living them.
You certainly have! Sidetracked was one of the main publications we had in mind when we created Adventurous Ink because it features such fantastic adventures. So how do you go about deciding who to work with?
At first Sidetracked was just an online publication, which I started by asking bloggers and adventurers like Al Humphreys if they had any stories I could share. And that was how it stayed for a couple of years. It really was just a sideline of mine, hence the title. Then after a couple of years I was thinking about how I could make more of it. I went to the Kendal Mountain Festival and got some great feedback about the quality of the content, with a lot of folk asking if I had plans to go into print. So I figured why not.
That was in 2014, and within a month of the first issue hitting the streets the Guardian had featured us in their Top Ten Travel Magazines. That was a pretty incredible experience, and made for a mad couple of months as we rode that wave.
Fast forward a few years and now I have a mountain of submissions from people reaching out wanting to share their expeditions and adventures. 40-50 a week is not uncommon! Which is great because it keeps the quality sky high. I also have a good network of creatives who I can call on for words or pictures of needed.
Wow, what a great position to be in. Its a real testament to the power of what you have built. Thinking about your readers now, how do you want them to respond to Sidetracked?
I always had this vague idea that we all have a love/hate relationship with the sofa, me included! I’m off for a night ride with some friends this evening, and right now I’m not massively looking forward to heading out on a dark and windy night when I could be sat at home with a beer. But I know for a fact that once I get out there I will love it, and I’ll come home with that accomplished glow we all enjoy.
So that was it really, trying to provide some inspiration to break free from the comforts of home and experience something memorable in the open air.
And what about you, what are you looking to get from Sidetracked?
Well, as I said at first it was a side project that kept the creative juices flowing and provided an excuse to get outdoors whilst I was working as a freelance designer on high end websites.
As it developed I have been able spent more and more time on it, immersing myself in those vicarious adventures. But recently I realised that I wasn’t making the most of the epic opportunities it provides. I was getting some great commissions and invitations coming in, and I would always farm them out to my creative community.
So I've started thinking more about me and what else I could get out of it. Which is quite a lot! I’ve enjoyed some real bucket list experiences like the exploring the farthest corners of Iceland and the Faroe Islands, crossing the Canadian Wilderness and roadtripping across the US. All in the company of some great people I’ve connected with through the journal.
If there is a dream, it sounds like you’re living it there John!
I certainly am, and the best thing is there is so much more to come.
Sidetracked Issue 13, which examines the effect on the human condition of extreme experiences during adventures and expeditions, features as the October issue of Adventurous Ink.