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In conversation with John Summerton

Editor of Sidetracked, one of the journals featuring in Adventurous Ink

A little like Gather, John established Sidetracked to help him spend more time outdoors. In the end we are both helping to inspire others to get out more.

The pages of Sidetracked drip with blood, adrenaline and salty tears. Not for them a cosy ramble and home for tea. Within their covers you will meet all manner of adventurers, pushing themselves mentally and physically. These tales are perfectly told: not too long, not too short, and beautifully photographed by a host of talented eyes, including on occasion our very own Ambassador Liz Seabrook.

Lets hear what John has to say...

Why have you chosen to focus on the outdoors?

Sidetracked came about as I was a bit fed up with my freelance graphic design career. I was spending too much time on projects that I had little interest in.

I’m totally passionate about the outdoors and love a good adventure story so I set up Sidetracked to steer my work towards this passion. I guess to live some of these adventures a little vicariously whilst working at a desk. And this in turn drove my urge to spend more and more time in the hills or on my bike.

Tell us about the approach you take to publishing.

The magazine publishing follows a similar principle to publishing on the website ( was launched 2 years prior to the first print edition). The trickiest job is sourcing the stories as I want these to be completely unique and varied in type, location and resulting experience.

Once I’ve chosen these then I work with our editor to perfect the story and then this is proofed/second edited. We receive around 50 photos per expedition, that we have to choose just 8-10 from. So I enlist the help of expedition photographer Martin Hartley to help shortlist the selection.

Then it’s down to me to layout the stories. The design is all geared around allowing the photos to really shine whilst giving the text breathing space and making the magazine a relaxing read.

Are you trying to sum up a particular essence or experience?

We aim to inspire people through campfire storytelling basically. We want people to get excited about the stories that they read and to engage with them on some level. And, hopefully, get off the sofa and get outdoors doing whatever they love to do. I have some great emails from readers saying that after reading a story about a particular adventure, they went on to do their own expedition. So it’s clear that this is working!

Do you find the outdoors helps with the creative process?

Too many of us (me included) spend too much time at a desk. As a designer I definitely find that jumping on my bike for an hour or so clears my head and allows a lot more focus. This is amplified on multi day trips. We had such a good, rewarding bothy/cooking/hike escape in the Autumn for example.

As Al Humphreys says, it’s like pressing a reset button for busy lives. He totally nailed that one. Spending time outdoors helps you think and create more clearly. There’s a lot of inspiration to be found away from the internet. In real life. Shocking!

Whats the favourite story you've published?

An impossible question. We’ve published about 200 stories online and getting on for the same in print too now. And they’re all great because the writers put their heart and soul into their expedition and then into retelling the story for us. No favourites.

Tell us your best personal adventure

Probably one from a long time ago. I met a girl (we’re now married) and we quickly decided to postpone university and bought a one-way ticket to Australia. With next to no money we bought a car (a 1972 Mitsubishi) with the last of our cash and started driving south on what became a one year complete circumnavigation of the country, stopping to find work whenever we ran out of fuel (or beer). That probably became the spark for my love of travelling and although not the most adventurous of the trips I’ve done, it was certainly the most fun.

Where's the one place you'd love to go?

Eastern Russia or to Patagonia. But I never really mind where I go – I just love new places, new experiences and meeting new people along the way.

Thanks for getting involved we love a collaboration. Who have you enjoyed
collaborating with?

Sidetracked is totally a collaborative project so it has to be the writers and photographers. Without them then there’d be no Sidetracked.

Thanks John, great to hear from you. 

Do you have faith in our ability to keep serving up inspiring creative adventurers like John month in month out? 

If so, its worthwhile subscribing to Adventurous Ink whilst its on Kickstarter. Don't miss out. Be there from the beginning.

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