How a Hike In Some Vans
Led To a New Life

From the highest peak in Northern Island to the classroom

I used to think that hiking was only for boring old people that was until I actually tried it. To this day I will never judge the potential of how an activity can change personal perspective. I went from walking up the highest peak in Northern Ireland in Vans canvas shoes to studying a Degree in Outdoor Leadership in Preston a few year later.

At the age of 15 I walked up the highest peak in NI known as “Slieve Donard”, I was completely clueless about hiking, as I now know it feels like a nightmare knowing I walked up there in full cotton clothing without waterproofs and wearing Vans shoes but now I plan for the worst. The fact I didn’t even want to go on the hike and was forced to by my father.  As much as I hated it at the time, I’m glad he did.

I won Berghaus #MyWaterproof competition with the above picture.

Over the next 2 years I studied a “Public Services” course at my local college, this involved several outdoor-orientated modules which I participated in. The sports were: mountain biking, hiking, sailing and kayaking. This course made everything click for me, I felt a deep passion for these activities. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed just generally being outside for the sake of being out until now.

Since I can remember, I always have wanted to help others and always thought as some kind of medical professional that this would become reality. My tutor and friends talked to me about this career path I have chosen, they all knew how I felt about the spectacular outdoors. They gave me the idea of doing an outdoor orientated degree and if I felt strongly about still being a paramedic then the option is always there.

This whole time, I never even knew something like this existed at a University. I decided within the day that this is definitely for me and I submit the application. In a number of hours the outdoors changed my perspective yet again, I felt inspired as I came up with the idea that medically helping people isn’t the only option to assist others. I decided that my career path would be as a teacher in an outdoor orientated environment.

This year alone I have done winter mountaineering In Scotland, 6 weeks of practical activities at Plas y Brenin consisting of climbing, hiking, kayaking, canoeing. I volunteered at an outdoor centre for 2 weeks, and several other wild adventures.

Lovely view on the summit of Stob Coire nan Lochan in Scotland, my highest peak yet!

Here I am 3 years later, I just finished my first year of my degree with the same passion I had inside on that hike in my Vans.

Prepared to start my 2nd year again In September.

 Thanks for readying the start of Thomas’s adventure!

Follow me on Twitter for frequent updates on my adventures! – @y0ThomasWilson