Will Travis – Freedom & fear

Will is a 38 year old Brit, founder of branding agency ATTIK’s US operation (now part of Dentsu) and leader of the groups global business development and marketing voice. An industry expert in youth marketing, branding and creativity, he sits on numerous business boards and loves sharing his experiences on a global stage. An avid explorer, mountaineer, father of daughters Amelia and Beatrice, partner of Zhanna, creative catalyst and sportsman. He lives in NY and Montreal and eats way too much Haagen Dazs dolce de leche when watching movies.

Will, when I first saw this photo of you I was so surprised by it. Fill me in on your mountaineering adventures, when did you start climbing and where have you traveled to?

I started climbing as a kid, not big stuff but living in the north of England, I always loved the escape of the hills and would clamber up and down peaks in the rain and cold – mad I know!
Then my dad started to get me going during holidays – we climbed all the biggies in Scotland, Wales and England but to be honest I was miserable. I would tag along behind him following his footsteps, swearing under by breath, as any right minded teenage boy on a hill would do when deprived the precious time with ladies underwear catalogues.

The big turn came in ’03 when I was playing darts in a California pub with my explorer friend Jamie Clarke. A few too many pints later and the bets started flowing, resulting in my agreement to join Jamie on his fifth of the worlds highest seven summits – Mt Elbruz in Russia. Since then my larger trips have included Mt Vinson Massif in Antarctica in ’05, again with Jamie and in ’07 motor biking 2,500 miles over the worlds highest road, through the Himalayas, on a Royal Enfield Bullet.

What do you feel when you climb?

Climbing is a weird one – it’s one of those sports that encompass an array of emotions.
When I set out on an expedition there’s a great deal of excitement, the excitement of adventure, of the unknown, of doing something that most people have never done, of discovery. This is mixed with fear. When you’re at the total whim of the elements, you suddenly realize just how pathetic a creature humans are at fending off cold, danger, winds, drought, starvation etc and vulnerability stares you straight in the face.

If I take the wrong gear, wear the wrong clothes, underestimate or over estimate what I should take or even jump a gap an inch too short – the outcome can be detrimental. Mountaineering is all about preparation, balance, clear headiness and the acceptance of failure. In business it’s a lot easier to get back up and try again or walk away leaving your mistake to be cleaned up. On a mountain there is nowhere and I mean nowhere to hide. It’s you, the elements and your team and every part needs to work in harmony – swiftly, sensibly and collectively.

OK – back to the feelings. So lets jump ahead, I’m on the trip. Freedom is one of the first real things you feel, you are free to make every decision. There’s no walls, no confinement. There’s no-one baby sitting you and life is there for the taking. It’s exhilarating to know every turn you make can and will lead to a totally new experience. You feel pain as your boots rub, confusion when a trail suddenly ends, exhilaration when you stand on the top of the world and depression when you feel you can no longer go on. The peaks and troughs of emotion are the largest you will ever feel.

Every time I climb, as my body realizes its burning more calories than I’m consuming, I drop into a state of depression. I hate the people I follow, I hate people that I’m disgruntled with at home, I hate parts of my job – my body is kicking into fight mode and I hate. When I summit though, I love everyone. The slightest reflection of a loved one leads to tears and I realize how concealed everyday life keeps my natural emotions.

So are my expeditions all fun all the time – absolutely not, a lot of the time I am damn right miserable! BUT how the pleasure outweighs the misery after the fact is huge. I have gained experiences that life unexplored can never understand. I understand how to control and handle my fears and I understand what in life really matters and what a year on would fade to insignificance.

I am so impressed and thrilled that you are brave enough to take yourself off on these expeditions and I thank you for sharing your incredible experiences and insights. Your story also brought to mind a Maslow saying – ‘Think of life as a process of choices, one after another. At each point there is a progression choice and a regression choice. To make the growth choice instead of the fear choice a dozen times a day is to move a dozen times toward self-actualization.”

Will I owe you a gallon of Dolce de leche and for the rest of us, maybe today is just as good a day as any to choose growth over fear.
Warmly, C

© The Red Barn Cooperative
www.theredbarncooperative.com

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3 Responses to “Will Travis – Freedom & fear”


  1. 1 Roger Darnell April 14, 2008 at 6:32 am

    Will Travis is a great guy, and a real-life inspiration. Cheers! — Roger D.

  2. 2 Mr X April 14, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Checks in the post Mr D!

  3. 3 nhmdevt sczivwg September 4, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    ijtalnxsv iuwlgr bismjhrzo etkcdgao vxhomscbq clfruqem zvtydrcgh


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