Will Paddle for Whiskey | Adventure Journalist Andrew Todhunter Episode #24

Aaron McHugh


I’ve always believed that one of the careers that deserves coveting must be Adventure Journalism. When I open up my Outside Magazine, National Geographic Adventure (now out of business), Backpacker, or Climbing, I lap up the imagery and stories of far away lands.

A particular article stood out more than usual: Will Paddle For Whiskey by Andrew Todhunter. In 2009, National Geographic Adventure published a feature article about Andrew’s sea kayaking adventure. This epic trip tethered his crew to the interior Scottish coastline for a five-day single malt scotch sampling tour of local distilleries nestled within port town.

See? You want to go just after reading the cliff notes version of Andrew’s adventure.

Well, so do I. My brother is turning forty in January and we are working on retracing some version of Andrew’s tall tale adventure.

Click to Listen

In today’s podcast interview with Andrew, you will hear about the glory stories of being an adventure journalist. Like any great story, there is another version that adventure magazines don’t publish:

  • How arduous the writing process can be
  • How challenging it can be to balance doing what you love and making a living at the same time
  • When you’re twenty it’s much easier to jump a plane to India, but when you have a family you choose differently

Learn more about:

  • Every writer will tell you, “Writing is a grinding, white-knuckle craft”.
  • His first writing gig was about ice diving in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
  • How we are always drawn to romanticize the life we don’t have.
  • You’ll know you are a writer if “I knew I would throw myself out a window if I had to sit in a cubicle.”

The Quick Summary on the Whiskey adventure

  • Guide Service you can hire: Tony Hammock from Sea Freedom Kayak
  • Tony’s email is here: info@seafreedomkayak.co.uk
  • Do you have to love Scotch to repeat this trip? According to Andrew, NO.
  • Do I have to be an experienced kayaker?  According to Tony, Andrew’s trip is not a good adventure for a beginner. I am working with him to see what version of Andrew’s trip we might be able to tailor to our skill set.
  • You need a week and $800 USD for food and lodging.
  • Lodging, Strumhor, Tony Hammock’s B&B is the place to begin and end the trip near Oban.
  • Specifics: The route went from mainland Scotland, Crinan, to Jura to Islay via Scotland’s Inner Herbrides.

Andrew’s Official Bio

Andrew Todhunter

Andrew Todhunter has published articles and essays on subjects ranging from ice climbing in the Scottish highlands to cave diving in Bahamian Blue Holes. His work has appeared in National Geographic, The Atlantic Monthly, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post Sunday Magazine, Smithsonian and Men’s Journal, among other publications.

Todhunter’s first book, “Fall of the Phantom Lord” (Anchor Books, 1998) was a San Francisco Chronicle best seller. In 2000, he published a collection of outdoor and travel stories entitled “Dangerous Games” (Doubleday). His third book, “A Meal Observed” (Knopf, 2004), won the 2005 PEN USA Literary Award for Creative Nonfiction. He is now at work on a book of early medieval history for Knopf.

In film, Todhunter studied graduate film production at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Among other projects, he co-developed a National Geographic special on North Vietnamese combat photography and served as Production Coordinator for Lucasfilm’s documentary unit.

In the interactive entertainment industry, Todhunter has contributed story, dialogue and content design to video games on multiple platforms, from the best-selling “Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego” to “Deadly Dozen II: Pacific Theater” and a classified government training simulation, among other projects.

As a creative consultant, Todhunter works with non-profit organizations and corporate clients, including Apple, RE/MAX International, Mandel Communications and the Mendocino Film Festival.

Todhunter teaches writing through Stanford University’s Department of Biology, where he also serves as co-director of The Senior Reflection creative capstone program. He also teaches through the Stanford Art Institute’s Honors in the Arts program.

An avid sailor, paddler, and scuba diver, Todhunter lives in northern California with his wife and three children.
Specialties: Fluent French.
Visit Andrew’s site. 

Download Andrew’s adventure article from National Geographic here.

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