On the couch with Maddy Stopp
This month we sat down with Maddy Stopp, one of our popular guides who has worked with us for a number of seasons. Past travellers will have met her on the Overland Track, Walls of Jerusalem, Frenchman’s Cap and the South Coast Track, but if you’ve yet to had the pleasure of meeting Maddy on the trail, here’s your chance!
So Maddy, tell us about yourself! What does your average day look like?
I work as a wilderness guide for Tasmanian Expeditions, Tassie’s most experienced trekking and adventure operator. My office is the pristine, rugged wilderness that makes Tasmania like no other outdoor destination in the world. It’s my job to guide people through its remote pockets of the island, showcasing the significance of its natural state and history and to facilitate an experience that helps my guests reconnect with nature.
I guide on a range of Tasmanian walks including the Overland Track, Walls of Jerusalem, Frenchman’s Cap, the Bay of Fires, and the South Coast track – each of them being wonderfully unique and challenging in their own way. I don’t think I will ever stop being in awe of Tassie’s wild beauty and incredible diversity.
In the off season, I head to the top end to guide for Tasmanian Expeditions’ parent company, World Expeditions, on walks such as the Larapinta Trail, Jatbula trail and Kakadu experience. When I’m not working, I spend a large part of my time seeking out adventure, hiking in remote areas and iconic locations around the world. I also delve deeper into my interests such as reading and study, and earlier this season I spent some time volunteering in North East Arnhem land working on a range of tourism programs and immersing myself in the region’s indigenous culture.
What were you doing before you became a guide?
I am just about to start my third season as a bushwalking guide. I had a pretty significant career change a couple of years ago when I became a wilderness guide but most of my working life has been based around hospitality and event management. I’ve also been involved with project administration and support. Although the majority of my previous career was spent sitting in front of a computer, I spent a lot of time working with people, organising calendars and managing logistics – skills which have become very useful in my guiding career.
What made you want to change careers from hospitality and event management, to spending days in the great outdoors?
The last position I held was as the Executive Assistant to the partners in a very busy consulting company. It was challenging and rewarding on many levels, but I wasn’t thriving or being true to my true interests and passions. The catalyst for my career change was a well-timed trip to the US during a rather tumultuous period when the company was merging with a much larger firm. I was spending most of my travels exploring America’s national park and really loving being in the outdoors. It was also the perfect time to reflect on my career. I realised that many of the core values I stood for would be lost to the merger, so as soon as I returned back to Australia I sent forth my resignation and stepped into the unknown to pursue a career as a guide.
Can you tell us one of the main highlights of being a guide?
Being an ambassador for and helping protect our natural environment by educating people of its significance and vulnerability. I want to be part of efforts to preserve and maintain the integrity of the Tasmanian wilderness.
How does the environment you work in impact on your personally?
That’s a great question. City life can wear me down quite a lot and when I can feel myself getting worn down, I know it’s time to hit the refresh button and get back into the bush for a little while. When I am on extended expeditions, I find that my best and most energetic self comes to the fore, I love witnessing the changes in the environment and landscape. It excites the hell out of me.
Do you think you could ever do a full time, 9-5 office job again? Or does the thought of air conditioning and a comfy chair sound good or does the idea make you want to run for the hills?
Ha ha, yeah I’ll choose heading for the hills thanks. I think down the track I could consider an office job again but only if it involved contributing to the natural environment in a tangible way and some capacity to spend some time in the field.
Do you think that being a guide contributes to conserving the natural environment?
Absolutely! That is one of the best things about my job with Tasmanian Expeditions. All our guides are incredibly environmentally conscious. Our passion for the Tasmanian wilderness is at the core of our values and we are informed and guided by this, ensuring that everything we do is carefully managed for sustainability. We have minimal impact principals that we impart on our guests, and we are constantly bringing the landscape to life with stories that help impart conservation methods, or rouse discussion for such motives.
What do you think it takes to be a guide?
I would say being organised, trustworthy and passionate. And you need to be pretty nonchalant about ‘feet’ as you deal with them a lot!!
Being an adventure guide is the best! It’s a great mix of fun, with challenges and incredibly rewarding; from mixing with a huge range of people, to seeing amazing wildlife and getting to explore the most stunning landscapes Australia has to offer. I get to work with such talented and passionate people, which inspires me to continue learning and exploring the unknown. I love working with people, and there is no better way of breaking down barriers than immersing yourself in nature with a group of individuals all seeking a break from their busy lives, the journey allows people to reconnect with themselves and the ever changing landscapes of which we travel, it’s great bearing witness to people overcoming challenges on the trail and helping them complete the expedition. Most of all, I love nature – the fight for survival, quirky ecosystems, the weird and wonderful wildlife, the amazing stories of people that have walked the land before us, and the moments that take your breath away; whether it be a setting sun, a wild lightening storm, or an echidna foraging for ants. It’s a place that inspires, and I love connecting people to that.