Title: Waypoints: My Scottish Journey
Authors: Sam Heughan
Narrator: Sam Heughan
Publication date: October 25, 2022
Print length: 270 pages
Audio length: 7 hours 47 minutes
Journey deep into the Scottish Highlands in the first memoir by #1 New York Times bestselling author and star of Outlander, Sam Heughan—exploring his life and reflecting on the waypoints that define him
“I had to believe, because frankly, I had come so far there could be no turning back.”
In this intimate journey of self-discovery, Sam sets out along Scotland’s rugged ninety-six-mile West Highland Way to map out the moments that shaped his views on dreams and ambition, family, friendship, love, and life. The result is a love letter to the wild landscape that means so much to him, full of charming, funny, wise, and searching insights into the world through his eyes.
Waypoints is a deeply personal journey that reveals as much about Sam to himself as it does to his readers.
Sam Heughan, star of Outlander and portrayer of the iconic Jamie Fraser (aka, the King of Men), takes us on his journey along the West Highland Way, during which he contemplates both the trek itself and the landscapes of Scotland, as well as the path his life has taken to reach this moment in time.
Despite being a die-hard Outlander fan and having very much enjoyed his travel book Clanlands (co-authored with his costar Graham McTavish), I was a bit skeptical at first. I suspected that the book would be heavy on navel-gazing, and was afraid I’d be disappointed. I’m happy to report back that my fears were unfounded — Waypoints is a delight.
The book is framed around a rare week off for Sam, who finds himself back home in Glasgow with an entire week at his disposal. He makes a spur of the moment decision to walk the famous West Highland Way, a trail of almost 100 miles from Glasgow to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands. After an immediate trip to an outdoors outfitting store, where he buys everything the salesclerk tells him to, he sets out the next day with a plan to finish the journey in five days.
After two days of a pounding pace that is physically grueling, he’s about to pack it all in and call it quits, but has a revelation of sorts: It’s about the journey, not the speed. Not exactly shocking, but as he explains, for someone who’s always pushed himself, it’s a strange and unfamiliar approach. From that point on, he slows his pace, literally lightens his load by shedding most of the gear he carries, and begins to enjoy the sights and small moments along the way.
Interspersed with his narration of the trek are memories of his life, from childhood through school years, the initial introduction to theater and his long pursuit of a career as an actor — something he was on the verge of giving up on before landing the role of a lifetime in Outlander.
I listened to the audiobook, which really is the way to go with Waypoints. Sam is a gifted, entertaining narrator — I really did feel like I was listening to him telling friends his stories, rather than reading words from a page. He includes funny little asides that are not in the print version, and an added bonus is that each day’s section of the book concludes with voice recordings that he made on the journey — these add fun as well as appreciation for how hard the hike was. (He’s often out of breath, and we can hear the pounding rain that he’s described during the first day).
The audiobook (via Audible) comes with a PDF that includes the photos from the print book, as well as some illustrations of Scottish wild mushrooms. (Sam develops an ongoing rapport with the mushrooms he encounters while hiking solo — it’s very silly, but very amusing). I had originally bought myself a copy of the hardcover edition before deciding to listen to the audiobook, and I was glad to have it as a reference while listening. (Plus, the photos really are great — some are from his childhood and early theatrical experiences, and some are from the hike).
Waypoints is entertaining and yet feels very personal — Sam shares openly about his repeated disappointments while trying to break into acting, the dashed hopes, the sense that it might never work, barely making ends meet working odd jobs while continuing the arduous process of showing up for audition after audition that never quite works out. He does it all with humor and appreciation, and it’s clear that he’s very grateful for the opportunities that have come his way. He’s even very kind about the masses of Outlander fans, who are usually polite in their enthusiasm but can sometimes get a little extreme.
I know when the book was released, various entertainment sites took small passages from the book and tried to sensationalize them. For example, there’s a scene where a well-known actor fails to recognize Sam when he’s working as a waiter, despite them having known one another through mutual friends. Sam uses this as an example of what his experiences were while trying to make it as an actor, and presents it without bitterness or hard feelings, yet I’ve seen fluff pieces portraying this as a major snub — and that’s not how it’s conveyed at all. Likewise, he’s always respectful and appreciative when discussing his experiences on the Outlander set, but I’ve read pieces that have tried to turn his comments into major complaints — and again, that’s not how it reads in the context of the book.
In any case, I found Waypoints to be terrific entertainment, and Sam Heughan is an engaging, forthright, and often very funny narrator and author. I enjoyed learning more about his background and his earlier career experiences, and absolutely loved the vicarious thrill of going along for his journey on the West Highland Way.
This is a charming, engaging audiobook, well worth checking out!