Oliver Jackson – Never Retire

His original slogan: Never retire

It is a guiding principle that could also mean Never give up, no matter what challenges life throws at you.

Oliver Jackson’s eyes light up with an intensity that can only be seen for the first time: Today he is standing on the summit of the Portlahorn with snowshoes. His roots may be in vibrant London, but his heart has long since found a new home in Munich.

His welcoming smile barely hints at the depths he has been through – the deep pain of losing his wife after nearly thirty years together, and the emptiness left by the loss of his longtime job.

Oliver Jackson from Munich happily standing in the snow just before the start of his snowshoe walk to Portlahorn.
Oliver Jackson, born in London, English teacher from Munich, before his first alpine snowshoe tour to the Portlahorn in Damüls.
Oliver Jackson verabschiedet sich von seinem Arbeitsplatz bei Disney und posiert neben einer fröhlichen, mannshohen Figur von Olaf Doll.
Ein Moment des Übergangs: Oliver Jackson posiert ein letztes Mal in seinem Büro bei Disney, mit einer mannshohen Figur von Olaf Doll.
Oliver Jackson from Munich happily standing in the snow just before the start of his snowshoe walk to Portlahorn.
Oliver Jackson, born in London, English teacher from Munich, before his first alpine snowshoe tour to the Portlahorn in Damüls.

Oliver describes his impressions of the breathtaking snowshoe hike and tells us how he came to Germany. He talks about the striking differences between hiking in England and the Alps and gives us an insight into his new career path after leaving the film industry.

High on the Portlahorn

A snowshoe tour with challenges.

Elmar: It was your first alpine snowshoe tour, how did you like it?

Oliver: I was surprised that there was so much snow. Last week I was on the Rotwand with just my hiking boots on, there was so little snow.

At the beginning the trail went straight up steeply. It was my first time on snowshoes and I felt a mixture of respect and excitement. Each step was a bit of an effort, but when I turned around and saw the majestic panorama, I knew any doubts were unfounded. It was worth it.

Walking technique and terrain

Skilfully master cross passages.

Oliver: At the beginning I didn’t realise that walking across the slope had its pitfalls.

But you showed me a technique that made everything easier. It was a steep learning curve: I became more confident with each step. This confidence made me even more aware of my surroundings and of the moment.

Oliver Jackson on snowshoes learning to cross a slope in an alpine winter landscape.
On the slope: Oliver takes on the challenge of traversing with snowshoes.
Oliver Jackson on snowshoes learning to cross a slope in an alpine winter landscape.
On the slope: Oliver takes on the challenge of traversing with snowshoes.

Elmar: The snow conditions should not be underestimated – we would have certainly had an easier time with deep powder.

The key section

A balancing act on a steep slope.

Oliver: I’m not new to skiing or mountaineering – steep slopes don’t usually scare me.

In fact, when I venture down the fall line, I feel a certain thrill.

But today the snow was different, heavy and wet, conditions that made me think twice. There was a risk of slipping with every step and the thought of slipping on the descent was like a shadow on my courage.

Oliver Jackson climbs a steep slope in soft snow on snowshoes, clearly enjoying the challenge.
Oliver Jackson on the steep slope, smiling at his success in mastering the challenging ascent despite the soft snow.
Oliver Jackson climbs a steep slope in soft snow on snowshoes, clearly enjoying the challenge.
Oliver Jackson on the steep slope, smiling at his success in mastering the challenging ascent despite the soft snow.

Oliver: But as I stood at the top of the steep slope and threw my arms up in triumph, I felt a mixture of pride and relief. I had conquered not only the slope, but also my fears.

The photograph of that moment will always remind me of the feeling of limitless freedom that can only be experienced up there.

Summit silence

Unique moments.

Oliver: The change of weather that surprised us at the summit gave me a new perspective on the snow-covered landscape.

An unexpected natural spectacle that touched me deeply. The silence that surrounded us was particularly striking. Neither on the way up nor on the way down did we meet another soul. This solitude, far from the usual crowds, gave me a rare opportunity for inner reflection. I was able to stop and recharge my batteries in this unspoilt natural environment.

The picture shows the view from the top of Portlahorn to Säntis in cloudy weather.
View of Säntis: Unfortunately the weather was cloudy, but that's why it had a special atmosphere.
Das Bild zeigt den Blick vom Gipfel des Portlahorns auf den Säntis bei trübem Wetter.
View of Säntis: Unfortunately the weather was cloudy, but that's why it had a special atmosphere.

Oliver: It was as if the world around us had stopped to give us a moment of peace and deep contact with the environment. I was filled with an incomparable feeling of freedom and contentment, a real treasure that I took away from this adventure.

Elmar: The fact that we had the route to ourselves today was due to the weather and the special snow conditions. The fact that we had the route to ourselves today was due to the weather and the special snow conditions.

For a full description of the tour and pictures of the stunning views when the weather is fine and sunny, click Learn more.

From London to the mountains

How Oliver discovered the mountains.

Elmar: How did you start hiking?

Oliver: My passion for walking has unusual roots, as I come from London, a city known for many things, but certainly not for its mountains.

I had my first real encounter with the mountains as a teenager on walking holidays with my aunt in the breathtaking Dolomites and picturesque Zermatt. These trips opened my eyes to the beauty and tranquillity that the mountains could offer.

But even more formative were the adventures I had at school. Some teachers led us in small groups through the mountains of northern England and Wales. Equipped with a tent, a 20kg rucksack and many freezing nights, walking became a formative experience for me in the most positive sense. These experiences laid the foundations for my enduring passion for walking.

Explore the mountains of England

Tents, orientation and all year round.

Oliver: My walks in the English mountains have given me a whole new perspective on the adventure of walking.

In the following sections we look at some of the special features of walking in England, accompanied by photographs that capture the unique atmosphere of these walks.

Haytor Rocks in Dartmoor National Park, Devon, on a sunny day with walkers enjoying the scenery.
Walkers enjoy the view from Haytor Rocks, one of the most spectacular sites in Dartmoor National Park.
Die Haytor Rocks im Dartmoor National Park, Devon, an einem sonnigen Tag mit Wanderern, die die Landschaft genießen.

Camping instead of mountain huts

England’s unique walking culture.

Oliver: One striking difference between walking in England and the Alps is the lack of mountain huts.

Whereas in the Alps there are many Alpine Club and Refuge huts where walkers can spend the night in the midst of majestic mountain scenery, the English countryside offers no such shelter. Those who set out on multi-day walks in England are faced with the choice of either pitching a tent or descending into the valley at dusk.

A majestic landscape as seen from the Great Gable, in the heart of Cumberland, England.
Towering 899 metres above the Lake District, the Great Gable offers breathtaking views over the surrounding valley.
A majestic landscape as seen from the Great Gable, in the heart of Cumberland, England.
Towering 899 metres above the Lake District, the Great Gable offers breathtaking views over the surrounding valley.

Oliver: This choice not only requires careful planning and preparation, but also adds a sense of adventure and originality to the walk. Camping in the silence of an English valley or on a remote hill, under a starry sky stretching far above you, creates a connection with nature that is unparalleled in its simplicity and directness.

Orientation

Discover the trails of England at your own pace.

Oliver: Another major difference between walking in England and the well-marked trails of the Alps is the virtual absence of signposts.

In the Alps, a signpost accompanies you at every turn, indicating not only the direction but also the walking time to the next destination or refuge. This convenience is a rare luxury in the English countryside. Here walkers are expected to find their own way and navigate the terrain, often with only a map and compass to guide them.

Idyllic view of Buttermere Lake, nestled in the rolling countryside of the Lake District, England.
Surrounded by breathtaking scenery, Buttermere Lake in Cockermouth in the Lake District exudes tranquillity and grandeur.
Idyllic view of Buttermere Lake, nestled in the rolling countryside of the Lake District, England.
Surrounded by breathtaking scenery, Buttermere Lake in Cockermouth in the Lake District exudes tranquillity and grandeur.

Oliver: This challenge requires a good sense of direction and the ability to read the terrain. It requires an active engagement with the environment and raises awareness of nature.

Walking in England is not only a physical adventure, but also a mental one, where every crossroads and every path requires a decision to be made, making the achievement all the more satisfying.

Year round walking paradise

The moderate mountains of England.

Oliver: The heights in England may not reach the dizzying heights of the Alps, but that has its charm and advantages.

Idyllic view of Buttermere with the striking Fleetwith Pike in the Lake District.
Fleetwith Pike towers majestically over the tranquil waters of Buttermere.
Idyllic view of Buttermere with the striking Fleetwith Pike in the Lake District.
Fleetwith Pike towers majestically over the tranquil waters of Buttermere.

Oliver: Without the extreme differences in altitude and the associated alpine dangers, England offers a landscape that is accessible to walkers all year round. While the peaks of the Alps are often snow-capped until late spring, restricting walking to higher routes, England’s gentle topography invites walking at any time of year. From the fresh colours of spring, to the lush bounty of summer, the golden splendour of autumn and the stillness and tranquillity of winter, there is always beauty to be found.

The English mountains are a perpetual stage for walking, with each season promising its own unique charms and experiences.

Sun, rain, adventure

The unique walking weather that is England.

Oliver: The weather in England, with its unique island position in the Atlantic, is a very different experience to that of the Alps. Here, where the sea shapes and directs the weather fronts, the climate is characterised by a fascinating capriciousness. The English mountains, whose heights cannot compete with those of the Alps, are the scene of a constant alternation between sunshine and showers.

The stark beauty of Dartmoor with a walker approaching Yes Tor, with clearing and rain clouds in the background.
A lone walker enjoys the silence on the way to Yes Tor on Dartmoor, where nature reigns supreme.
The stark beauty of Dartmoor with a walker approaching Yes Tor, with clearing and rain clouds in the background.
A lone walker enjoys the silence on the way to Yes Tor on Dartmoor, where nature reigns supreme.

Oliver: Rain is a constant companion, bathing the landscape in a lush green and ensuring that the air is always fresh. But just as quickly as the clouds gather, the sky clears and the sun comes out. This daily change between sun and rain gives each walk a special flavour and makes walking an experience that requires flexibility and adaptability. This daily change between sun and rain gives each walk a special flavour and makes walking an experience that requires flexibility and adaptability.

From London to Munich

From historian to accountant.

Oliver: After graduating in history, I was confronted with the reality of everyday life: I needed a job that would not only allow me to pursue my passion for history, but also pay the rent.

I found the solution in a rather unexpected direction – I decided to train in London to become a chartered accountant under English law.

Oliver: It was a leap into a whole new world. In the years that followed, I immersed myself in the world of numbers and finance, which is structured and precise in a way that history often cannot be.

This training not only gave me the security I was looking for, but also opened doors to new challenges and opportunities that would have a lasting impact on my life.

My first job in Munich

Choosing to live in the mountains.

Oliver: In 1989, after four years of intensive learning and work, I was offered an extraordinary opportunity: a transfer to the Munich partner office of my law firm. The prospect of getting closer to my longing for the mountains was the driving force behind this decision.

But with the move to Munich came the inevitable culture shock. Germany, with its own customs and traditions, was a world of its own. But despite the initial confusion and surprise, I quickly found a sense of belonging and home.

Oliver: The proximity and constant view of the majestic Alps gave me a sense of freedom and fulfilment that I had missed so much in the flat landscape of London.

I stayed in Munich until 1991, when I spent two years travelling the world.

Back to Bavaria

House of Mouse financial management

Oliver: Munich felt like home to me surprisingly quickly. The proximity of the mountains, which is a stark contrast to the flat landscape of London, played a decisive role in my decision to return to Munich for good after an extended trip around the world and another year in the British capital. The Alps had taken a shine to me.

Oliver: But this time my return was linked to an exciting professional challenge. I was offered a unique opportunity to manage the financial affairs of a newly formed Disney subsidiary. The thought of living in Munich for at least two more years and working for such an iconic company was exciting.

Oliver: “Two more years in Munich is cool,” I thought to myself. Immerse myself in the magical world of Disney professionally and enjoy being close to the mountains privately. The decision to stay in Munich was one of the best of my life.

Munich becomes a home away from home

Our family grows

Oliver: My wife Heather, who had accompanied me on my first adventure in Munich – then as a friend – took up the challenge of learning German. She found an attractive job in her field. This success was an important milestone for both of us and a clear sign that Munich could be more than just a temporary phase in our lives.

Oliver:The birth of our three daughters has greatly enriched our lives. But with our eldest about to start school, we were faced with an important decision: Stay or move on? We stayed.

The city offers not only an excellent quality of life, but also a stable and supportive environment for our daughters’ education and development. Looking back, the decision to stay in Munich was one of the best we ever made.

New strength from deepest loss

Oliver’s journey to becoming self-employed.

Elmar: Your wife died shortly before my first wife Gabriele. I always thought that losing your wife and your job at the same time was the worst thing that could happen, and that’s exactly what happened to you. How did you cope with these enormous challenges?

The storm of destiny

Loss and grief.

Oliver: It hit us like a bolt from the blue: Heather became unexpectedly ill in January 2019 and passed away after just four months of brave battle. The shock was deep and the pain almost pulled the rug out from under us. In those hours it seemed almost impossible to look forward. It was an ordeal. Every day I had to learn how to go on living without a loved one.

Oliver: The pain that followed was more than emotional; it was a profound experience that forced me to accept the fragility of life. Navigating through the grief was one of the hardest trials of my life, but it also taught me to rise above the loss and find new strength.

It was a hard blow for our family. It is difficult to look to the future with positivity and motivation after such an event.

From loss to change

I developed resilience.

Oliver: Shortly after losing my beloved Heather, I was faced with another big change: my job at Disney was to be relocated to London. In the midst of my grief, the delay in the move due to the coronavirus pandemic gave me an unexpected reprieve. I had about 14 months to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for this new chapter in my life.

Oliver Jackson bids farewell to Disney and poses next to a cheerful, life-size Olaf Doll.
A moment of transition: Oliver Jackson poses one last time with a life-size Olaf Doll in his office at Disney.
Oliver Jackson bids farewell to Disney and poses next to a cheerful, life-size Olaf Doll.
A moment of transition: Oliver Jackson poses one last time with a life-size Olaf Doll in his office at Disney.

Oliver: This time was crucial in helping me come to terms with the idea of leaving both my late wife and my professional home behind.

In my 27 years at Disney, colleagues have become friends and mentors. The thought of leaving the community that had sustained me for nearly three decades was deeply unsettling. I had to learn to resist at a time of personal loss and professional uncertainty.

From crisis to chance

My life as a lecturer and consultant

Oliver: Today I look back with a feeling of deep satisfaction. The drastic changes allowed me to pause and reflect on what I still wanted out of my professional life. It opened the door to something completely new – an opportunity I might never have considered.

The decision to go freelance and become an English teacher and consultant in my field has enriched my life.

This career change has given me the freedom to organise my life as I see fit. Today, I can decide on the spur of the moment whether I want to go to Portlahorn with you or go skiing with friends on a Monday.

Oliver: Even the preparation for my English courses, which requires a lot of time and commitment, I don’t see as stressful, but as a fulfilling activity that I enjoy.

This new phase of my life is characterised by a balance that I missed before.

Gedankengang

What made you strong in the past?

💬 Your opinion is wanted! I look forward to your feedback, thoughts and stories.

There is more to discover

Stay tuned to find out more and discover what you might like to read.

Happy mood in Lhasa: Detchen with Tibetan roots and a random girl with French flag face paint smiling outside a café during the World Cup.

Between two worlds, my path to myself

Discover the fascination of Tibet, a country where cultural diversity and natural beauty merge. Be inspired by Detchen.

Elliot the dog sits in the snow with a pair of snowshoes in the background, ready for a snowshoe hike in the mountains.

Snowshoeing with dogs

Equipment, preparation, safety: Susanne gives tips on how you and your dog can enjoy snowshoeing responsibly.