Two brothers who travelled from Northampton to Northampton in Western Australia without using a plane says their adventure shows you don’t need to win the lottery to live a dream.
Ross and Jonathan Marriott set off from Kingsthorpe on June 5, 2014, with nothing but a 40-litre rucksack each, and since then have passed through 27 countries. They have hiked up a volcano, sailed on the world’s deepest freshwater lake and snorkelled with whale sharks.
They have chronicled their adventures, which took just over a year, on a travel blog, calling themselves, “Bruvs with Blisters”.
Here, writing for the Chron, Ross looks back on the trip in his own words:
“Our initial intention was to travel overland to Singapore and catch a cheap flight to Australia but after being told that would be “too easy” by some British military lads in Pristina, Kosovo it quickly manifested into reaching Australia without using a plane. A decision that only added to the sense of achievement and adventure.
Highlights of the 18,819 mile journey include swimming in the freezing waters of Lake Bled (Slovenia), seeing incredible waterfalls at Plitvice National Park (Croatia), having a tour of a NATO military base (Kosovo), having a few too many pints in the ruin bars of Budapest (Hungary), travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway, sailing on the world’s deepest freshwater lake (Lake Baikal, Siberia), trying our hands at archery in Mongolia, walking a section of the Great Wall of China, kayaking in Ha Long and Bai Tu Long Bay (Vietnam), chilling in paradise on Koh Rong Island (Cambodia), tubing in Vang Vieng (Laos), hiking up a volcano in Java (Indonesia) and snorkelling with whale sharks in Ningaloo Reef (Western Australia). To name a few.
It’s not all been smooth sailing and we have learnt first-hand that not everything always goes to plan. In Albania we had to bribe a corrupt officer at the border. Our luck ran out at the Cambodia/Laos border where another corrupt officer conned us into paying an inflated fee. To travel through Sumatra to Jakarta we had to endure a 46 hour bus/ferry journey and to sail from Bali to Australia we had to overstay our Indonesia visa by two days resulting in another “fine” (this wouldn’t normally be an issue but it took the officers two days to agree the fee).
By avoiding flights we have had to utilise a plethora of alternate modes of transport including coaches, trains, taxis, ride shares, ferries, scooters, bamboo rafts, tuk tuks, truck trailers, a yacht and even a water buffalo.
I feel travelling overland has helped us to experience the full spectrum people and landscapes in each country as we have always tried to balance the tourist traps with the back of beyond. It’s a bit like going to London and saying you know what England is all about. In many of the tourist hubs you’re presented with a “window dressed” version and to truly experience a culture you have to go that extra mile to see beyond the stereotype. By avoiding flights you are opening up your travels to more avenues of adventure than is normally possible. It definitely makes for more photo opportunities than being corralled onto a metal airborne box on a 7 hour flight to Bangkok would.
All in all the journey has been unforgettable from start to finish and has proved to us that you don’t need to win the lottery or inherit a fortune from a distant relation to follow a dream. Although you do have to approach things with an open mind. That often means trying unusual street food and staying in some shocking accommodation. In Bukittinggi, Sumatra I had to sleep in a room crawling with bed bugs and in China it’s common for locals to spit everywhere, including the dorm room of your hostel.
Mongolia is a stunning country but it took a lot of resolve to swallow the food the nomadic families provided without causing offence. If you’re a fan of excessively salty, dried mare’s milk or meat jerky so tough it resembles boot leather you will get on fine.
The occasional bout of stomach ache is worth putting up with if it means meeting new people and certainly a lasting insight of our travels is that contrary to what you hear, our world is a friendly place, especially in the poorest countries. Some of these families have no access to the kind of technology we rely on every day, but remain happy nonetheless. In Sumatra a boy challenged me to a few games of chess whilst waiting for a bus. After thrashing me, his mother angrily handed him a schoolbook and he set about drawing some pictures (for what I figured was his homework) with a worn out pencil stub. I had a pack of coloured pencils to pass the time on the journey but gave them to him instead. The look of amazement on his face was unforgettable for me. A gift so common in our world but allowed him to draw the best picture he could. I’m sure if most people gave their children a pack of pencils for Christmas a call to Childline would soon follow.
The charitable hospitality of locals cannot be underestimated as a useful backpacking tool. With sites like Couchsurfer and Helpex you can now stay with families who want to act as guides for nothing in return. These people know sites of interest that aren’t listed in guide books.
We have built lasting friendships with people around the world and all it takes is having the guts to start a conversation.”