She travelled around the world for a year, without detailed plans, without much money, and in the cheapest cars possible. Radar met with Rebecca Marsh to discuss her journey with the Global Convoy which shows adventurous travelling on a budget is not impossible.
Rebecca completed a Fine Art degree in Brighton, before working in museums and galleries and doing a teaching degree. She had always wanted to travel, but the opportunity to leave never came up until she saw an old friend’s post on Facebook.
Max, who had travelled extensively before, was in search of people to join him for his next trip, the Global Convoy.
The plan itself would be simple. To drive around the world, but to do it as cheaply and adventurous as possible, trying to give what ordinary holidays can’t; a real experience and to fully connect with the local environment and people.
Rebecca liked the idea and messaged Max. Soon later she was convinced and on board, seeing it as the chance to leave before getting stuck in a full-time career.
“Buying the car was funny”, she laughs. “Max was scrolling through a list of all the cars he looked up on Gumtree. ‘Do you like this car? Do you like this one? One’s been reduced down to £75', we had a couple bottles of wine and I just said: ‘Stuff it! Get it! Surely it can’t be a waste of time.'”
The very rough itinerary of the Global Convoy was to drive from the UK through Eastern Europe, Central and East Asia, then ship the car to North America, and drive to South America.
An exact plan for places to go to didn’t exist: “Our aim was to try and see how many interesting places we could go to. We were trying to go with the flow.”
The convoy bought two cars, one for £75, one for £150, their prices very noticeable in appearance.
Two months later in Brighton; Rebecca was waiting to be picked up by Max, and the other members she’d spend a year with, Richard and Joel.
“We didn’t really have a huge itinerary because we weren’t sure how long our cars were going to last us, so there wasn’t really much point in planning”, she says.
That assumption was soon confirmed as on their departure day one of the cars had a breakdown, fuel leaks, and lost a tyre, causing them to miss the ferry and fall behind.
But soon both cars started to pick up their first hitchhikers across the channel in France and were accompanied by them through several countries.
Rebecca and her group camped in forests, fields or slept in their cars trying to spend as little as possible. Several sponsors sent them products and some money, slightly increasing their budget.
Having video equipment like DSLRs, drones and action cams the convoy e-mailed hostels asking if they needed promotion videos.
They edited short videos easily on the road. Although they were never paid money, the work they did was highly worth it, e.g. in Mazatlan, Mexico where the convoy stayed over Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
“The hostel owner was great, he gave us a really lovely Christmas dinner. We were never paid for our work. We only ever exchanged it for food or accommodation. It was really nice to have that exchange of skill and something to live.”
Similarly, in Belize, the convoy spent two weeks building an orphanage and home for women on an eco-farm.
Leaving 46 countries on four continents behind Rebecca reflects on her personal highlights.
“I liked them all for different reasons, but definitely in my top three would be Japan, Canada and Peru.
"Japan was interesting because the technology is so advanced, it’s a fascinating way of life. We spent a lot of time in Tokyo, so it was interesting to see a city with such a busy life.
"Canada was absolutely beautiful. Before this trip, I’d never really been out of Europe much and that was the first time I’ve seen massive mountain ranges, covered in snow. It was gorgeous.
"Peru had so much ancient history and was rich in culture. Also, the food like guinea pig or alpaca, it was nice to dive into all the weird interesting aspects that are completely opposite to our lifestyle here.”
What connected all three countries for Rebecca was the friendliness and helpfulness of the people.
“My favourite aspect is being able to learn from other people about their cultures, about nature, their land, being able to meet these people in or from these places and sharing, and exchanging information.
One of her favourite stories takes place in the middle of Kazakhstan’s desert. It was pitch-black with absolutely nobody around when one of the cars broke down and leaked oil. Some of their group got in the other car, they happened to find an oil refinery where the people helped them bring their other car in, fixed it and let them go.
“They didn’t charge us any money for it. And this was all done through sign language and bits of words. We had a great time and they helped us out so much. It wasn’t a life-or-death situation, but we were literally in the middle of nowhere, that could have led to problems. We went from that to being helped by these amazing people that we can’t even communicate with.”
While other people might have had breakdowns in these sort of situations, she and her group were able to keep positive and stay calm, says Rebecca.
Unlike what one would expect from being in a confined space with the same people for a year, there were no arguments or disputes. It was rather the opposite.
“In what we were doing there was no need for arguments because we were all just really appreciative of the situation we were in and enjoying every moment. You see when everyone’s up, everyone’s down, they’re happy, they’re sad because you’re stuck with them. I think because of that you become almost best friends.”
The convoy is currently working on a documentary that they hope to bring out next year. However, their thoughts are already taking them on their next trip.
“A possible future project is to get a double-decker bus because one thing we really enjoyed was the people we met and being able to take them with us.
"That is our aim for the near future, we’re working on the logistics of that.”
345 days, 7 hours, 13 minutes, 44 seconds, says the currently inactive timer on the Global Convoy’s website. In that timespan, 46 countries on 4 continents were travelled and £1,520 was raised for charity.
“My biggest personal achievement during the year was to live on a budget, live basic, live off bare necessities. I felt very pleased showing it can be done. At the end of the day, all we need to do is eat, sleep and enjoy our time.
"I think if you can learn how to cut out all the different things that society pushes onto you, you can enjoy what’s around you. They’re nice, but you don’t need them. Realising it was an achievement and I want to continue doing that. It’s a great way of life and I love it.”
Moments that were unfortunate and would make any outsider appreciate the comfort of their home, have made this trip what it is. The uncertainty of where one might end up has defined many days of Rebecca's life in the past year. It has led her to meet countless people that she can call friends.
Constant uncertainty is what turned the journey into an adventure, and the Global Convoy into a success.