LOG IN HERE
Username
Password

arrow Register here

Forgotten password?

THE CHATTER BOX

 
 †
† 
  The Chatter Box : Blathering On
 †
 †
† 
 
AN INTERVIEW WITH KARL BUSHBY WHO IS WALKING AROUND THE WORLD by kidjuxta on 20 May 2009 5:30pm
 
AN INTERVIEW WITH KARL BUSHBY



For those folk who are unfamiliar with the name Karl Bushby, ex-paratrooper Karl hails from Hull. For over ten years he has been on the road in a world record-breaking attempt to walk all the way back to the UK from the southern tip of South America: a breathtaking journey of approximately 36,000 miles, over four continents, through twenty-five countries, and through six deserts and over seven mountain ranges. Determined to leave an unbroken trail of footprints all the way from Patagonia, Karl's remarkable progress has so far got him into Russia. Unfortunately, due to a mixture of bureaucracy and climatic factors, at the moment he is only able to walk for three months per year when the rivers freeze over at the height of the Russian winter.

Refusing to head back to the UK in the down-time when he's not walking (he insists that the only way he'll return to the UK is on foot), Karl has been spending time in Mexico between expedition sessions, seeking fresh sponsorship whilst generating enough income to tide him over by doing motivational talks and educational presentations.

Having so far fought his way through some of the most challenging environments on earth, primarily in the form of The Darien Gap and The Bering Strait, Karl is certainly no stranger to finding himself ensconced in extraordinary situations.

Whilst doing some travelling of his own, fellow Yorkshire vagabonder Steve Rudd recently caught up with Karl on Mexico's beautiful Pacific Coast at Melaque. Naturally, he had more than a few questions ready to fling in Karl's direction. Encouragingly, Karl responded with a barrage of no-nonsense answers that sent Steve reeling. In turns inspirational, intriguing and unflinching, what are you about to read genuinely could change your life in a beat.

Without further ado, it's over to Steve and Karl - so brace yourselves...



HI KARL, HOW ARE THINGS?



Struggling valiantly are the words I would choose, but I do realise that things could be a damn sight worse.



SO HOW ARE THINGS GOING WITH YOUR 'GOLIATH EXPEDITION' AND YOUR PLAN TO WALK HOME TO THE UK FROM THE TIP OF SOUTH AMERICA?



The situation could be better. I am caught in a complicated triangle of obstacles. First of all, from a financial perspective, the expedition has no sponsors and has long reached the bottom of the money barrel. Secondly, from a political perspective, new Russian visa restrictions are slowing everything down. Finally, from an environmental perspective, in regards to the complex terrain I find myself in. I currently have my Ďflagí planted in Bilibino, far North East Russia, in the middle of the tundra above the Arctic Circle. Because of the large rivers and huge areas of wetlands, travel on foot can only be carried out in the winter months, entailing a robust and expensive logistical train. This combination of issues is causing all sorts of problems and the timing could not be worse given the current global economic glitch. Last August it looked as if we had hit the jackpot in a sponsorship agreement with a large company and a growing team of business professionals looking to get on board bringing the kind of business acumen we could certainly use. Then came the economic crisis, and everything vanished overnight. So here I amÖ challenged. Just the thing I thrive on, right?



YOU HAVE BEEN ON THE ROAD FOR TEN YEARS ALREADY AND YOU ARE ROUGHLY HALFWAY IN TERMS OF MILEAGE COVERED, DEPENDING OF COURSE ON WHICH ROUTE YOU TAKE ACROSS RUSSIA. DO YOU THINK THAT THE MOST CHALLENGING SECTIONS OF THE EXPEDITION ARE BEHIND YOU, OR DO YOU THINK THE TYPE OF TERRAIN, COUNTRIES, PEOPLE AND BUREAUCRACY THAT YOU ARE YET TO EXPERIENCE COULD BE JUST AS CHALLENGING AS ANYTHING YOU HAVE SO FAR ENCOUNTERED?



Theoretically speaking, the toughest and more obvious challenges with regards to terrain are behind me. Whether or not this expedition was achievable fundamentally depended on me crossing The Bering Strait. However, in learning about and understanding the nature of travel in this Northern climate, I soon realised that life beyond The Bering Strait would be no stroll in the park either. Travel will remain gruelling until I can find my way back south to the major road systems. Itís hard to imagine a world more demanding than the region I will be travelling through. Chukotka is bureaucratically top heavy, extremely remote, with very little or no infrastructure. The logistics and associated cost in a -40°C climate would be challenging for a well-financed team, let alone an individual like myself. Once out of the tundra, I expect everything to get a lot easier, including year-round travel. The further south I get, the less demanding the environment, the more substantial the infrastructure, the cheaper to live and move.



AFTER MAKING HISTORY BY CROSSING THE BERING STRAIT, YOU ENTERED RUSSIA WHERE YOU IMMEDIATELY ENCOUNTERED PROBLEMS WITH THE BUREAUCRACY. SINCE FIRST WADING ONTO DRY RUSSIAN LAND, YOU HAVE TREKKED APPROXIMATELY 1,000 MILES INTO RUSSIA. HOW HAVE YOU MANAGED THIS IF THE RUSSIAN AUTHORITIES ARE ONLY WILLING TO ISSUE A THREE-MONTH VISA AT A TIME? ARE THEY REALLY NOT WILLING TO MAKE ANY EXCEPTIONS WHATSOEVER?



It's a little complicated. You are dealing with two main players here: the Local Government and the Federal. To get into Russia you need a visa; to get into Chukotka you also need a special permit called a 'Propusk'. Chukotka has additional security restrictions for those from outside the region. The Propusk comes in two parts: one granted by local government, the other by the federal, i.e. Border Guard and security apparatus. The trouble is they don't seem to talk to each other very much. One may issue you with a six-month Propusk, but the other only 3 months. For the first few legs in Chukotka, the ĎFedsí played hardball by only granting 3-month stays. At the time I had a one-year multi-entry visa but could not use it as such. However, just as Iím at the point where I can walk out of Chukotka and be done with the 3-month Propusk issue, Moscow changed its visa regulations. Now I can only stay in Russia for 90 days, then I have to leave for 90 days before seeking to return. Give me a break! We have sent letters explaining the case and requesting some form of a visa waiver, allowing a longer period within the country, to all sorts of governmental departments in both English and Russian, but as yet not one reply. All of this, combined with the expeditionís very specific rules (advancing without the aid of transport, and not returning to the UK unless on foot), creates a unique puzzle that needs funding. Once back in Russia, it can take up to a month just to get myself, plus everything I need, back to the start point where Iíd left off. And so it goes on. Once outside Chukotka and off the tundra itís just about moving, eating and visas.



YOU ARE DOWN ON THE PACIFIC COAST OF MEXICO AT THE MOMENT. WHY EXACTLY ARE YOU DOWN THERE, AND WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING SINCE YOUR LAST BOUT OF WALKING?



Having had to leave Russia for the fourth time, I returned - as I had on the other occasions - to Alaska. I then received a 3-month visa for the US. Once that expired I faced what we call the 'visa dance'. Remember: I cannot return to the UK. Now, with very little money, I have to find a new host country whilst attempting to organize my return trip to Russia. In this case I was lucky. A friend in Alaska was driving down to see family in Tucson, Arizona, and offered me a lift. This got me within a stoneís throw of the Mexican border. My concern at the time was to find somewhere I could hide away that was cheap. So Mexico was a good option. I then moved south down the Pacific Coast in search of an inexpensive location that I could work from. I had not been here long before the financial crashÖ and all my hopes and plans for a winter return to Russia went out the window. Right now Iím forced to focus on living on a dwindling bank account and finding an income while we find the support needed to get back on the ground.



WHEN DO YOU HOPE TO RETURN TO WHERE YOU STOPPED WALKING LAST TIME IN RUSSIA? WHAT DOES BEING ABLE TO RETURN DEPEND ON THE MOST? THE WEATHER, OR GAINING NEW SPONSORSHIP?



At the moment I have no idea how long this process is going to take, therefore no idea of a return date. In our three-way obstacle course it's a Ďchicken or eggí scenario. If Moscow cuts me some slack on the visa and grants a year-long extension, then we may be able to muster the cash to organize a return trip that would be worthwhile. If they don't, then we have to find funding that can carry us for the next few years on the Ď3 months in, 3 months outí routine. The expedition has to be in a position where we could pro-actively seek that kind of support. At present the expedition lacks the professional skills to market itself at a competitive level. In short, it would cost us money to get to the point where we could start touting for the funding we need to get back on the ground. On top of that, of course, are the seasonal factors. Winter journeys on foot through that region are extremely harsh, but in the summer months theyíre impossible.



NOW YOU ARE IN THE THROES OF CROSSING RUSSIA AT THIS STAGE IN YOUR EXPEDITION, ARE YOU FINDING IT MORE DIFFICULT FOR SPONSORS TO COME FORWARD? WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?



From Day One, the back-up team (my father) and I realised that Latin America would be the proving ground. Once I had provided the blood, sweat and tears, and crossed over the border into the US, then folks would see I was determined to complete this odyssey. At that point we gained credibility. I also began to gain media attention which was hugely important. Consequently, a sponsor turned up out of the blue. Itís largely to do with the target audiences of the companies concerned. As I entered their target audience they got on-board, and as I left for Russia they took a step back. From a business perspective that's understandable. That's part of the picture. Sponsorship is also utterly dependent on the financial circumstances of the company. It goes without saying that in these days of global belt-tightening, companies are going to look very closely at any form of sponsorship. The sponsorship we have had seems to have come from someone within various companies that relates to the idea of the expedition. It has never been on a formal contract basis and it has therefore been easy for the company to pull the plug as and when they wanted. However, now it's time to start thinking about new marketsÖ those of Asia and Europe.



It's a bit of a paradox really, that at a time when the expedition is at its least visible, we are at a stage that requires a financial boost. This is being forced upon us by the remoteness and logistics required for that part of Russia. It is for this reason that we are being pushed into marketing. The expedition really needs outside help from professionals with the kind of contacts and networking abilities to move effectively in this sphere.



DID YOU STRUGGLE TO GAIN SPONSORSHIP WHEN YOU WERE WALKING NORTH THROUGH THE AMERICAS, OR DID YOU PASS THROUGH SUCH COUNTRIES AT A TIME WHEN THE GLOBAL ECONOMY WAS STRONG ENOUGH FOR VARIOUS COMPANIES TO BE LESS DAUNTED ABOUT TAKING A RISK ON YOU AND YOUR MIND-BLOWING PLAN TO WALK AROUND THE WORLD?



We had virtually no support until Panama. By then the expedition had a website and, after crossing the Darien Gap, some credibility. Our first success was gaining the support of The North Face UK, and though this was material assistance with clothing and equipment and not financial, it was a big deal for us, and luckily we still have their support. Our financial support came after I'd entered the US, from the Canadian web hosting company, SoftCom. Though not a large amount by expedition standards, it was more than adequate, as this expedition has always been run on a shoestring. However, this dried up a year or two ago. We have also had donations from people who can relate to the expedition and wish to help out, all of which goes towards keeping us afloat. One of the main sponsorship problems boils down to the fact that this expedition is way outside the type of 'box' that most company marketing teams would look at. It is unique and cannot be pigeonholed, the two main factors being the time frame and lack of celebrity. As the expedition enters Europe (and media interest rises), then we believe companies will be willing to jump on-board.



OTHER THAN TRYING TO FIND NEW SPONSORSHIP WHILE YOU ARE DOWN IN MEXICO, WHAT ELSE HAVE YOU BEEN UPTO? HAVE YOU DONE ANY TALKS OR PRESENTATIONS TO EDUCATE AND INSPIRE ANY SCHOOL GROUPS, FOR EXAMPLE?



Right now giving presentations or telling the story is one preferable method of staying afloat. It keeps me in the right frame of mind and within the relevant subject matter, rather than waiting tables. At the moment my presentations are aimed at tourists groups here in Mexico. This involves moving with tourist season trends. See the things you get yourself into just trying to walk around the world?



HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO KEEP IN SHAPE WHILE YOU ARE NOT WALKING?



Itís very important; these gaps along the way don't do one any good at all. Getting back on the ground can involve having to beat yourself back into shape in a very painful fashion if you don't keep on top of things. Once I have an idea of a return date I can work on a build-up routine. It's just as important though to make sure I don't do anything too stupid and get injured. Itís always a fear that after all itís taken to get to this point, I could do something that would cause me problems for years or even finish the expedition there and then. But generally speaking, once back on the ground, youíll go through what I call an initial 'Hell Week' as the body gets back into its groove.



OF ALL THE PLACES THAT YOU COULD 'RETURN' TO ONCE THE CONDITIONS TURN TOO UNFAVOURABLE IN RUSSIA FOR YOU TO CONTINUE WALKING, WHY DO YOU CHOOSE MELAQUE IN MEXICO?



Again, more by chance than design. Mexico is inexpensive, the environment favorable, and I know this culture. If you dropped me off in a small rural town anywhere in South or Central America I would feel at home, having spent years on the road here. The cultural differences here favour someone in my position. Firstly, living is comparatively cheaper, and right now that's becoming more of a priority. In Fairbanks, Alaska, itís just not designed for someone like me. US towns and cities are designed around the drive-through principle. Everything is spread far and wide, and at -40°C, with blowing snow, it's a right royal pain. You have to eat twice as much just to stay alive. Here I have everything I need on a daily basis in a four-block radius, and itís 28°C today. Getting stuck in the right place helps with my temperament and stress levels.



IN THE PERIODS OF TIME BETWEEN BURSTS OF WALKING, DO YOU FIND THAT YOU LOOK BACK AND REFLECT ON ALL THE INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCES THAT YOU HAVE HAD SO FAR, OR DO YOU FIND YOURSELF LOOKING FORWARD TO ALL THE EXPERIENCES LOOMING ON THE HORIZON?



Firstly you need to understand this Ďstop and startí phase people have seen recently with the expedition: it's only because of the nature of the challenge right now. The idea is to get back on the road full-time and to do away with this expensive Ďstop-startí misfortune.



Ebbs and flows. Living in past moments and experiences is how we plan for the future. We draw on the past to find the clues to help deal with the next party trick, whether consciously or sub-unconsciously. More so here, I think. Being back in a Latin culture, of course, takes me back to years past. Iíve been here in Melaque before. Six years ago I strolled into town on the way north and made friends. That has something to do with why I weighed anchor here again. Then there is the highway. Itís odd, but I have such a close, strange relationship with this dusty, bustling stretch of road: the Pan-American. Itís like meeting an old friend from long ago. Each stretch over the entire length of this continent has its own character and personality, and - for me - a unique set of memories and characteristics. There is an odd, comforting feeling standing on the ĎPan-Amí, similar to the one you may expect to experience when arriving home after a long time away. I cannot travel along this road without one wary eye looking for a suitable tenting site, as in the good old days. So that's why I think I'm drawn back to familiar territory.



AT ANY POINT ON YOUR EXPEDITION HAVE YOU DOUBTED YOUR ABILITY TO COMPLETE THE HISTORY-MAKING CHALLENGE THAT YOU SET YOURSELF MORE THAN TEN YEARS AGO?



No! I just wish I could convince people fully. For some reason they still ask.



IF NO NEW SPONSORS COME FORWARD SOON, WHAT DO YOU THINK MIGHT HAPPEN IN REGARDS TO THE EXPEDITION? ARE YOU DETERMINED TO PUSH ON NO MATTER WHAT?



It goes on. Let's look at why Iím doing this. I had been serving with the Parachute Regiment based in Dover. Standing on those famous white cliffs on a good day I could see continental Europe, the coast of France a mere twenty-one miles away across the Channel. I spent a great deal of time there, challenged by an image in my mind. If I looked very hard, it was as if I could make out the silhouetted image of an individual on the other side. I knew him, it was me - only I barely recognized him. My burning desire was to know the man on the other side, what he had seen and lived through, what it had taken to arrive at that point in my distant future. This truly is the heart and soul of my whole endeavor: to one day look back across the English Channel at a naive young man about to make a choice that will define his life. A choice that he could never truly understand. It's about that question: ďWhat would it take to get home?Ē On a journey the world told me could not be done. That's what itís about. Itís not about book deals, fundraising, or even walking. Itís the challenge and realization of a dream. Itís to learn of that life and to know I did not flinch.



People naturally assume I like to walk. I don't. Itís mostly quite boring. When you do it all day, every day, itís hard on you in so many ways. But that's the pointÖ doing this on foot, not by bike or car, puts it into a whole new perspective. It's a whole new ball game. Itís about resistance to the daily wear and tear that demands so much more from you, but that's what makes it so rewarding; that's what makes the nature of this journey. Itís no coincidence that I left my life as a British Paratrooper for a journey on foot. The idea was born within a culture that lives and fights on its feet. In that regiment it was all about being able to fight on two feet over long distances, self-sufficiently. That means carrying everything with you and being able to do it in any environment for extended time frames. That's why Iím on foot, because we know how challenging it is, and itís just the way we do it. Iím not so much walking around the world as 'Tabbing'.



DURING YOUR TREK NORTH, THROUGH SOUTH, CENTRAL AND NORTH AMERICA, YOU KEPT DIARIES, THE BULK OF WHICH WERE SUBSEQUENTLY TRANSFORMED INTO THE PHENOMENALLY POPULAR BOOK 'GIANT STEPS.' HAVE YOU BEEN SURPRISED BY HOW WELL THE BOOK HAS SOLD AND HOW MUCH SUPPORT YOU HAVE GARNERED FOR WHAT YOU ARE DOING?



I'm totally amazed that so many people have read the book. I believed it would be too specialised and only of interest to a niche audience. I would never have imagined it possible a number of years ago. I will be eternally grateful to the people who were willing to invest in such a project, as the book deal paid for the vast majority of the Northern journey through Alaska and across The Bering Straits.



WHEN YOU FIRST SET OUT ON DAY ONE, DID YOU HOPE TO INSPIRE OTHERS TO LEAD LIVES LESS ORDINARY, OR WAS THAT NEVER YOUR INTENTION?



It really never was on the radar screen. Day One was about surviving the next 'x' number of years. Faced with great uncertainties for years to come, with no support, it was hard to envision anything much beyond not messing up big style. Most days revolved around finding something to eat and somewhere to sleep. Usually I was dusty, dirty and hungry, and it seems to me that I didn't paint a particularly inspiring picture. As the years have gone by, I have received wonderful messages of support on the website from all over the world, lots from those who say the expedition has been an inspiration to their own lives. I find this humbling and yet very rewarding.



IF THERE IS ONE OVER-RIDING THING THAT YOU'VE LEARNT FROM YOUR TIME ON THE ROAD, WHAT IS IT?



Getting out there and doing something can really change your life. The realisation of just how much you don't know. The benefits that come from being willing to take that calculated risk. Believing in your own capabilities when others doubt you, and the importance of broadening your horizons. I cannot say I have learnt that much new about myself. After twelve years in the Army I knew just where my limits lay, what I could and could not do, and I had a fair idea about how I would perform under certain conditions. What I have really learnt about are other people. It may be fair to say that as a soldier we didnít always see the best side of some people. In so many ways I have rediscovered my faith in humanity. It seems to me that I have met the best the world has to offer. From the poorest of the poor to the richest, and from individuals to governments, by far the vast majority helped me along the road at some point. It has been a real eye-opener. Beneath the thin veil of cultural differences, on a one-to-one basis, we are all exactly the same. The same wants, needs and hopes in life. It's amazing, if not downright disastrous, how we lose that humanity and how it all goes horribly wrong when it comes to group-thinking. I have distanced myself from religions, or rather the horror and ignorance they seem to engender. I have also become increasingly concerned about our ability to achieve the collective goal of sustainability, with that aim being sabotaged by misdirection.



HAVE YOU BEEN SURPRISED BY THE KINDNESS SHOWN BY ALL THE STRANGERS YOU HAVE MET, OR DID YOU EXPECT RANDOM SHOWS OF KINDNESS ALL ALONG?



Itís been mind-blowing. From Day One, right through to the Arctic tundra in Russia , people have been overwhelmingly generous. I met people so poor they lived by the side of a desert road in huts built from nothing more than cardboard and car parts held together by string. Yet if all they could offer was a bowl of rice, they would, and they sought nothing in return other than to please the stranger in their humble home. From my first days in Patagonia, strangers have demonstrated the best of what we are. Today I care more about people than I ever have, because I know we are worth it now. For every one person that has sought to ruin my day, there have been a thousand that have offered me shelter or crossed the road simply to shake my hand. This has been an enlightening part of the journey, and it's far from over. I have spoken to others who have travelled extensively in remote, and not so remote areas, and their opinions are unanimous, reflecting mine. Their voices could all do with hearing more often. At the most basic level, we are one voice looking for the same thing; you have to wonder how we manage to get it so wrong as often as we do. Over the last few years I have been looking at how we might use the countless, incredible experiences and stories from this odyssey to highlight this picture of the world and bring it into the open. Iím hoping to find someone who can help me do thisÖ



WHAT HOPES DO YOU HAVE FOR THE REMAINDER OF 2009, AND WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE YOURSELF AT THIS TIME NEXT YEAR?



Right now Iím in a tight spot. The worst place to run short of money and lose our sponsors would be somewhere like the very remote Russian Arctic tundra, and that's where it has happened. The worst time to be stuck, and in dire need of sponsorship, is in the midst of a global economic crisis, and I am. I really need the winter to be able to move right now and weíve just lost a season. When and how I move will depend on my ability now to find the helping hand I need. Some see this as an activity separate from or outside of the expedition. But not me. Remember what this odyssey is about? Itís about that question which came to me on the cliffs at Dover .What would it take for a man to get home to England from the southern tip of South America, on foot, unassisted by transport? What would it take? Remember those two basic rules that bind me. This is nothing more than part of the story and part of the answer to that question. This is part of what it takes. From endless desert roads, fighting thieves in the night, evading Colombian guerillas in the jungle, eating rubbish found on the side of the road, stumbling blindly over a cliff in a snow storm, falling in love and having your heart ripped out, being jailed in distant lands, walking 18,000 miles, sitting with a laptop solving marketing problems. Welcome to the first true odyssey of the twenty-first century!



FINALLY, WHAT IS THE BEST WAY FOR PEOPLE TO KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH ALL NEWS RELATED TO YOUR 'GOLIATH EXPEDITION.' ALSO, WHAT IS THE BEST WAY FOR POTENTIAL SPONSORS TO CONTACT YOU?



Without doubt through the website... www.goliathexpedition.com



All the details you need are on there, and I hope there is something of interest for everyone. Now stop reading this, and get out and do something!



(Questions by Steve Rudd; Answers by Karl Bushby)


 
Re: AN INTERVIEW WITH KARL BUSHBY WHO IS WALKING AROUND THE WORLD by johnnythemonkey on 20 May 2009 7:03pm
 
I really enjoyed reading that. I had to take a day off work to do so though.
 



  Reply to this post:
 
 
  Username 
 
 
  Password 
 
 
 
 
  Register here
 

INSTRUCTIONS

Select a discussion theme.
Register (or log in if you have not yet done so).

To start a new discussion topic:

Write the name of the topic in the 'Subject' box.
Type your message in the larger box to contribute.
Click 'Submit'.

To join a discussion topic:

Click on the discussion topic of your choice.
Type your message in the larger box to contribute.
Click 'Submit'.

To edit your message:

You can edit a message at any time after posting it as long as you're signed in.
Click on the 'Edit your message' link above the message.
Make your desired changes.
Click 'Submit'.

If you find you don't want to change the message after all, click on 'Return without changes'.

To set a chatmark:

Register (or log in if you have not yet done so).
Click on the "Set chatmark" link on the Chatter Box pages. This will set the time at which you have logged in.
Click on the "Go to chatmark" link to see all messages posted since you set your chatmark.

You can set your chatmark at any time and as often as you like.