An Interview with Mark Walters from ‘Footloose – Sydney to London without flying’ Part 1

London to Sydney

Welcome to our latest interview, this time, we’ve had the opportunity to interview fellow Brit Mark Walters, experienced traveller and author of Footloose – Sydney to London without flying.

Towards the end of last year while browsing Facebook (such a time waster!) we stumbled across Marks Facebook page ‘Mark Tries‘ being the intriguing nosey types we began reading and was hooked straight away by his witty humour.

Mark has written and published probably the most hilarious and honest travel book we’ve both ever read (and we’ve read a lot, between us). His book Footloose – Sydney to London without flying, documents his 9-month journey from Sydney to London, without taking a single flight, visiting 18 countries, covering 17,000 kilometers. Quite an impressive achievement is you ask us.

Mark’s taken time out from travelling around India to kindly answer some questions for us, to share with you, our readers. Thanks, Mark! Now let’s begin….

Mark Walters

For those who have yet to read your awesome book can you tell us a little about who you are and what you do?

I’m a 33-year-old guy from England who spends most of each year either travelling or working abroad, sometimes combining the two. Since I finished university 10 years ago, I’ve been out of the UK for about 7-8 years of it in total. For the first years, I taught English as a foreign language in Thailand and South Korea and after that I started working as a freelance search engine optimisation consultant, which basically involves helping businesses get their websites to show higher up in Google’s search results. I can work from anywhere so long as I have my laptop and a wifi connection, which is why I’m able to spend so much time abroad. Over the past couple of years, I’ve started writing travel books too, and I hope, with hard work and some luck, to make that my full-time career. Whilst there are a lot of travel writers out there, one thing I think that makes my writing different is a willingness to write honestly and not to blindly tow the line that travelling is always wonderful and enlightening – sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. Another thing is that I to try to keep my writing humorous where possible, as it’s the laughs from travelling that I personally enjoy most. Part Karl Pilkington, part Michael Palin, is how I’d describe the approach I take.
Sydney to London

Skyscrapers of Singapore

Your book ‘Footloose – Sydney to London without flying’ is a travel memoir of your quest to travel from Sydney to London without flying. When and how did this idea first come about and how much planning was involved before you set off?
I read a book called the ‘Wrong Way Home’ by Peter Moore whilst I was at university, and in that book he writes about a trip he did from London to Sydney without flying. Reading that book about the random weird and wonderful places he passed through made me feel that I really knew very little of the world and that I needed to look beyond the bubble I’d be living in. It inspired me to want to do something similar one day and 8 years after reading it, the time and money stars finally aligned for me and gave me the chance to try it for myself. I purposely did no planning before setting off as I wanted an adventure and I feel planning hinders adventures. I literally just booked a ticket to Sydney and decided to work it out as I went from there. I didn’t even know where the next stop after Sydney would be. This lack of planning is evident in me travelling the whole length of Australia up to Darwin in the north to try and get on a yacht going to Asia, only to get up there to find that it was the monsoon season and no yachts would be leaving for 3-4 months. I then had to travel the whole length of Australia again in order to get on a cargo ship leaving from Perth in the south. That’s the risk taken without planning but it adds to the excitement of the trip, as you mostly don’t know where you’re going to be from one day to the next.
sydney to london

Street art in Penang, Malaysia

When you arrived in Sydney at the beginning of your trip, did you experience any second thoughts on why the hell are you doing this?
Not at the beginning, no. The start of a trip is full of hope and excitement. The first time I experienced second thoughts was when I got up to Darwin and hit the obstacle of the monsoon season. Then I questioned if it was really worth it. Was it really worth spending another 50 hours on buses, and spending 2000 USD on a cargo ship, to spend a week at sea, when I could just fly to Asia for 200 USD? I wasn’t sure but decided that I couldn’t fold at the first problem. You have to push on through problems and doubts when travelling otherwise you won’t get far. There were other times I had second thoughts, like when I had to go off-piste in China too where I’d specifically been told not to go, and when I had to cross the whole of Kazakhstan to get a boat that might not even have existed, but, again, I rode through the doubts. Doubt is the enemy of success and I’m sure it’s been the end of many who have tried to do or thought about doing, long trips like mine.
Sydney to London

Mark’s room in Bangkok which he stayed in for 3 weeks!

Your extraordinary journey took you through 3 continents and 18 countries visiting some amazing places. Which was your most and least favourite place, and why?
Asking me to choose a favourite is like asking a parent who their favourite kid is! I won’t bottle out of it, though. I’ll plump for Thailand’s Bangkok, a place that wasn’t new to me but which never fails to deliver. It seamlessly mixes local charms with international comforts, is home – temporary or permanent – to a mad cast of characters, and has the best street food of anywhere. It’s a place I’ll keep on going back to. Honourable mentions go to Luang Prabang in Laos, Signaghi in Georgia and Goreme in Turkey. Choosing the worst is easy – Sofia in Bulgaria. There were other equally nondescript places, but Sofia is a capital city and so the benchmark should be higher. It’s a grim, grey ex-communist city with no redeeming points other than the cheapness of alcohol there. If anyone tells you they went to Sofia and thought it was good, I bet you they were pissed for the duration of the visit and so can’t accurately remember. Their testimony wouldn’t be valid in a court of law.
Sydney to London
Now for anyone who has read your book, knows that you have a real love for one type of footwear, the flip flop! I couldn’t believe you went the whole trip (including a trip up a mountain) wearing flip flops. Why are they your favourite choice of footwear, what makes them so good?
I got into wearing flip flops when I moved to Thailand to teach English and they were the most common choice of footwear for guys there. Before that, I was a flip flop virgin and had written them off as a classless choice for people who couldn’t afford anything better – how wrong I was. They’re inexpensive, comfortable, convenient, low maintenance, hard wearing and waterproof – plus they mean you don’t have to waste money and bag space on socks.
 So that’s part 1 the interview, part 2 will follow soon and can be found here when published, keep an eye out!

If you would like to find out more about Mark and his book his website can be found here, where you can read excerpts of his book. If you want to buy his book, you can get it on Amazon here, by following this link you can also read the first 10% of the book for free. Go give it a try, you won’t regret it!

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