An Interview with Mark Walters from ‘Footloose – Sydney to London without flying’ Part 2

Kazakhstan

Welcome to the second part for our interview with author/traveller/SEO wizard Mark Walters, who kindly took time out from a trip around India to answer some questions for our blog. Check out part 1 of the interview here!

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On your amazing journey, you got the chance to be involved in some great and not so great opportunities. What was the best and worse experience on your travels?
 
So many great experiences accumulated over the 9 months. Nearly every country provided an experience I’ll always remember. I’ll go with the random, off the cuff afternoon and evening I spent with a guy in Almaty in Kazakhstan who used to be an officer in the Soviet Union. I met him when we were both sat naked in a sauna and for the next several hours, over multiple beers and dinner, all of which he resolutely insisted on paying for, he regaled me with stories fit for a movie. He took me back to his flat in the suburbs to meet his family, whom we had a second dinner and more beers with, and later drove me, with one closed and in anything but a straight line, back to my hostel. It’s the type of unique experience that offbeat travelling throws up that you won’t find listed in Lonely Planet or on TripAdvisor. Runner-up positions go to cruising past Indonesian islands on a cargo ship, a 3 day Serbian trumpet festival, eating magic mushrooms for breakfast in Amsterdam, and finally setting foot on UK soil again, after all, that time away in foreign lands, knowing that I’d made it the whole way from Australia without taking a single flight. The worst experience, and again there were several to choose from, was my final day in Urumqi in northwestern China. Terrorists letting rip with guns and bombs at a market 1km from my hotel in the morning had me on edge, and I had to spend all day in the rain outside the Kazakh consulate waiting for a visa that I wasn’t sure was coming, before then boarding a shitty 27 hour bus to take me to Kazakhstan.
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Out of all the different cultures, you came across, which one surprised you the most and why?
 
China was the nicest surprise, as I went there expecting a torrid time, thinking that foreigners weren’t really welcome there. I’m not sure where I got that idea from. I think it just seems to be a common assumption, based on ignorance more than anything. It was a false assumption and I felt as welcome there as I did anywhere else I went. Few people there speak English, so I didn’t have many conversations with locals, but I could see and feel the friendliness and warmth. There were stares, but these were curious ones rather than hostile ones, and when I looked back at them and nodded and smiled, 90% of the time I got a nod or a smile back.
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How much did the whole trip cost you from start to finish? Did you manage to stay in budget?
 
I lost track of exactly how much I spent, as I had money coming and out of my bank account, but I think it was between 7,500 to 10,000 GBP in total. I realised by the time I got to Singapore that the 5,000 GBP I had in my bank account at the outset wasn’t going to last me, so I had to start doing some online work as I went to top it up. For anyone who wants to do a similar trip, they could definitely do it for less than 7,500 GBP if they can do some of the following: minimise their time in Australia (which is an expensive place to travel); take a yacht instead of a cargo ship from Australia to Asia; pre-arrange visas for certain countries (China, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan); skip over some of the European countries (which again can be expensive).
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If you had to do the whole trip again, would you do anything differently?
 
If I did it again, I’d book a direct flight from Sydney to London, and save myself 9 months and thousands of pounds. No, only joking. The only thing I’d do differently is to bank more cash before the start, as having to work and travel at the same time isn’t as fun as just outright travelling. It meant I had to stress about internet connections and meeting deadlines, and slowed me down as some days I could have been making progress I had to write off to spend in front of my laptop.
 
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So what’s next for Mark? We know you’re currently on a 1000 km walk across India, is there another book in the pipeline at the end of it? Also have you got any more adventures planned for the future?
At the moment, I’m doing a 2-3 month loop of India on buses and trains, and writing about it as I go, with the book about the trip hopefully coming out about 6 months from now. I had planned to walk 1000km across India, but the walk had a calamitous early curtailment on day 3, as I got picked up by the police for being somewhere I shouldn’t have been. I got held for 6 hours and then got forcibly put on a train to Varanasi, for my own safety apparently, as where I was had “dangerous people and dangerous animals”. A lack of planning was my downfall there, but I won’t change my ways. As for future trips, possibly Rio to New York without flying, and, the big one, Tokyo to Cape Town without flying. Anywhere is an option, though –  the world’s not short of options. Anywhere but Sofia again.
 

If you would like to find out more about Mark and his book his website can be found here www.marktries.com, 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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Kazakhstan