I’ve wanted to do a Charity Jailbreak for as many years as I’ve been out of school, and then some. For my first couple of years at Exeter, I was either bogged with work at the time (silly fresh) or too wary of the unforeseen return costs, to take on the challenge. But this year, I decided it would be different. My boyfriend and I thought about it for about ten minutes, signed up and took the leap (bravely or perhaps stupidly, considering we’ve only been together a few months…)
After all, I’m going on a Year Abroad next year, and when I return for fourth year, I’ll probably be a) too jaded and b) too busy to do Jailbreak when I come back. Or maybe not. My experience this year makes me want to try and beat my record; both for fundraising and how far we travelled!
There’s one little thing that bugged me though. Well, other than the on-and-off rain, the scornful looks of some passers-by and the 12 hours we spent stuck at Cobham Services on the M25.
What I wanted to talk about, and what I don’t think enough people consider, is just how much money is wasted through fundraising for flights, and the sheer number of teams who do that rather than truly hitchhiking all the way and using no money at all. I think that out of 56 teams, perhaps 10 of those committed to hitchhiking and raising money solely for the charities, rather than for their travel.
Consider this; a team hitchhikes to London, spends a few hours raising money in a busy area, uses the raised money to buy flights to Europe, makes their way to one of the London airports and ta-dah, they’ve managed to get hundreds of miles away without, technically, spending any of their own money. But is that really in the spirit of the challenge? Those couple of hundred pounds spent on a flight could make an enormous difference to the charities we were raising for; Balloons Devon, Cancer Research and our own Exeter Student Volunteers. Spending it on getting somewhere for a nice weekend away doesn’t sit quite right with me.
My boyfriend and I hitchhiked all the way from Exeter to Rouen, France, without raising money for our travel AT ALL.
We relied solely on the kind strangers who picked us up at service stations en-route, and onwards from Calais once we’d gotten onto the ferry. We made it onto the ferry as foot passengers when someone offered to buy us tickets; we didn’t ask people for money to do this! Hitchhiking in Dover or Folkestone is, to put it mildly, a headache.
Particular shout outs go to Jamie, who rescued us with a lift from Cobham Services (but also tried to sell us Juice Plus, don’t ask) and Jesse and Corinne, who took us from Calais to Rouen despite having a packed car, and put us up in a hotel overnight so that we could wait for the first train to Paris in the morning!
We’ve raised nearly £500 as a combination of donations to our online page and donations along the way.
We probably didn’t focus as much as we could have on raising money en route, because we were concentrating on getting lifts and keeping our morale up; probably a slightly harder task tan just raising enough money to buy a flight. Some will disagree with me.
And to be honest, the trials and tribulations of the journey probably did a great deal more for my relationship than just hopping on a flight. You learn a lot about how you get on with someone when you’re trapped at Cobham Services with them for 12 hours. Would we have gotten a lot further if we hadn’t gotten stuck? Definitely. We spent 1/3 of our time there! Was it our fault? Nope. Just the luck of the draw.
If RAG continue to allow people to fundraise for flights, I think there should be two competitions, because really, there’s no chance that someone who’s only hitchhiking is going to make it as far as someone who has the whole destination board at Heathrow Airport to choose from.
For all the highs and lows, I wouldn’t change a second, and I would recommend it to anyone! However you do it, Jailbreak shows you the very best of people, and I’d jump at the chance to do it again!