“The breakdowns, the moments when everything goes catastrophically wrong, those are the times when everything becomes worthwhile.”
It’s not your usual travel guide pitch, but it pretty much sums up the ethos of the band of travellers who make up Global Convoy.
Adventure, excitement and seat-of-the-pants decision-making takes them round the world – and they believe anyone can go along for the ride.
Becca Marsh, Joel Chevaillier, Max White and Vanessa Reital are the nucleus of a loose affiliation of thrill-seekers who’re willing to take you almost anywhere if you share their ‘no-pain no gain’ attitude.
Joel paints the picture. “We were on a stretch of road in Kazakhstan which we’d dubbed Fury Road. We’d missed a turn and we wound up on a dirt track which looked like it had been shelled. Some of the potholes were bigger than the cars.”
“It was supposed to take us 12 hours to get through but it took three days. It started to rain, the cars were sliding everywhere and we kept getting stuck. At our lowest point, in the middle of the night, we hit rock bottom. We were cold, tired, wet and muddy and were rocking a car back and forth trying to free it. “
“Suddenly Becca says ‘Look – it’s a frog’. And it was. So unexpected, we burst out laughing at the ridiculousness. No-one lost their cool, we all just dug deep and got the job done.”
The group has already run a series of trips, some short, some long, and built up a following on social media who are keen to join the next adventure.
“We don’t ask for any money up front,” Becca explains. “We come up with the ideas, do the planning, work out approximate costs then invite people to join us.”
It all began a few years ago with Max and the Mongol Rally.
“The idea is to buy a terrible car and drive from London to Mongolia. There’s no support, no help, no back-up team. You’re on your own and you’re very likely to break down in some weird places.”
“I saw that as a fun challenge. The more we broke down and met local people the more I thought, wow, this is what I want to do forever.”
“I spent about a year after that fantasising about doing it some more. So I put out a bunch of calls on Facebook for some like-minded people. I wanted to try to get around the world for a year and not many have the time to commit to that. But Joel and Becca were among the first to come on board.”
And it’s just grown from there. Using Facebook and other social sharing networks Global Convoy is a 21st century version of what we experienced in the 1980s. In those days it was notes pinned to a hostel board asking people if they wanted to share costs of a trip up a mountain, to hike a glacier or get from one side of an island to another. Now it’s all about internet access and apps.
But the result is much the same.
During that first trip they began to work together more closely and they’ve fallen naturally into different roles.
Becca, the researcher and planner, looking at places to go and costs. Max, the logistics man deciding on routes and travel issues. Joel is their main negotiator, both in advance to get the supplies they need and en route, seeking out the cheapest or most unusual places to eat or stay.
On their most recent trip to Estonia, Vanessa came to the fore as Max explains. “Vanessa was one of the first hitchhikers we ever picked up three years ago. We drove her from Germany to Estonia and she liked what we did and has been involved ever since. We found flights for £14 and as Vanessa knew the country and could help us make the arrangements it was a done deal – and it was awesome!”
Joel chimes in “We went from snow to sauna to snow to sauna to vodka to snow!”
One of the ways the group makes decisions is with the flick of coin, a technique they adopted on their first trip together. Becca says it’s the fairest way with a big group. “No-one can accuse anyone of bias or influence. We just toss that coin.”
They can ask the coin for small choices like whether or not to get a beer or more far-reaching ones like what road to take.
Max says something really interesting happens at the coin-toss moment. “Often I don’t really mind, I have no strong feelings either way. But when that coin’s spinning in the air I suddenly realise I want one really badly!”
Once in a while they will go against the coin. “In Estonia we asked ‘Do we go and explore a frozen waterfall?’ and it came up negative. But we all just decided ‘F@*k that’ and went and did it anyway!”
They keep the rules of Global Convoy to a minimum but co-operation is key. And one thing is vital – no drugs. “Especially when we’re crossing borders. We own the vehicles and it’s our responsibility, even if we don’t actually know what people may have. So that’s it. If you have any substances you have to take ’em or toss ’em.”
Travelling in a group does bring its own rewards. Members help out if things get a bit hairy and they all support each other. But Joel is very clear you need to know what’s involved.
“You will have fun but it’s not relaxing. It’s an adventure, not a holiday. There are times on the trip when you will be uncomfortable, you will be in pain, you will be cold, tired, hungry. There will be moments where you don’t want to do it anymore, but if you don’t get those moments you don’t appreciate the best times.”
They’re all working hard to save up enough for their next trip, Mayhem 19.
“It would be nice if we could get sponsored to do these trips, and we do get some help from firms giving us supplies and stuff, but the reality is that we need to work as well.”
But, and this is key to the whole Global Convoy ethos, they try to travel sustainably, making just enough to live on, negotiating good deals for food and accommodation that bring benefits to the local communities they visit.
And they have fun while they do it.
As Joel says, “Just get out there!”
More information about Global Convoy
If you’re the sort of person who could tackle Fury Road, wild camp under the stars or don’t mind the odd mudbath head over to Global Convoy’s website.
If you fancy joining their next trip then visit the Global Convoy Facebook page.
If you want to see them in action check out their Youtube channel and see they don’t take themselves too seriously.
Want an adventure but can’t afford it right now? See Pork Belly’s list of travel competitions for a chance to win one.