Interview with Becky Samson from Expedition Equus
There’s nothing like following someone’s journey online: especially if it’s something different …
Here’s just one of those journeys:
Along with Bertie the horse Becky Samson set out in 2009 to ride from the UK to Japan. It will take 4 years at this time of planning.
But plans change, such is the nature of travel.
- Why is she doing this?
- How is she coping?
- And, how can we learn from this inspirational young lady?
Let’s find out:
Why are you doing this?
To travel with a horse has been a lifelong dream, and I realised that if I didn’t do it now, I would probably never get round to it. I didn’t want to fall in to the trap of having a career, mortgage or other commitments and regretting not having at least attempted it. Doing the trip for SOS Children also gives it a greater meaning, especially in light of the recent events in Haiti. SOS Children do such amazing work with orphans and displaced children worldwide, that it makes the adventure all the more worthwhile.
Who are/were the travellers/adventurers that inspire you?
So many! Christina Dodwell is an amazing woman, who has travelled worldwide both with and without horses and now runs her own charity; also James Greenwood, who travelled the world with horses, and David Grant, who took his horse and caravan around the world with his family for 7 years; and all the countless others who have written books or offered advice following their trips which have both inspired and assisted me.
Has the journey been as you expected so far, or has it been the opposite?
Both! I started the journey in April 2009 with the intention of riding to Turkey by October. The riding, whilst great fun, was mostly on roads, as although I’d spent hours researching and planning routes, I discovered that, on the ground, they either didn’t exist, weren’t well signed or disappeared in to unmaintained and unpassable paths.
About halfway through the summer, I decided that if we were to be on roads 99% of the time, we might as well try out a gyspy caravan. I sourced and bought one in the North East of France, spent a couple of months with a lovely French family doing it up, and Bertie and I got lessons in how to drive. In August, we set off with our new mode of transport, and spent until October travelling through incredible French countryside, from flat plains to gorges.
A friend joined me for the last 2 months and bought bicycles, which gave us the freedom to explore small towns and even cities en route. We dipped in to Switzerland and took a look at caves, a dinosaur park and Basel! We didn’t make it to Turkey in 2009, and Bertie is currently wintering out on the Swiss/German/French border, however, we had such a great time in France and met so many wonderful people (and ponies!) that I realised its the journey and the experience, not the destination, that matters.
Tell us about what’s been the hardest and most unexpected thing that’s made this journey difficult so far?
Burst tyres, angry dogs, mutant bees, escaped horses, minor injuries (Bertie cut his leg quite badly which took a few days to recover), steep hills, main roads, bad drivers…but all part of the adventure!
How about the best thing that’s happen on this journey so far?
Meeting such amazing people and making new friends was an unexpected highlight of the trip; I thought I would just be passing through, perhaps staying in people’s fields or gardens in my tent; instead, I was welcomed with open arms in many of the places I stayed, and made to feel like one of the family. I am in touch with several of the families who I met, and receive lovely emails from them, and I even got a Christmas card with pictures of Bertie on it from 2 children who’s back garden we stayed in, which was a lovely surprise.
It must get lonely riding all day, what goes through your mind? And how is Bertie the horse doing?
Although for most of the trip Bertie and I were travelling alone, we were never without company for long. Finding a place to stay each night involved knocking on peoples doors and communicating (my miming and out-of-date school French became semi-fluent by October!) and often I was invited in to have dinner with the families and a bed to sleep in.
Several times, I was able to stay for more than 1 night and the people I stayed with would take me to the local towns, museums and shops and show me how they lived – and would cook me the local cuisine, which included hundreds of different cheeses – delicious! The time spent alone with Bertie was great, as it gave me a chance to reflect on the trip so far and enjoy open countryside and one-on-one time with my horse and my thoughts.
With social networks, travel television networks, and books galore, do you think the age of traveller exploration is coming to a close?
Absolutely not! Although the internet and other mediums are making travel a lot more accessable, they are really only good for ideas, inspiration and research. To go to a place and experience it is the only way to discover somewhere. Traditionally, exploration means finding new land – but anyone can discover a new area, even if it’s only 5 miles from home. In our own ways, we can all be modern day explorers.
This journey is going to take over 4 years, what are your thoughts on how this will effect your family life, relationships, education and work?
Big question! In the past few months, a lot has changed for me with regards to all the above, but in positive ways. Being away for extended periods of time actually enhances relationships with other people, and you appreciate the time you have with loved ones a lot more. As for education and work – my French improved and I learned how to drive a horse and cart, and on arriving back in the UK for winter I found a job – so neither of these have suffered.
I believe travel pushes you and forces you to gain new skills, which you can then apply in the work place – so any experience is a good one.
When you finish this journey, do you think you will embark on a travel related career, or is there something else you plan to do?
Who knows what will happen in the future? The word ‘career’ terrifies me! I would love to take a boat down the Amazon, ride a Harley on Route 66 and trek in South America; there is so much of the world to explore, and I hope to see as much of it as possible.
I plan on writing a book of my journey so far through France, and am in the process of doing so (it will be available via my website expeditionequus.com in the near future) and if any travel related work opportunities arise I shall grab them with both hands; however, at the moment I’m just concentrating on the here and now, as life is full of surprises and the best laid plans never quite work out!
How can people help or support you?
If anyone wants to support the journey, they can visit the website at www.expeditionequus.com and go on the ‘support’ page, or visit http://www.justgiving.com/expeditionequus to donate to SOS Children.
For someone reading this, and wanting to have an “epic” adventure, what is your advise to them?
Get off the sofa, do some research, put all your loose change in to a pot and go, go, go! I have met so many people who say ‘I wish I could do what your doing’ – but they don’t. So stop wishing, start living – you won’t regret it.
Thanks for joining us Becky!
Personally I find Becky’s story could emerge into a real modern day classic. One girl & her horse going overland from the UK to Japan. The age of travel adventure continues.
Do you think Becky will make it?
And, do you know anyone else out there embarking on such an adventure?
Edit 2011: Due to illness, Becky has not been able to complete this journey. We certainly wish Becky all the best in her health and future endeavors.
For more information, please see her profile on Great Modern Travel Attempts.
This interview is an additional entry exploring how other travelers are inspiring and can help us all learn
Inspirational Travelers: One of the best travelers, and travel blogs out there at the moment.