Your Wildest Adventure: Going Off Course

Posted on February 24, 2010 by

Your Wildest Adventure’ is a series featuring the most thrilling experiences from travel writers while jaunting around the world. This week’s edition is a story from Andy Jaroz who blogs over at 501places. He’s travelled to over 70 places but has never lost that passion to explore new places and to tell stories about the adventures.

Geneva Switzerland Photo by mabufeu

Going Off Course

Having spent much of my childhood with my head in an atlas, when an opportunity arose to travel abroad I grabbed it eagerly. My aunt and uncle had retired to Spain to the coastal resort of Sitges, around 30km south of Barcelona. It was the summer holidays and at 16 I was impatient to start seeing the world I had read so much about. My parents took some persuading, but eventually relented and I booked my bus tickets from Nottingham to London and London to Spain. My parents gave me £50 that was strictly to be used to buy a return ticket from Barcelona back to the UK.

All went to plan and I had a wonderful time travelling through France and into Barcelona. Apart from a minor mishap when a fine for not having a ticket on the local train from Barcelona to Sitges cost me around £10 of my emergency fund, the trip was uneventful and I enjoyed a couple of weeks exploring and sunbathing. It was only when I went to Barcelona to buy my ticket home that the plan I had promised to stick to started to become unstuck…

Mont Joux summit Photo by Lassi Kurkijavi

As I sat in the student travel office waiting for my turn to be served, I looked around at the beautiful pictures on the walls and was dazzled by the giant Alpine scene that covered a whole wall of the office. At that moment I chose to extend my trip and disobey my parents’ instructions. Moments later I left the office with a rail ticket for the next day: to Geneva. It was 1985, and international phone calls were so expensive that I managed a “Hello Mum, everything’s fine, will be home later than planned, see you next week” and I was gone. My poor mother; she would become familiar with that routine in the following years.

High on Adventure

I loved the journey to Geneva. It took around 12 hours, passed through scenery that grew more dramatic as we went along, and I remember having several conversations along the way with fellow passengers. I was enjoying the thrill of being on the move, heading to a place that I knew little about. I was already hooked!

If I sat in a dreamy daze on the train, arrival in Geneva and discovering Swiss prices soon woke me up. I arrived late in the evening, and after passing several hotels and hostels near the station went for a very seedy looking place based on price alone, but even then I knew I was going to struggle to find the money I would need to get home. The next morning I wandered around the city and even went on a tour of the UN offices, before going to the station to learn the inevitable. I was around £10 short of what I needed to get to Calais.

The Ice Train by Steffe.

Photo by Steffe

I sat down on the concourse floor, and saw a young guy busking. He seemed to be playing only Beatles songs, and being familiar with most of the words I went up and got chatting. Soon we agreed that we would sing together (I am truly the world’s worst singer), and sure enough after a couple of hours, despite my worst efforts we had made enough that he was happy to pass me what I needed to buy my ticket. My first attempt at busking was a great success!

Getting over from Calais to England for free in those days was very easy, and something I was to do many times in the next few years. It was merely a case of finding a British driver, almost always a truck driver, and sitting quietly in the cab while they completed their formalities and got onto the ferry. Once aboard I melted into the crowd of passengers and was first off on arrival in England, ready to hitch a ride north back to my blissfully unsuspecting parents. While they sighed with relief that I had returned home safely, I was already planning the next adventure.


picajs Andy Jarosz lives in St Albans, just outside London. He left the world of ‘proper work’ last year and is now a freelance writer (travel and non-travel). Andy has been passionate about travelling for many years, and tries to visit at least five new countries each year. You can read about his adventures in his travel blog at 501 Places and follow him on Twitter (@501places).


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About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

6 Responses to “Your Wildest Adventure: Going Off Course”

  1. Travel photography February 24, 2010 10:13 am #

    Very interesting and very impressive, you were lucky too, I wouldn't be able to manage a situation like that I think.

  2. Keith February 24, 2010 11:07 am #

    Hahaha, busking? I would've loved to see that! Cool story Andy. Thanks for sharing. :-)

  3. Andy Jarosz February 24, 2010 11:24 am #

    Haha, thanks Keith. All I can say is thank goodness Youtube wasn't around in those days!!


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