By Hannah Bowles
Somehow, in 52 hours, we managed to make it up to Inverness, Scotland, and back to Cardiff without spending any of our own money on travel! It was an amazing, unique experience that brought us into contact with some amazing people, and beautiful scenery.
Our team name was the ‘Lost Boys’ as we began the trip dressed at Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, and a Lost Boy (complete with goggles and a sheep hat). To start off our journey, equipped with several bags and a guitar, we grabbed a lift off a friend to get us across the Severn Bridge and into Gloucestershire.
It was there, after half an hour at a ‘Welcome Break’ service station, that we met our first lovely stranger. A kind old man managed to fit us into his Smart car, and drove us to the next service station along the M5.
After about 10 minutes, a very kind lady picked us up and took us into Birmingham, and generously gave us £30 to help us on our way! From the money we’d raised so far, we could afford a train from Birmingham to Crewe, where we spent the night.
Josie (the Peter Pan of the team) has a cousin who lives up in Nantwich, about a 10-minute car journey from Crewe. She very kindly paid for a taxi so we could pop in and see her. Somehow, dressed as characters from Peter Pan, we ended up in one of the nicest bars in Nantwich, where we treated ourselves to a cocktail and a few card games until we had to leave at about midnight.
We’d managed to raise some more money to catch a train to Glasgow at 6:00 the next morning. In order to kill some time, we walked for two hours, with all our stuff, back to Crewe, where we spent the night in a 24 hour McDonald’s.
Crewe’s night scene finished at about 2:30, so we arrived just in time to see a lot of drunk people falling over each other for a Big Mac, and we ate and napped as alcohol driven fights started between some young men right next to us. It was an eventful night. Once 5:30 came around, we made our way back to Crewe station, where we boarded the train to Glasgow.
The train from Crewe to Glasgow took about three hours and wasn’t too crowded so we all managed to get an hour or two of sleep. However, we were still not feeling quite as fresh as we’d have liked for the day ahead. But as soon as we got off the train in Glasgow, and breathed in the Scottish air, we all had the travelling bug again. We did not think we’d be able to get much further north than Glasgow, but we figured we would ask the ticket office, just in case we could get some sort of discount. We got sent round to four different offices, a different station, and spirits were no longer too high.
Finally, we met a lovely women named Adele who was the duty manager at Queen Street Station, Glasgow. We told her about what we were doing, and she instantly said, “I can get you a one-way ticket to Inverness, is that far enough?”. We ran on to the next train to Inverness, but not before Adele called over the tannoy system asking for some policeman to come over and take a photo with us for one of our text-bomb challenges! About an hour into the journey, two older men saw that we were doing Jailbreak and took us under their wing.
We had originally been sitting squashed next to the toilet, and suddenly we were sipping champagne, drinking wine, and getting force fed sandwiches, cheese and crackers! They told us their stories of how every year they travel to Inverness to have a party with all their closest friends.
We spent the rest of the journey essentially at this party, looking out at the amazing snowy highlands, which was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the trip, fuelled by genuine human love and kindness. Once in Inverness, a quaint town surrounded by the highlands, we had a quick walk around and its beauty was undeniable. We went and had some pizza looking out over the river that ran through the town and talked about how we were going to try and get back.
This was the tricky part: trying to get back to Cardiff by 18:00 the next day, with little to no money left to spend on travel. After spending a few hours back in the centre of Glasgow, busking using Josie’s guitar, we hit gold! A generous sponsor offered to pay for two tickets from Glasgow to Bristol, so we just had to make enough money for the third flight. We headed for the bus to the airport, where the driver very kindly gave us a lift for free! Then came a very uncomfortable sleep on the airport floor.
We received a text-bomb challenge to take an Oscar-style selfie with as many people as possible. Laura had a great idea to have selfie with the passengers on our flight, and worked up the courage to ask the Stewardess if she could make an announcement. In front of over 100 passengers, Laura made a PA talking about Jailbreak and asked the passengers if they wanted to take part in our epic selfie! After a count of three, everyone raised their hands and shouted “Scotland” and the photo was taken, an experience Laura describes as, “one of the best moments of my life!”
Once we landed, we headed straight to Bristol Temple Meads. A very kind lady paid for our bus tickets, as it appears that English bus drivers aren’t as generous as Scottish ones! We now had three hours to get back to Cardiff HQ before the deadline was up! We’d made just enough money from busking to pay for our tickets from Temple Meads to Cardiff. We arrived at 5pm, and it was such an uplifting feeling walking back to the University, knowing we’d made it.
We were so proud, as we’d taken the challenge on the chin, and hitchhiked, taken the bus, caught the train, and flew, over 500 miles away from Cardiff and back, making us third overall in distance travelled from the University, and we’d also travelled the furthest away in the UK! We’d also been given an egg (nicknamed Billy-Bob by Hannah) which we managed to keep intact throughout the whole trip, which considering the places we went, was pretty impressive!
Our Jailbreak adventure was an incredible, unforgettable adventure that the Lost Boys were proud to take part in! It really opened our eyes to the kindness of the British public, and we got to experience the cultural beauty that the country has to offer. Anyone out there who is interested in Jailbreak, we strongly recommend you take part, as it’s something you’ll look back on fondly for the rest of your life!