Silverbackpacker Interviews

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Tommy – The Hopeful Vagabond

Don’t Just Exist, Live

I first came across Tommy, The Hopeful Vagabond on Instagram a couple of months ago. I checked out his website and found out about his upcoming cycle ride to China. Wow this guy really has some determination. He really is getting out of his comfort zone and taking on life. I managed to catch up with him just before he sets out on the 24th October for France and he told me all about his planned journey and what keeps him going. Lets wish him a successful ride  #dontjustexistlive

If you would like to sponsor Tommy, you can do so through his link to Just Giving

Tommy The Hopeful Vagabond with his bike. ( Photo Courtesy of Kevin Black, County Border News)

Name: Tommy Scargill (The Hopeful Vagabond)

Where from: Warlingham, Surrey, UK

  • Please tell us a little about your background and why you are making this ride to China.

I wouldn’t know exactly how to describe my ‘profession’,  I guess travel writer is a close to it as possible, despite being a graduate in Audio Engineering, travel is my one true passion! I’m taking on this bike ride for a bit of an adventure really, not just to raise money for my charity The Royal Marsden Cancer Trust, a charity close to my heart as I’ve suffered from Leukaemia twice. The other reasons are to see my limits of my human potential; I’m not particularly skilled in bush craft or cycling so it’ll be fun to find out hey! The last reason is to see human kindness to a stranger, and to show people the world isn’t as bad as the media portrays.

  • How will you take care of your health once out there on the road?

Eating, muscle cream, books (to stop the inevitable loneliness) and pacing myself to avoid injury… that’s pretty much all  I need to do to look after myself.

(Photo Courtesy of Kevin Black, County Border News)

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  • Will you be making this trip solo or with a backup team ?

I’ll be doing this complete solo, just me… however with bikepacking you tend to bump into other cyclists I’ve heard and may ride a few miles together, but other than that it’s just me and the world that awaits!

  • Have you sent any supplies ahead to predetermined destinations?

None whatsoever, I was trying to send my knife to France as Brittany Ferries won’t allow me to take it on board as a foot passenger or even allow them to hold it for me till I get to France, so I opted to sending it to an address in France and Royal Mail said I could but also said I couldn’t… confusing one!

  • What route are you planning to take to China and how long do you think it will take you?

I will be going to Caen, France, then go onto Belgium which will then lead me into Luxembourg, after that I’ll enter Germany. From Germany I head into Czech Republic, and from there to Austria which flows me into Slovakia, followed by Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Then before I reach China I will be taking on Russia and Kazakhstan. Overall I plan to be 12-months, which seems like a long time to people, but I think that’s when people think of it the context of work life… having a year to yourself, to explore the world, well… then it’s not actually that long.

I’ll be doing this on a budget of around £3 per day and that this ride is for a sort of dual social experiment. The first is to see my human potential despite having a heart condition and also little or no experience in cycling and bush craft. The second experiment is to see human kindness to a stranger throughout the world. If anyone fancies sponsoring me they can go on www.bit.ly/C2C4C1 which will go to my ‘Just Giving’ page.
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  • When did you first come up with this idea?

Not long ago at all, only around early September, so it’s a pretty fresh idea. I certainly committed to it instantaneously without much planning. A slight bit of planning did follow after though……

  • This will be through the winter months. How do you plan to overcome any cold and snowy conditions.

To just deal with it, layer up, and get a good hearty meal in me at night… obviously it’ll be a challenge to deal with winter as it normally is even in a home, but I’ll have to take on all the elements Mother Nature throws at me. I’m a bit worried about snow as I don’t have spiked tires, but I’m sure I’ll figure out something when I encounter it.

  • What Visas do you need along the way and have you managed to obtain them all without any problems? Which ones were difficult and have you any tips on applying for these visas?

I haven’t applied for any because I only need VISA’s for Russia and China and I can’t apply for them just yet as it’s too far in the future, I need to apply 6-months in advance for Russia and 3-months in advance for China, so I haven’t fully taken on that headache… just yet.

  • What are your three favourite quotes ?

    If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it’s lethal – Paulo Coelho

    Fear does not stop death. It stops life. – Rickson Gracie

    Don’t just exist. Live. – The Hopeful Vagabond

The Hopeful Vagabond gear for the Road to China
  • Do you have any special gear/spare parts you will be taking with you.

A cooker! Oh my little MSR PocketRocket that’ll cook my delicious food 80% of the time! That’s my special gear in my opinion because it’ll give me the fuel to keep going…sure I’m taking a laptop , GoPro and a Canon 600D but they can’t exactly save my life! In terms of spare parts I’ll be taking some inner tubes with me, chain breaker, chain lube and all that stuff… I figured that for some stuff I could potentially pick up in large cities if need be!

  • Where will you be sleeping along the route? Are you using Couchsurfing?

I’ll be sleeping a lot in the wild which I’m mega excited for! For a lot of the countries in Europe it’s illegal to wild camp but loads of people do it anyway, and I can’t afford to pay for a campsite each night either. I’m looking forward to camping in Estonia where you’re able to camp in the national parks, which look immense! I’ll also be staying with some generous folk along the way through a website called ‘Warm Showers’ which is the cycle tourist’s version of CouchSurfing.

  • Have you done any training for the ride?

I go out on the bike every other day but I wouldn’t say I’ve done it religiously or anything. The best training I’ve done is trying to mentally prepare, think of the things that could go wrong or of all the struggles and think that I’ll just have to deal with it. Placing positive thoughts in my mind is the best way for me to deal with it, sort of my anchor when things get tough… along with making sure I have a decent-ish meal each night!

  • Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?

Just go for it! What’s the worst that can happen? If you don’t go for the daring and dangerous then where is the adventure hey… if people laugh at your ideas and think they’re crazy…good, GREAT!

The Hopeful Vagabond Tattoo
  • What has travel taught you?

Travel has taught me many things, I think I could write a manifesto on what it’s taught me, the two most important traits I think I’ve gained from travel is to be humble and also patient, so thank-you travel!

  • Can you imagine life without travel?

No. Just reading that question scares me… delete…delete..delete! ha It would be a dark world with dull stories and dull people. A deep sadness… that and music are what I think give the world and it’s people personality (in my opinion!).

  • Do you have any funny travel stories?

Well when I was in Bali I jumped onto one of my local friends, Komang’s scooter and after a 2-hour ride or so we arrived to a small hut/house in a village. After 30-minutes of having a laugh with the guy who lived there I was getting a tattoo which would last for 7-hours! Not only was it 7-hours of pain but it was 7-hours of laughing, mainly those laughing at me from Komang, the tattooist and even the tattooist’s whole family and when I say whole family I mean everyone, around 10 people were watching me shriek in pain constantly. Whilst this was happening every so often we’d have to stop and hide as the locals celebrated a ceremony through the streets which the tattooist should be involved in. It was an awesome and fun experience and with that amount of time you have little else then to laugh and get to know each other! It was funny how it ended as I was leaving one of the children had been drinking a fizzy drink and almost like a goodbye he threw up all over the floor. Sampai jumpa! (See you again!)

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  • Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?

Just a typical scam, that’s the only stand out bad experience, I was minding my own business finding my train independently in Sofia, Bulgaria and an old guy said he’d show me, I said it’s all okay I can find it… persistently tried to get money out of me. As I boarded I reached for my ticket and it was missing, I had 10-minutes before the train left and frantically ran around the station (by the way it’s massive!) and I saw the guy that was trying to get money out of me with it in his hand. I approached him with a pretty angry demeanour, what made it worse was that he tried to extort money out of me for it… it’s safe to say I got on that train without paying out any money.

  • Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?

Myanmar. I heard nothing but praise for the country but with all this overlapping praise I didn’t know what to exactly expect. In the end I was blown away, I didn’t think I could find a country which has suffered so much to host such a hospitable, beautiful group of people! Along with that the food was just amazing, the culture admirable and then the scenery was just something out of a movie, temples, golden pagodas everywhere and gorgeous mountain scenery.

  • What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?

I’d say it’d have to be to Disneyland Paris when I was around 5-years old, I can’t say I remember the whole thing but I certainly remember amazing moments of it! It was my one wish when I was ill… sure it was generic, but what 5-year old wouldn’t want to go to Disneyland hey!?

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Tommy The Hopeful Vagabond with his bike. ( Photo Courtesy of Kevin Black, County Border News)
the hopeful vagabond gear for trip
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  • Which travel bloggers have influenced you the most?

The guy that got me inspired into travel writing was Macca Sherifi, I met him in Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria and he just opened my eyes up to travel writing! Then the guy that took that interest to the next level was Matthew Karsten, who’s better known as the ‘Expert Vagabond’. You can see how he influenced my name!

  • How will people be able to keep up with you once you hit the road? ( through facebook, twitter, your blog, Instagram) and how often do you plan updating.

The best way would be through my website and more so through my mail as I’ll include more news of the trip! After that I’d the normal social media routes, I’ll be having photos and all that up, but it won’t be as in depth as my blog posts! I will plan to update whenever I get wifi really, so I can’t say whether that’ll be daily, weekly or not. Most likely not to be daily though!

  • Please tell us about the Charity you are raising funds for and how people can donate and sponsor you.

The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity is a charity very close to my heart. It’s a charity that operates not just in research for curing various types of cancer but as two hospitals in and around the London area, I myself was a patient at the Sutton hospital on two occasions. They’re a superb place for people to be treated for cancer, real specialists and their attention to the children there is amazing. It’s a place where you feel safe if you’re going through tough times.  So I thought due to their amazing care I would raise money for them as I cycle to China, and if anyone fancies sponsoring me they can go on www.bit.ly/C2C4C1 which will go to my ‘Just Giving’ page.

  • Have you had any companies sponsor you or part of your journey?

Fortunately but also unfortunately not! I say it’s fortunate as it leaves me freer to my own devices and write specifically about the travel instead of promoting a product I think people should consider. However it is unfortunate because it would be nice to have that dependence, to make sure I write posts constantly and also obviously to get some publicity as well as free stuff hey! I’ve had a few companies turn me down, particularly Brittany Ferries which I’m gutted about but a friends dad ended up paying for my ticket to get me to France which is awesome! Who knows someone may want to sponsor me along the way?

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