Karl Bushby’s 21st Century Odyssey
The adventure began on foot on 1st November 1998 from the bottom of South America travelling back to the United Kingdom unassisted by any form of transport. Still on his journey home nearly 14 years later he is here to tell his epic tale...
Can you introduce yourself for those who don't know you?
I am Karl Bushby, I’m 41 years old and I am from Hull in Yorkshire. I was formerly in the 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment and presently I am on a global journey. The mission is to travel only on foot from the bottom of South America back to the United Kingdom, I will not advance the
journey at all using any form of transport. Neither will I return home at any point until I
arrive on foot. I am now twelve years into this journey.
How many men wake up one morning and think "Today, I'm going to cross the world by foot"? In other words what made you take on this epic journey?
You don't wake up one morning and decide to do something like this. It happens slowly,
spanning years. The question 'why' is the most complex and difficult to answer, yet of
course, the first most people ask. It was the combination of personal events and interests
that can be traced back as far as childhood in some cases. There is not enough space in
this interview for me to spell it out…and I’m not sure if I even could.
What was the reaction of your family and friends?
No one took me seriously at first, as you can image so it took a while for everyone to
understand that this idea was about to become a reality.
How did you prepare such an adventure, who helped you?
I received all the physical and mental preparation I would need whilst in the army. I knew
my limits but believed the task at hand was certainly achievable, despite the naysayers.
However, I was unable to convince anyone else to the same degree and as such I failed to
find any backing or support. So, burning all my bridges, I left the UK with nothing other
than a few hundred dollars in my pocket.
What has been the best part of your travels?
There are too many to choose just one. Considering the scale of this endeavor and the
time I have been on the ground, you will appreciate there are innumerable memorable
moments, encounters and places. On a larger scale for me the journey breaks down
into distinct phases; Patagonia, then the Atacama and the coast of Chile and Peru. Then
Ecuador and Colombia, next the Darien Gap, beyond that Central America. Up through
the USA and Canada, next Alaska, the Bering Strait and finally Russia. Each had its own
distinct feel and character, its own set of obstacles and environmental challenges, its own
highlights and low points.
What has been the worst part of your travels? You must have had some sticky
A few times things looked a little grim. The most difficult scenarios would include
the Darien Gap and then Alaska. The Darien Gap is a notorious region that borders
Colombia and Panama, where Central and South America meet. This region is heavily
contested, lawless jungle with vast rivers systems and swamps creating a nearly
impenetrable landscape. Within this are hidden cocaine plantations, competing cartels,
warring guerrilla groups and embattled government troops. The two month ordeal from Medellin in Colombia to Panama City was perhaps the scariest and most demanding section on the journey so far. I faced down guns, talked my way out of numerous situations, faced hunger and sickness and then imprisonment in Panama. I spent four days swimming down a river, hidden amongst floating vegetation.
What have you learnt about the world during your travels?
Well, it's big...and full of decent people willing to help a stranger and to whom, I am
eternally indebted. One of those aforementioned surprises is just how friendly the
majority of people are. 99% of those I have come across have displayed only the best of
humanity. It's been really quite inspiring.
Why have you had a break in your expedition and when do you think you will get back on the road?
It's not a planned break, it's a series of challenges that have put the brakes on hold for a
movement. I found myself in an environment where one can't just 'man up' and live on a wing and a prayer with a pocket full of rice like I used to, the objective is to get home on foot, not in a box. I have been restricted to seasonal travel for years now.
Do you still search for financial or material support?
At the moment things are looking potentially better than they have in a long while. With
the help of new partners from New York and Los Angeles, we are working on a TV
production deal that could well see me supported for some time to come. We hope to see
the deal finalised this summer.
How long will it be until you have completed your trip and return to your hometown in England?
I believe 4-5 years would be a reasonable time frame. This is where obtaining a visa
waiver could make all the difference, greatly affecting the time span.
Then what... the moon?
We should be thinking bigger…we should be headed for Mars and only as a refueling
depot for the trip to the Jovian moons and beyond, this is our calling and we grow weaker
every day that we hesitate and procrastinate.
For more information on his Karl’s travels go to www.odysseyxxi.com or find him on facebook under Karl Bushby.