Cashless walk to India fails

Last updated at 10:03 29 February 2008

Mark Boyle

Walking for peace: failed pilgrim Mark Boyle

A businessman who set out on a pilgrimage from Britain to India with has given up less than a month into his trip.

Former organic food company boss Mark Boyle, 28, set off at the end of last month carrying just a few t-shirts, an extra pair of sandals, sunscreen, a knife and one bandage.

He had aimed to travel on foot from Bristol to Ghandi's birthplace on the west coast of India. The trip was expected to take him two and a half years.

But Mr Boyle only managed to get to Calais before the language and cold defeated him. He then used money to fund his journey back to the UK.

Writing on his blog, Mr Boyle said he and two friends who had joined him on his "pilgrimage" started to face difficulties as soon as they arrived in France.

Presumably met by a tide of Gallic shrugs, Mark writes: "Not only did no one... speak the language, they also see us as just a bunch of freeloading backpackers, which is the complete opposite of what the pilgrimage is really about."

"That really scared us, and given that we now were pretty much out of food, hadn't slept in days and were really cold, we had to reassess the whole situation."

"We spoke to a few people who were willing to talk and they said that France would not go for this unless we could speak fluent French, which none of us could."

"The advice was to make a bee line for Belgium as folk said they would be more likely to want to speak some English."


"The only trouble was the first decent-sized town in Belgium was 170km away, and all we had was three tins of soup, a bag of trail mix and a chocolate bar to sustain us."

"As it was unlikely that we would get a chance to help or be helped by French people in the journey getting there, the task looked daunting to say the least."

Mr Boyle hoped salvation had arrived in the form of an interview on a French radio station, a platform he could use to get publicity - and food.

He said: "The interview went great, and we were really pleased until I found out it could be a week before it went on air. We could be dead by that stage was the general feeling."

"Deflated, we sat down and thought about what on earth we were going to do. Head off on the three day hike to Bruges with practically no food and hope the situation there got better, or to call it all off."

Mr Boyle said he decided to return home and help people in the UK.

"Sitting in the station, I decided to make a decision. I decided to go back home and to continue the pilgrimage in my own community in a sense," he said.

"The disappointment I felt at making that decision is something I cannot explain fully in words, you have to believe me. It felt like the dream was over."

"But to the day I die I know that was the best decision I could have made with what I knew and felt."

"I have touched money to get back here and I want you all to know that."

Mr Boyle now plans to walk around Britain instead. He said: "What we are going to do is walk from town to town asking people 'Can I help you?'."

When he started his trip, Mr Boyle intended to walk between 15 and 45 miles a day, offering his labour and friendship in return for food and water.

Explaining his motives for the trip on his website before he left, he said: "For 28 years I've been part of a world where money means security. That's 28 years of knowing where my next meal is going to come from, 28 years of knowing I can have a roof over my head."

"But it's also been 28 years of insecurity, fear, complacency and non-momentary living."

Freeconomy now has almost 3,000 members in 54 countries. It offers people the chance to barter their skills and labour.

To follow Mr Boyle's progress, visit

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