BRITISH COUPLE WHO SPENT FIVE YEARS DRIVING AROUND THE WORLD IN THEIR CAR Former call centre manager Jayne and her partner legal rep David gave up their comfortable lives to cross six continents in their car after becoming bored with 9 – 5 life in Britain. Couple drove through war zones, were threatened with guns, chased by military, targeted by bandits and survived malaria and snake bites in epic adventure while back home Jayne’s daughter got married, her first grandchild was born and her mother died. Despite living just two foot apart for the duration of their journey, and arguments over Jayne’s map reading skills, the couple now say they can’t wait to hit the road again. A BRITISH couple have returned home after spending FIVE years driving around the world clocking up a staggering 136,000 miles in their Land Rover as they visited 66 countries across six continents. Former call centre worker Jayne Wilkinson, 56 and partner David Turner, 54, a legal rep, dreamed up the idea after deciding holidays just weren’t long enough to fit it all in. Bored with 9 – 5 life in Britain, they rented out their homes and sold all their possessions to embark on the adventure of a lifetime across the globe after hitting upon the idea to ‘drive around the world,’ while chatting one day. Their astonishing journey took them just over five years to complete and they arrived back in Birmingham on Saturday having faced bribery, guns, bandits, , malaria, snake bites, and many many breakdowns to be greeted by the family and friends they left behind. Now the globe trotting pair are already planning another adventure in their car after agreeing that neither wish to settle back into the 9 – 5 life they left behind. Janye, who has two grown up children said: ‘ People say we are lucky to have done this but luck had nothing to do with it. We have had the most incredible adventure, terrifying at times, but amazing. ‘We are just your average Joe Bloggs ordinary people. We gave up jobs, houses and very nice lives to live two foot away from each other 24 hours a day in our car. ‘My daughter got married, son had a baby and my mother died but people told us not to give up. ‘I think most would see that as a nightmare rather than a dream and to be honest it felt like that to start with but we had told everyone we were going to drive around the world by then so we had to give it a good go because it would have been embarrassing to give up and come home.’ The pair had been together 12 years when they first had the idea in 2008. Jayne said: ‘ We were just having a conversation and it came up that holidays were not long enough and just like that we decided yes we should drive around the world. There was never going to be a great time.’ They spent a year preparing, buying their 4 x4 Defender and fitting a roof tent to sleep in. They named her Lizzybus after the Queen. With one small box of possessions each and a few luxury items including an espresso machine and small fridge they set off for Dover on August 16th 2009. They took a Haines repair manual and a spare for each car part. But after crossing to France and driving to Southern Spain Jayne says they got cold feet before crossing to Africa. ‘You could see Africa on a clear day but we both kept putting it off and making excuses to stay in Spain. I’ll be honest I was petrified but finally after six weeks we just went for it. ‘We had no choice, we had told everyone we were going and we’d only picked Africa first because we fancied some sunshine.’ The couple now admit they were at time naïve to the dangers of travelling without guides through some of the most dangerous countries in the world. But Jayne says they learnt as they went along and what they lacked in language skills, they made up for in smiles. ‘It always seemed to work in an hairy situation, just to be very friendly and smiley and it all worked out.’ She estimates it took a full year to get into the swing of travelling and forget the constrains of Western life. ‘In the end we didn’t know what time or what day it was because it just didn’t matter,’ she says. They slept in the roof and dug their own toilets, cooking food on petrol stove. They had a budget of $75 dollars a day from renting their houses out. They marked the one-year anniversary into their trip-watching whales off the coast of South Africa. She says: ‘ We had totally lost track of time by that point. I think we were only just getting into the swing. ‘In Africa we got used to being stared at as I don’t think people were used to seeing a couple of white tourists in a car driving out of the bush.’ But the following year Jayne had to return home briefly to see her first grand child born to her son and watch her daughter get married. She returned home again for her mother’s funeral. The longest they went without visiting home was two years. She said: ‘ We avoided roads where possible so there wasn’t always Internet connection but when there was I would email regularly. She said: ‘ I actually feel I got to know some people better via email than I did living ten minutes down the road to them.’ From Africa, where Jayne fell ill with malaria they crossed to Egypt and then Syria where they were given an Armed escort to the Turkish border. Jayne said: ‘ We were apprehensive because of the unrest but we needed to cross Syria to get to Turkey so decided to do it as quickly as possible in two days. When we stopped to check the map we were surrounded by police who escorted us.’ They were then able to travel to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and then Thailand and Malaysia before reaching Australia where Jayne was bitten by a snake. ‘It was a lucky escape as it didn’t inject any venom.’ The biggest challenge she says was the drive itself which they shared on a 70 / 30 basis. She said: ‘ It took a long time just to adjust to driving in different countries and swapping sides of the road every time you crossed a border but it soon became second nature. She says: ‘ We stopped using a knife and fork and embraced a simple life. A basic life gave us more. Unzipping the tent to see mountains and kangaroos sure beat waking up to the alarm clock.’ It was then on to South America and America, before Canada and finally Alaska. But the couple had to travel back into America to pick up new parts for their car before it could be shipped back to Belgium for the final leg home. They flew back to London in October this but determined to drive their trusty Defender back onto British soil they caught a ferry straight back to Antwerp to drive her back themselves. Jayne said: ‘ The emotions were pretty high. I don’t think either of us could believe that we had actually done it. ‘We had heavy hearts that the adventure was over but we were of course delighted to see everyone and very proud to have arrived back in one piece.’ There where of course several near misses. Jayne contracted Malaria in Africa and they were also set on by bandits on several occasions. She said: ‘ At the time you just deal with it but yes there were scary times looking back. The most terrifying moment was probably being surrounded by elephants when we broke down in Namibia. We had no phone and no way of getting help, we just had to sit it out and hope for the best. ‘I had a snake bite in Australia and David needed a filling in Egypt but on the whole we’ve been pretty lucky.’ In fact she said had she any idea what she was getting into she wouldn’t have gone. ‘It was naivety that got me through. Did we do it right? Absolutely not. But somehow we got by using gut instinct and I would say to anyone considering such an adventure please just do it. ‘There is never a right time. I missed my children and my twin sister terribly in the early days but when I called them to tell them they told me to shut up and get on with driving around the world.’ As for their car, it needs a new gearbox and the couple plan to adjust the sleeping arrangements, but other than that they hope to hit the road again after Christmas. ‘We want to see Russia and Japan. There is a space on the map we have yet to see. ‘The world seems bigger now rather than smaller. There is still so much to see and do. It has awakened something in us both. I would love to write a book about our experiences. ‘It has been the most humbling and amazing experience of my life. ‘Considering we have lived in a car together for five years David and I got on pretty well. I think my map reading irritated him at times but that was it. ‘But the advice I would give anyone else is don’t tell people your plans because then you really have to go through with them.’ ENDS
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