The Clean Europe Expedition is the brainchild of brother and sister Sam and Faith Martin, who will endeavour to travel across Europe in the most environmentally friendly way possible.
Where did the original idea for the trip come from?
Faith – When I started my gap year in Norway, Sam always said he was going to cycle to see me, but sometime after I left home he settled into a job and all the banter of his big trip died down. I remember phoning Sam after I had been away a few weeks, and he seemed a bit down. I asked him how the plans for his trip were going and he said maybe he would need to put the trip off for a year or two. So I told him that if he waited for me to finish my year, we could do the trip together, with an environmental theme, and that’s when our idea started to take shape.
Sam – A few years ago I read a book called “Cycling home from Siberia” by Rob Lilwall, which is an epic story of a mans travels cycling around the world. As soon as I read it I decided that I was going to go on a bike tour. Faith then went to study in Norway and it seemed to develop, then Faith rang me with the carbon neutral concept and it became what it is today.
Are you both optimist or pessimist with regard to the changes we all need to make to address climate change?
Faith – I think there are ways to come back from the damage we have made to the environment. A lot of the damage we have done is irreversible, but not all of it, and most of the potential we have to turn climate change around lies within our own attitudes. It’s not enough to recycle occasionally, and turn down the heating, society must completely accept climate change, because we cannot change things, before we have completely come to terms with how serious our problems are. All of us are responsible for how we take care of the earth, I believe we can do it!
Sam – I’m generally an optimistic person, but when it comes to climate change I’m not sure the outlook is that good. Even if we all become completely carbon neutral tomorrow, CO2 is absorbed and then slowly released by plants and plankton over a period of thirty years, so were going to feel the repercussions for a long time yet. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t improve things, there’s always more we can do.
Can you tell us a little about how you decided on your route please?
Faith - Originally the route was not a circle like it is now, we were going to start at my school in Southern Norway and cycle home, when the plan developed into a carbon neutral theme, we soon realized it would take more planning, and so we decided that we would start from England after I had come home. For some reason Northern Europe has always been more appealing for Sam and me, perhaps because of the amazing scenery, or because we both have a love of the cold. Our route has recently had a last minute change, Norway is now one of the first countries we visit, instead of one of the last. This is because both Sam and me finally came to the realization that it was a bad idea to cycle through Norway any later than September, I personally would like to keep the risk the frostbite to a minimal!
Sam - The route began with Norway as an end point, and since then its really evolved by itself. We had a few places we really wanted to see, like Colditz in Germany and Nordkapp in Norway, and we’ve added places as we researched the countries. We’ve tried to include places which have been effected by climate change already, like parts of the Baltic States which are still recovering from the industrialization in the Soviet occupation.
At this stage, what do you anticipate will be the greatest difficulties you will have to overcome?
Faith - Since I have come home from Norway I have been working hard at my job as a waitress, just to save the minimum that me and Sam will need for the trip, because I’ve been so busy I haven’t been training nearly as much as I could have, so I’m worried that the first month of this trip at least, is going to be physically overwhelming for me. However I’m positive that my physically strength will improve fast, with time and much motivation. On top of that there is many difficulties I’m worried about, such as road traffic, weather issues, home sickness, and I even have one quite irrational fear of being eaten by wild animals, which is why I have been reading up of the different bear species around northern Europe.
Sam - The major worry that I’ve had is what to do if something happens to my little sister. Its a constant fear of mine that Faith might get injured, I do feel very responsible for her. I’m actually relishing the challenge of the trip, the chance to measure myself against the distance, I’m very determined.
What would you really like people to take from your trip?
Faith - I am hoping this trip will be a learning experience for me, and other people can take from it what they will. I really don’t want people to think I am judging them with this trip, we are not saying that everybody should ride a bike, sleep in a tent, and use a solar shower for their summer holidays, because that’s really not what this trip is about, we just want to inspire people to see other possibilities. This trip is traveling stripped back to the bare essentials, and hopefully people will see how fresh and exciting that is.
Sam - I think of all the flights that happen in Europe each year and how they are effecting the planet, If we can get people to start thinking about their transport situation that would be a great success. The other thing which I’d like to achieve is to have people think of what they can do in more global terms, there’s been a massive move in recent years in terms of recycling and energy management, but if people are more aware of Europe’s commitment we can get closer to real change.
In the event of a cross channel sailing boat not being available what is your preferred method of crossing the channel?
Faith – Sam and I both decided that to cross the channel in a sail boat would be a dream come true, a perfect solution to our carbon neutral dilemma, but its also a long shot. In this case we will travel by Eurostar train to France, because is the next best for the environment.
Sam - The next best thing would be to take the Eurostar, emitting 0.01 kg of CO2 per km, it is by far the most environmentally friendly option if were unable to get a sail boat.
Have you any idea of the all up weight each of you will be carrying?
Faith - I will be carrying two panniers on the back of my bike, which are said to hold up to 20kg each, on top of that I will have a small rucksack, and my sleeping bag and other bits strapped to the back of my pannier rack. I aim to carry no more than I need, but at the same time not risk leaving behind something I might regret. Sam has very gallantly agreed to carry the tent, which is something I really appreciate, I wonder if he will keep to his promise, two weeks into the expedition.
Sam - We have been unable to accurately calculate how much weight we’re going to be carrying as we haven’t gathered all the things we need yet, but with cooking equipment, laptops, tents, sleeping bags, repair equipment and so its all adding up. Which is one of the reasons we are so pleased with the Rohan Clothing we have, its light weight, and small pack size will really help.
Brother and Sister – do you get on ( I hope you do). Is this your first big trip together?
Faith - This is our first big trip together, I know there will be times when we are really fed up of each other, but at the end of the day we are family, and that gives us more strength than if I was doing this with just a friend. Me and Sam have always had a close relationship, Sam has a fabulous ability to keep the moral high, and make terrible situations seem funny, and I know that will come in handy, and on top of that, we also know how and when to give each other some time to breath.
Sam - Faith and I come from quite a large family, there’s five of us altogether and we are all quite close as we grew up in quite a small house. Most of the family has developed a love for travel, a characteristic I put down mainly to my mothers desire to see the world. I’ve never done a big trip with anyone in the family and even though I love them all the only one I can imagine doing a trip like this with would be Faith, she has no fear of looking like an idiot, she asks a lot of questions, she sees the good in everything and everyone who meets her loves her. I think we’ll get on just fine.
Faith and Sam will be updating Rohantime on their Clean Europe Journey.
They are still trying to link up with a sailboat channel crossing – anybody?
Read more on Clean Europe
Check out the kit list for the trip and update