Leyla Yvonne Ergil
LONDON Joe Martin and Kieran Brown are two British travelers currently attempting the adventurous feat of journeying from Istanbul to London without spending any money, all with the aim of raising awareness for the homeless and collecting donations for charities in the countries they visit
Joe Martin, 25, and Kieran Brown, 28, are two part-time travelers with proverbial day jobs that have taken on the full-on challenge of traveling from Asia to London with no money. This means they are taking each day as it comes, hoping and sometimes pleading for a meal and accommodation and hitchhiking for most of the 3,000 kilometers (1,865 miles) it generally takes to do this journey.
Intending to raise awareness and collect donations for the homeless and people in need, they are documenting their experience on their social media accounts and YouTube channel “Joe Martin Travel.” They are collecting donations via a GoFundMe page.
For every day of their journey, which could take anywhere from a fortnight or more, making it to their destination depends on the kindness of people. Joe Martin Travel is featuring a new video documenting the two travelers’ experiences. Each day’s videos, which are nearly 20 minutes long, are highly entertaining and definitely evoke empathy for those in need as the lads go through stages of being drained from hunger to humbled by the help they get from others.
Their journey started on Aug. 10 from Istanbul’s Üsküdar, with their first day taking them nearly all the way to the Bulgarian border. Using Google Translate and hand-drawn signs, the lads hitchhiked all the way to Edirne on the very first day, where they were also offered multiple meals and free accommodation at a hotel. While crossing the border the next day was not an easy feat, traversing everything else in Türkiye was much easier comparatively, and they were so thankful for all the assistance and support they got for their cause on the very first day.
I had the opportunity to conduct a video interview with Martin and Brown on “Day 5,” by which they had made their way to Belgrade, Serbia where they were staying at a hostel in exchange for mopping the floors. This was a welcomed exchange after spending a night on the concrete floor of an abandoned hotel and nearly having to rough it again under a bridge with a tramway crossing until they were saved at the final hour by a soon-to-be friend.
Overwhelmed by the kindness of people and feeling deep empathy for those who have to struggle to find food and safe spots to sleep on a daily basis, the captivating videos on Martin’s YouTube channel can bring you to tears. But mostly, the videos and the lads are hilarious and the light-hearted exchanges of having to appeal for food, transportation and places to sleep turn into a heartwarming and uplifting viewing.
I can honestly say, I look forward each day to an update on their situation and to watching the entertaining adventures they get up to in trying to fulfill this challenge they have set for themselves. So far, the BBC has already covered their cause and I hope to catch up with them again near the end of their journey, which will conclude when they reach London. In the live video chat we had on Monday, I asked them both the question I believe everybody wants to know, which was: “What is the first thing you dream of eating when you get back home?” to which they both unequivocally answered, “Pizza!”
Their biggest challenge has been getting enough food to sustain their over 10,000 steps taken each day to find accommodation and the ideal spots to hitchhike from. You can watch them play “rock, paper or scissors” to decide who will be the one to request a free meal as asking for handouts has been particularly difficult for them, especially with the language barrier. However, this was not the case in Türkiye, where they not only got served breakfast with their free night in a hotel, but they also got a second breakfast on that day, which was their second day of the journey and managed to save some of the bread from it for their next day’s journey in Bulgaria.
That was a particularly difficult day for the two as all they found to eat were some plums, which combined meant spending 24 hours having consumed less than 500 calories each.
The duo had also never really hitchhiked before this adventure, and Türkiye also made for a great start in that regard with lorries predominantly pulling over for them. There is also the exception of a car that took them across the border after they had waited for three hours to be picked up by a driver who told them he first needed to pray and would then return. Martin and Brown have been mainly hitchhiking thus far, which has taken its toll on them in terms of the time spent waiting for rides and due as well to their hesitation to ask people to outrightly pay for their public transportation.
Occasionally though they have been gifted a click of someone’s transportation card to get them through turnstiles, which so far was a result of their connecting with the Couchsurfing community where they have requested stays and have organized hangouts, one which included a gift of ice cream, which broke the aforementioned day’s difficult fast. For those fellow Couchsurfers out there, keep your eyes peeled for their next pop-up hangout or stay request as they journey from destination to destination, and if you do catch them en route, wish Kieran a “Happy Birthday” as he turns 29 next week on the road, and told me, “I will probably end up homeless on my birthday.”
To keep updated on where they are in the world, you can follow their YouTube channel “Joe Martin Travel” and their social media account by the same name (@joemartintravel) as well as Brown’s (@kieranbr0wn), who has also been posting photos and shorter videos of their challenge.
The whole point of this daring excursion is to collect donations they will distribute to charities in each country they visit to assist the needy. In Türkiye that charity will be the Turkish Red Crescent and they will divvy up the funds equally among the organizations once they have completed their journey. As their empathy continues to grow for those that are homeless and hungry, they are also grateful to shed light on the challenges many face in this world that are in such predicaments.