Make or Jailbreak

Last year former Tab editor KIERAN CORCORAN made it all the way to Gatwick airport. Read his advice and do better.

charity gatwick airport hitchhiking Jailbreak kieran corcoran RAG

Jailbreak is a wonderful time of year. Charities get money, people get amazing stories to tell, and The Tab becomes an even better source of procrastination than usual. However, for every champion who makes their way to Argentina there are a dozen who never leave the country, and three or four who barely leave the county. Last year I was one of these unsung jailbreakers. While we still raised a decent amount for charity, there’s no denying this event is about glory as much as giving. From this perspective it felt like a crushing defeat, but, like all losses, it teaches you a lot. Here, for you who are to about to embark, are the things I wish somebody had told me, preferably via a megaphone, before I left Parker’s Piece:


It’s January, freezing, and you have no idea where/whether you’ll be sleeping. I guarantee you won’t regret bringing an extra t-shirt/jumper/scarf/coat/pair of gloves – getting cold and exhausted outside at night is the easiest way to lose all hope early on. Also it’s a fact of life that people are more likely to give their money to somebody in a ridiculous onesie than someone without one, so anything you invest in novelty clothing and goofy props will surely pay itself back tenfold.

Pick up a penguin


The first thing my partner and I did was try to hitchike our way to somewhere more exciting than Cambridge. What we didn’t realise is that hitchiking has a success rate of around 0.005%. After three hours of trying, and nothing gained but the offer of a ride to Cherry Hinton, we decided to go the money-raising/asking rich people route, but had lost valuable time. Those who stick at hitchiking make it work, but anything less than total dedication won’t take you anywhere worth bragging about.


Later on an organisation which shall remain nameless offered us a flight to Istanbul that evening. “Job done,” we thought, and headed straight to Stansted airport. So chuffed with ourselves were we that we stopped even trying to think of other options, and sat pretty right up until it all fell through, leaving us one day down, demoralised, and no more than 30 miles from college. Here my third revelation struck…


Don’t go to an airport unless you’ve already blagged a flight or have enough cash to pay for one (and don’t care that you’d raise more overall by just donating that). Airports are depressing, moribund places where everyone is so drained by overpriced Pret sandwiches that they have neither the funds nor desire to help you. Also, chances are that by the time you arrive they’ll have already seen a lifetime’s supply of happy-go-lucky Cambridge students in yellow t-shirts and have no time for you.

Check-in assistants and ticket salespeople have seen this all too many times before, and on the off-chance a spark of human decency does make it out, airline corporate policy will nip it in the bud before you can say “race you to Duty Free.” Also every fuzzy announcement, suitcase stampede and tearful goodbye you witness will only be a reminder that everyone is leaving the country except you.


Businesses are dicks, and the bigger the business the less likely they are to give a shit about you. While Richard Branson may be exactly the sort of man who’d give you a free flight to Sydney because you’re from Cambridge and have a fit friend, none of his joie de vivre filters down to frontline staff at Virgin. Normal people wandering around are always your best bet, especially if they’re near a pub. Begging your way in to people’s offices at lunch time sometimes works too if they are desky sorts with too much money and not enough human contact, but anyone doing a job when you talk to them is wasted breath.


This is the most important. The only reason jailbreakers blag enough to buy a flight to Madrid while hundreds of tramps can’t scratch together enough for a Big Mac is because the Cambridge crowd look like they’re having a great time. People see your sexy, happy, carefree selves and, hopefully, will want to latch on to that by shoving coins in your pocket.

Always wear a smile

The second you remember there’s a big essay waiting back home, or that there’s no prospect of a bed for 48 hours, or that another team are already halfway to Casablanca, you’ve lost half of what it is that makes strangers willing to give you money to go travelling. Jailbreaking is hard and puts you in the capricious hands of fortune, but if you can convince yourself (or at least pretend) you’re loving every minute then you’ll go far. Farther than I did, anyway.