How one of Exeter’s Jailbreak teams made it all the way to New York

Their team name was ‘See EU Later’

A week after they finished their record-breaking journeys across the globe for Exeter RAG’s Jailbreak, I had a chat with three teams to hear their stories. The second team is Jess and Laura, who broke Exeter Jailbreak records when they made it to New York City – 5,367 km from Exeter.

When and why did you decide to take part?

Jess and I [Laura] did Jailbreak last year (with another teammate, Jamie) and we managed to make it all the way to Athens. We knew we wanted to do it again this year as we knew it would be our last chance to try and make it out of the EU. We are planning on doing it again next year but our third year responsibilities mean that we will have to stay more local.

Sum up the journey. How did you do it?

We had learnt from last year that we did not stay in Exeter as long as we should have. We had found that going to central London proved to be tricky when asking for donations, so in the end we stayed on Exeter High Street for around five hours, which ultimately was the best decision we made along the way.

After collecting a surprising sum of money from this, we took the train to Taunton (hoping to fundraise along the way – although we were running late so this wasn’t a possibility!)

From there, we managed to hitch a lift and convince them to take us to London Heathrow, and after counting what we had collected we realised that we had enough money for two one-way flights to New York City. It didn’t really sink in until we were at Central Park the following day.

How’s fundraising gone so far?

Fundraising is going well so far, we reached out to friends and family who supported us last year and they very kindly donated again, and extra money we collected along the way has also been donated straight to the charities.

We have managed to go above our £100 each target that RAG recommend, but are still pushing for donations to give as much support to the charities as possible. At the moment our team total is £300!

What was the biggest surprise in terms of expectation vs. reality of doing Jailbreak?

The biggest surprise was how generous people were along the way. After telling people that we had made it to Athens last year they were eager to help us get even further! People also really connected to Cancer Research UK as a charity and several people told us heart-warming stories of how it had impacted their own lives and others around them, so they were more than happy to support what we were doing.

The biggest shock for us was how much confidence it actually took to approach people and ask them to support what we were doing. Naturally, there were discouraging moments, but we made sure we pushed each other to keep going, which obviously payed off.

It’s a lot of standing on your feet all day and reciting the same information to hundreds of people and definitely isn’t glamourous. We had spent weeks trying to work on a plan and thinking about destinations that were and were not realistic, driving our housemates crazy in the process! However, it’s so worth it once you get the result you had been dreaming of.

Who was the most memorable person you met on the way?

Aside from our driver who took us to Heathrow and was much appreciated, there were two elderly men that approached us on the High Street without us having to ask for donations, and gave us a very generous sum to help us with our travels.

Their kindness along with everyone else who donated really stuck out to us and made what we did possible. We also had an amazing flight attendant who was dancing and singing down the aisles during flight.

Any tips for teams in future?

Stay local for as long as possible. As it is a university based challenge, locals respond to it far more as they will recognise the charities and were happy to see money going back into the local community. Plan, but be flexible with your plan! It’s realistic to think about destinations and where you might end up, but things can change so quickly, so don’t be too fixated on where you end up.

It’s all about being flexible! Make sure you choose your team very wisely – it’s not just the 36 hours of travelling that you spend with them, but time at your destination as well. Make sure you are with people who will push you to keep going when donations start to slow, and have similar goals to yours, as a disjointed team would probably find that tensions would form very quickly when you’re under so much pressure (luckily, this didn’t happen to us!).

We cannot stress the value of documenting and recording your journey as you go, last year we filmed our whole journey to and from Athens and we did the same thing this year, and having footage to look back on is everything!

Try to have as much fun as possible, you’ll probably come out the other side of it with so many inside jokes and stories. At the end of the day, if you’re not smiling the entire way people will be less likely to want to help you and hear what you are doing, so maintain a positive exterior even when you feel like you can’t stand up any longer.

Jailbreak is the best thing we did last year, and now this year as well, so we would strongly recommend participating.

Exeter RAG is an amazing, close knit society and it’s amazing to be a part of it! Massive shout-out to Hope and the team for making it possible!

Exeter RAG’s Jailbreak has now raised over £17,000 and you can donate here.

Clarification on fundraising: strangers could choose to donate to charity or travel (or both). Close friends and family couldn’t donate to travel.