We spoke to the Race Across the World couple who met at a Spoons in Lincoln

‘I still wouldn’t be up for canoeing on the Brayford’

We all watched Race Across The World with envy, as five pairs explored the length of Latin America in 54 days.  With a limited budget, the travellers are not allowed to fly, or use smartphones, to reach their destination. The first pair to reach the final checkpoint wins twenty thousand pounds.

Among these pairs, was married couple Jen and Rob, who have been together nine years, and have been married for five. In the penultimate leg of the race, Rob revealed that he first met Jen on a night out in Lincoln. Naturally, we had to know more.

‘I know that you both live in Reading now, so how come you met in Lincoln?’

Jen: “I grew up in Lincolnshire, and Robbie was there for work. He was living and working in Lancashire at the time, but was based at RAF Coningsby for a year. We only met a week before he was due to go back to Lancashire!”

Rob: “It was literally the last week I was in Lincoln! We met on the Brayford Wharf, in Square Sail on a night out. A week later, Jen came along to my leaving party.”

Jen: “We had a really fun week of dates, doing loads of different activities together, and then I went on holiday and Robbie went back to Lancashire. At the time, I thought- that was a fun week, I didn’t expect all this!”

When Jen and Rob first met

‘What’s your best memory from the show?’

Rob: “The best memory for me, was when we were on little boats crossing the Darién Gap. It’s such a beautiful area of the world, and it’s quite untouched. There’s no roads, it’s completely unpassable, and it’s dangerous on all fronts- the wildlife, the smuggling. The weather is just mental, it’s constantly thunder storming every night. But then there we were, blasting past these tiny tropical islands, and it was so beautiful. Being able to get to that part of the world was just incredible.”

Jen: “I completely second that – just being able to go to that side of the world, when we’ve never travelled there before, was amazing. But oh my days, the Iguazu Falls! That is printed on my retinas, I will never forget that, it was one of the best days of my life, truly incredible. Also working with the bears, when we canoed, things that might seem silly, but things that I never imagined that I would get the opportunity to do. Then just the end point, when we looked at the other couples, we looked at the end of the world, we hugged, and knew that we had made it. It was so overwhelming! I can’t really pinpoint one thing, because it was just the most incredible experience in the world. The whole thing was mind-blowing, and finishing was just like the cherry on the cake.”

Rob: “TV can’t do these places justice either, because places such as the Iguazu Falls are just so massive, it’s hard to get it all in.”

Iguazu Falls as shown on BBC 2

‘Is there anything that you wish had been shown on TV, which we didn’t get to see?’

Jen: “We were really happy with the show, you can’t possibly show everything, but what you did get to see was the absolute highlights. Obviously watching us working the entire time would be incredibly boring- but we actually did loads of jobs. Some of them were incredible! In Montenegro, we worked in a restaurant for a day in the meat markets. The teamwork, speaking a different language, and being part of such an amazing community- that was such a special experience.”

‘How has the experience of Race Across the World changed you?’

Rob: “We’re definitely different around each other now, not many couples have had the chance to spend two months straight literally in each other’s pockets- until lockdown, maybe! You’re with each other, but also under such huge amounts of pressure to make big decisions, manage a tight budget, and you can only come out from that situation either broken or an entirely different couple!”

Jen: “Yeah, and you develop not only as a couple, but as individuals. Robbie became more confident, and I became so much more open minded. I mean, I still wouldn’t be up for canoeing on the Brayford or anything! But in the situation of the show, I was a yes-woman, I would try anything. I’ve come back so proud of what we achieved, so open minded, and so desperate for adventure- I was never like that before. I think that this in turn will make me a better wife, a better friend, and Robbie and I are so bonded by our experience.”

The couple on their first holiday, after dating for five months

‘Will you travel differently because of this experience?’

Rob: “I hope so, I’d love to do some more backpacking…”

Jen: “I will, I will! I promise!”

Rob: “It’s incredible the amount of places we could go to through staying at hostels. Although they’re hostels, and they are quite cheap, you can have such a laugh in them, and they aren’t bad! I mean, we did go to some hostels that were horrendous, but the majority were amazing.”

Jen: “Robbie is such a planner usually, too, and he does it so well! It’s great because we always really make the most of our time away. But now I think we would both be happy to just take a bag, be more mobile, rock up at the airport, have a couple days where we don’t know where we are staying, and just bumble around a bit. I’d be happy to stay with families, stay at homestays- I would have never considered that before, but those were some of the best times we had, because that’s when you learn about the place, that’s where you see the real culture, that’s were you eat the real food. I’m certain that this will change the way that we holiday in the future!”

“What was your lowest point on the show?”

Rob: “La Paz, oh gosh, La Paz…”

Jen: “I’ve kind of tried to wash that from my memory, but that was awful! However, on one hand it was awful to have your dirty laundry shown to the public, the way that we had that fight, and how we treated each other. But on the other hand, it was a massive turning point for us- after that, things just switched, we started to have so much more fun, and we were better together! So, although it really was the lowest point, it was also so significant in the journey. Now that it’s passed, we’re happy that it happened, because it actually cleared the air, it forced us together, and actually, it was the making of us.”

‘What was your favourite checkpoint?’

Rob: “Cafayate in Argentina, that place was amazing. It was so posh- it offered activities such as polo practice! I think that gives you a flavour of what the hotel was like… It’s also set in this high altitude vineyard, you’ve got the Andes as a backdrop behind you, the town is sandy, with rock formations- it’s quite popular with climbers, and it’s just such a beautiful and alien environment. The wine was also amazing, that’s probably what really sold it to me, to be honest.”

Jen: “I really like Panama, but in complete honesty, I think that after traveling through all these countries that weren’t westernised, it was just nice to return to a bit of normality. I think that’s probably why I have such fond memories. I also love an old town, I love a new town, and that had both- like Lincoln! So I kind of felt more in my comfort zone. But I did also love Cafayate, and for some crazy reason I also loved Mendoza- but I think that might be because we came first in that leg!”

Race Across the World is available to catch up on BBC iPlayer.