Pioneering scout heads off on Cancun to Quebec adventure

Pioneering scout heads off on Cancun to Quebec adventure

Lucy Golding

Pioneering scout heads off on Cancun to Quebec adventure

On Wednesday, 23-year-old Maidenhead scout Jonathan Oxtoby left the UK to embark on an epic journey from Cancun to Quebec with the aim to visit as many scouts as possible on route.

He hopes the trip will help to form stronger links between scouting organisations in the UK and oversees.

We caught up Jonathan just before he left to find out about his last minute trip preparations plus his fears, dreams and excitements for his ambitious journey ahead.

With all things going to plan, Jonathan will arrive in Quebec for the annual World Scout Moot on August 8.

How much interest have you received since our first story about your trip went into the Advertiser last month?

I have had a lot of interest from scout groups up and down the country who want to donate me a neckerchief and get themselves linked to a group overseas. I've had neckers from as far away as Dumfries and Leeds. I was even lucky enough to have had a radio interview with Paul Coia on BBC Radio Berkshire. .

How many scouts have you managed to communicate with in order to secure accommodation on your route?

I have been in touch with so many it's been hard to keep track of them all. There was Brad in NY State, Adriana in Cancun, Erick in Guanajuato and Miguel in Mexico to name a few. When I am in Mexico City, I have to meet up with Viviana from the Scouts of Mexico National HQ, as I have promised her we will sing a duet together. It's been really nice to see that all over the world, Scouts are always happy to extend the hand of friendship and welcome a fellow person into their homes.

If on a particular leg of your journey you can't find any scouts to meet up with, will you find a hotel or is this cheating?

Hotels? Not on my budget! If push comes to shove I will try to find a hostel or a campsite, but I am hoping that this will not need to happen - there has been so much interest in my trip that I have actually had to turn down some offers of accommodation.  I am also seeing some family in the USA, including some fellow Oxtobys who I met through Facebook - no proven relation yet, but Karin Oxtoby in Texas obviously feels we are related enough for me to go to her bootcamp exercise class in Dallas - just after getting off an overnight coach!

What specialist scouting skills will you hopefully be thankful for when you're out in the sticks?

Being able to put up a tent, use a stove and common sense. Common sense is the most important thing of all, because if I can use that then I stand a better chance of not getting into a difficult situation in the first place. The down to earth approach to life that you get in scouting gives you a unique way of looking at the world, which often gets you through it much more easily.

Do you have any idea how you will be getting around or is it mostly a case of winging it?

Sadly, winging it is expensive and impractical, especially in the USA. I am looking primarily at coach travel. The USA's train network is not up to much, and only seems to go one way - to get a train from Los Angeles to Dallas takes about six hours in almost a straight line, but to get from Dallas to Los Angeles requires a 66 hour journey which goes around five sides of a pentagon before you get there. I do know that I will be getting a car for part of the journey to the National Scout Jamboree in July, and a boat over to Canada just before August, so I will at least have completed the whole "trains, planes and automobiles" set.

Are you concerned about any risks of dangers you might face on your travels?

Aware, yes. Concerned, not really. Mexico is certainly not the safest of countries to travel in, and there are even parts of the USA which various people have warned me off going to. But forewarned is forearmed. I will be very careful when I am travelling to stick to larger groups rather than go off alone, and meeting locals in each place I go helps me to avoid getting into trouble. Sticking with Scouts is an added bonus because they are well respected in both Mexico and the USA and they are by nature honest and trustworthy people.

Is there anything you will miss about Maidenhead?

The river. Great for paddling, great for swans, great for lazing round in the Spring sunshine. I have a feeling that things will be beautiful out in other parts of the world, but not quite the same. However, one of the advantages of travelling in this age is that you get to see how accessible the world is. So Maidenhead will never really feel that far away.

Is there a chance that you won't the reach the world scout moot on August 8?

Not at all! I've been looking forward to the World Scout Moot for too long to let anything get in the way of me being there. I'm hoping to arrange for someone to scatter a good bit of dust for me to emerge from in front of the rest of the contingent too, just to add a bit of drama to the proceedings.

What do your colleagues at the Pilot Pen Company in Bourne End think about your adventures?

Apart from all the jokes about going to prison in Mexico, they are excited for me. They've been great to work with over the last year, and some of them have even promised to read my blog, which is very decent of them given how much I have banged on about the trip this year.

What's your sponsorship total at so far?

Thanks to donations from various scout groups and my local scout district and county, I have been given more than £700 towards my trip. It's fantastic to know that people are supporting what I'm doing, so I'll take this opportunity to thank them all very much.

Do you have anything you wish to tick off the bucket list when you're out there - bungee jumps, swimming with sharks for example?

I don't really have a bucket list, as my philosophy is that a list will just make you disappointed if you can't get something ticked off it. I'll take whatever opportunities are thrown at me out on this adventure - it's more about meeting people than doing specific things. I suppose I would quite like to try riding a horse across the desert.

Where are you most looking forward to visiting?

I am really excited about the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia as it's the first time that it's been held at the location, and it is going to stay there permanently, so it should be a pretty special event. The World Scout Moot itself is also going to be absolutely incredible as there's nothing else quite like it in scouting or anywhere that I know of, so it's a once in a lifetime event.

Where are you least looking forward to visiting?

Heathrow Airport, because that means I will have come home.

What's is the next adventure for Jonathan Oxtoby?

Next year I am helping to run WINGS, a jamboree held in Windsor Great Park which sees around 5-6,000 young people from all over the world meet up like the World Scout Moot to share their cultures and have a good time (WINGS is for younger scouts, however). There's still Hawaii to see, the Great Wall of China to walk, South America to explore, and a friend of mine from university and I would quite like to try taking a boatload of chickens up the Amazon river, just to see what happens. Not sure if we'll get round to that, but I'll be in touch if we do.

Visit to follow Jonathan on his adventure.

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