On coming last in Jailbreak

Team Seán and Ste came last in this year’s competition after setting themselves the challenge of only travelling in a westerly direction.

indepthIt was 3am and neither of us knew what we were going to do. The fact was, without travel sponsorship, we were going to be getting nowhere. So we went anyway. The Jailbreak mindset is a strange one, and not one I’m used to. It’s like going to an exam unprepared. It’s like going to an exam not knowing if the exam you’ll be doing will be on your module or some abstract science involving the semantics of sounds produced by whales. Strangest of all, it’s like this in every feeling of uncertainty and necessity, except for that looming fear. The cause liberates you to embarrass yourself. I mean, the Balkans? Of course most teams weren’t going to get there! The point at which we realised this is when we could really begin to let go.

The race began at 9am on Saturday. We did the smart thing and first did nothing. This involved walking from the starting point in Collins Barracks to Trinity and plonking ourselves in front of the computers there. We began doing the same thing we’d been doing all week – being tirelessly energetic on social media. By the end of the preceding week – spent raising over the €300 amount for SVP and Amnesty – two Facebook pages were made, two concert tickets raffled, two events held, and for each of these I personally sent invites to everyone on my friends list. An average of ten out of hundreds clicked “attending”, one or two donated (thank you!), and by the time the deadline came for us to present the fruits of our SVP and Amnesty donation drives, we had pestered everyone to the point of scraping up €316.

We realised this bizarre attempt at subtle networking was all for nothing.

That was what we did, and perhaps if we hadn’t left it so late, we would have found travel sponsorship too, avoiding the hassle of emerging from the computer labs three hours into the start of race-day with a cheesy makeshift poster design and a plan involving what most people would view as degrading our own dignity. We went up and down Nassau St. looking for businesses to sponsor us, leaving it until the very last minute to execute Plan B. Indeed, Plan A failed, so we walked passively into Reads to get our poster printed. We got it laminated too. The embarrassing part was the thought process behind this. The printing and laminating involves staff looking at the poster for quite some time. On the front, in A3, there we were, looking as horribly and purposefully disheveled as we had planned the night before, when we decided that pity would be the best route in this situation.

We realised this bizarre attempt at subtle networking was all for nothing. On casually bringing up the charity and the tangential travel costs (we originally set our sights on Cork), the simple but kind response we got, along with some funds to cover our travel, set our moods high for the rest of the day. We didn’t go to Cork. The Galway bus came earlier. We decided there and then that Galway was the center of the universe. We went to Galway instead. This decision initially seemed a bad one when we showed up in the evening time, already quite sleep-deprived, and just then remembering that we hadn’t organised anywhere to stay for the night. Fortunately, Ste has some lovely friends, and one family took us in for the night, even helping us with more fundraising ideas along with ideas how we could find travel sponsorship.

We went into town later that night, after crashing a birthday party, and we set ourselves up in The Quays pub. We took out the laptop and sat in the darkest corner. The atmosphere was humming in conversation and remixes of Hozier. Hunched over a dilapidated laptop, we attracted attention through looking suspiciously discrete and definitely out of place. People came along asking about the charity organisations. At some point in the night, soon before the battery ran out, we noticed an island off the Galway coast, Inishbofin. It seemed like the most westerly place we could get to. When we returned to the hosts’ house that night, we planned out the next journey. It was again 3am and we were suffering from the sort of tiredness that would make you babble. In fact, that night I slept so deeply, I did start babbling, perhaps negating the sleeping efforts of Ste situated a few metres away.

We slept. We got up, we got a kind lift back to Galway city centre where we explained the charities to the bus companies parked at the station. One driver named Daire gave us a lift to Cleggan, north of Galway. The trip took us all the way through Connemara, and along the way, Daire was able to tell us where we were so that we could text our trackers back at HQ with updates on our location. At Cleggan, a small ferry was leaving for Inishbofin at 11:30am. We had about 40 minutes when we arrived to go to the local pub in search of donations for the charities, along with a simultaneous search for wifi. We found some wifi, we posted more stuff, we went to the harbour. Again, we explained what Jailbreak was about to the people running Inishbofin Ferries, and they took us on board. The trip from Cleggan to the rather outward island was windy. Once we were away from the shore the windows on either side of the passenger section would enter and leave two states: framing an image of the sky, and framing an image of the sea itself, bobbing up and down.

After giving the 45 second lesson, I puked over the side of the boat.

We took the opportunity to complete one of the Jailbreak tasks – teach a stranger a new skill. We asked a few people before finding a passenger not too sea-sick to listen to a lecture on introduction to Japanese paper art. After giving the 45 second lesson, I puked over the side of the boat and, at about that time, the waves died down. On the island we hiked to the most westward point, so that we could be further west than some team latitudinally matching us at the slightly more southern location of Casablanca.

The Atlantic crashed, unobscured by any land masses, against the high rocks at the edge of Inishbofin. There was no wifi in this location. On the way back to the port that evening, we did our most successful fundraising. The people of Inishbofin were a really down-to-earth crowd, and had a lot of time to talk about SVP and Amnesty International. Although some were rather confused as to why we were aiming west when destination X was to be somewhere in the Balkans – in the east – we told them what we told everyone: “We introduced our own personal rule whereby we can only travel in a westerly direction.”

We slept on the ferry back to Cleggan. We missed last bus, but we returned to Dublin by the kindness of more Galway people, even sorting a lift with an NUIG student returning to the city for a week of college. With the casual and kind sponsorship we received throughout our travels we needed to spend no money – this is part of the Jailbreak philosophy. Being the furthest away from destination X, Lake Bled, Slovenia last night, we came in last position. But Jailbreak has so far raised over €60,000 for SVP and Amnesty International, and on behalf of myself and my teammate, we’re proud to have played a small part in this positive success.