Explorer Mikael Strandberg

Expedition England With A Pram: Harpenden To Bhaktivedanta Manor

This ongoing heat makes it quite a challenge sitting inside the tent writing an article on the topic of being at the fringes of the English society. Dana´s asleep though, which is normally as challenging, but she got little sleep last night, even though we pitched our tents on a dead silent graveyard. And we had to get up at six, to leave the graveyard before any people turned up. Which we did, since it was a request from the female vicar. So there´s a good reason Dana is fast asleep! And another reason is that it has been another very exciting day full of impressions for all of us! And after 7 weeks of hard work and walking at the same time, we are tired. Really tired. But still extremely excited and motivated. We have met such an array of great people on our walk!

Right now we are camping with a bunch of young people called woffers which is kind of an exchange program for people who are into organic farming, many of them young with first priority to learn English, and they´re part of the gigantic area which the Beatle George Harrison donated to the Hare Krishna, Bhaktivedanta Manor. We have been interviewing and experiencing this beautiful and peaceful setting almost all day. It is indeed an oasis in this otherwise very noisy island. At least all I have seen so far. Traffic, airplanes or trains can be heard everywhere. It has been an enlightning experience in many ways. I have enjoyed it thouroghly and in many ways at has been among the happiest days of my life.

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But, there´s always a but, meeting Radhan Mohan Das and other very friendly and intellectually stimulating members of the Hare Krishna community, well, it made me think about how this is actually the first time of all my Expeditions I have ever done, that some people I come across just see me as plain white trash. Just because we are pushing a pram (stroller in American) there are people who see us as homeless and of less value.

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On earlier Expeditions I have either traveled with animals (camels, horses, reindeer, donkies) or skied or canoed in a way which have kind of set me and my team apart as athletes or explorers. This time I push a heavily loaded pram with my 23 months older daughter Dana inside, who is almost always dirty from something, and I have a great female assistant, Georgia, so we can be seen as a family, and there´s no doubt that some people don´t wanna deal with us. Either they avoid looking at us, this is mainly the case, or they look at us with distaste. Honestly, it doesn´t bother me too much, but it is still a very humbling experience, being considered the lowest of the low. And here´s the interesting observation:

The one´s who judge us the hardest and harshest, is people who themsellves have quite tough life´s, like living in a caravan, which many do in England. When I think about it, including my time in Moss Side and compare it with coming to the south, there´s no doubt we are more accepted down here, where people actually understand what we do as compared to further north where quite a few just didn´t have a clue why we do what we do. Now, down here in the south we get invited somewhere every night without much problems at all, people smile and cheer us much more, talk to us, inquire about many thinngs and show interest. In the north (well as far north as Manchester) and Midlands, well, few talked to us and more avoided us.

But, just let me add, this is just an observation and I still found the Midlands and the North in many ways more interesting, mainly due to the diversity in Manchester, Leicester and Birmingham. But do see it as a valid observation, I have 30 years of travelling like this in my backpack, more than a 100 countries and this is the first time, that some people have looked at me like dirt. Or with fear. I blame the worst media in the world for the fear issue. The tabloids…how can anyone wanna read this utterly scaremongering crap? As I wrote before, it says a lot about Britain, when so many tabloids dominate far too many peoples life. Like little enlightened people along our way. Or I should say, quite a few and far too many, considering we are living in relatively enlightened times.

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However, I am not surprised. Obviously if you like people around London, London and the south here are exposed to eccentric behaviour, you like it and accept it more. Being a northerner myself and from a simple background, a countryside boy, I understand that the problem is education, no or little exposure to anything than normal daily life in a repetative surrounding and the lack of an open mind. And that is what I want to get at, I am beginning to see England divided by who has been to public or private schools or not. There´s always many exceptions, but just look at the the people who run the country. Public school most of them. Eton, Harrow. Almost all explorers, my great friends, people who do fantastic things, almost all public school. Very few, thought they exsist, come from the state schools. No matter how you see it, it seems like public schools, creates self confidence, the others less. That is also why I have been so surprised of the England I have seen this last year, because all my friends, almost all private or public schools, they´re so outgoing, boisterous, eccentric and opinionated, well, this I have seen very little of on this journey. But very, very much of the low key, silent, I am doing my own business and don´t wanna be disturbed too much, please do not disturb my privacy and a obvious great fear for the unknown. But as awhole a very easy going deceant people.

I know I am spoiled! Before coming to England to do this journey, I have been in Siberia, Yemen and Africa and many more places and you cannot compare. And I am talking purely people, because no matter what the inhabitants of this island think, I cannot be impressed by the rolling countryside, the high hedges, all private land for a few, never any silence, if I only compare the England I have seen to the places where I am brought up, it wouldn´t rate. And too compare to Yemen or Siberia or Africa, well, let us just stop there. As regards to people and society, England is like Sweden, predictable and therefore quite boring, BUT, I like England a lot because of the diversity which gives it life and excitement. And it allows alternative ways of living more. And there´s many, so we have had a great journey. Yes we have!

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Tomorrow, Harrow and a look into one of the most prestigious publich schools in the world. Stay tuned!

Do follow our progress on http://punkt.luxson.com/daddyadventurer/

Mikael Strandberg author

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