The original plan was to cover 20 countries in 20 months.
The best-laid plans often go astray, especially those made prior to the unexpected emergence of COVID. No one knows that better than Chris and Marianne Fisher, who began a worldwide odyssey in January of 2020 from their native England only to run right into border shutdowns and they eventually had to reverse their route.
The Fishers would have been finished their intended TREAD The Globe (TREAD being an acronym for Travel Responsibly Eat Adventure and Dive) tour in their Fiat Ducato, a 19.52 foot commercial vehicle converted into a camper van and affectionately known as Trudy, but they’re still on the road. In fact, the tour has taken on a completely different life of its own and may continue indefinitely as they explore new horizons.
The Fishers visited aunt Julia Barton, who lives in Chemainus, during June and are back in town again while stopping at different points around the Island until Sept. 18 during their revamped tour before continuing onto the next stage.
“They are a most interesting couple,” said Barton.
Barton did her own adventures during her heyday, backpacking solo starting in South Africa and through five countries in a year in 1967.
Marianne’s dad once completed a Trans-Atlantic sailing trip from Rhode Island to Gibraltar, utilized his pilot’s license to the fullest and rode classic cars and motorbikes in exotic locations so it’s in her genes.
Many people around Chemainus have noticed the Fishers’ camper van and they’ve become quite well acquainted with numerous residents during their stay.
“It’s like a yo-yo, we keep coming back,” laughed Chris, 52. “I love Chemainus, everything about it is nice. It’s got a really lovely feel and people are very friendly. It’s a welcoming, nice place.”
And that’s saying something considering the abundance of places the Fishers have already visited in Europe, Central America, the United States and Canada so far.
Marianne just celebrated her 55th birthday with a party Thursday, Sept. 1 at the Chemainus Public Market where aunt Julia, who’s 86, was playing selections on her keyboard for patrons as she does once a month and on holidays while collecting donations on this occasion for the food bank.
“I love it, it’s still got that quaint small town feel and everybody says hello to each other,” said Marianne of her impressions of Chemainus.
The Fishers have become YouTube sensations since the start of their trip with their videos surpassing 13 million views and they have 89,000 subscribers following their every move.
The Fishers have been married 25 years after a whirlwind romance of a little more than a year.
“We were blind-dated by my friend who ended up getting a kidney from me,” pointed out Marianne.
A series of circumstances led to their decision to sell everything and make this trip without waiting until the usual retirement age to realize their dreams.
“We went through a patch where we actually lost quite a few people we knew,” said Chris.
“Our friends were retiring and dying or not reaching retirement,” added Marianne.
“Quite a few of our friends went within a year and Marianne donated a kidney to a friend,” Chris elaborated.
“I had a bit of a panic that I wasn’t going to make it to retirement. We all want to make it to retirement to do what we want to do.”
“You think, ‘I don’t want to be one of those people,’” said Marianne. “If I have something to do, I want to do it. I want to be on my death bed saying I actually put my head under freezing cold water in the Arctic Ocean and took on challenges.”
They made that quick dip in the Arctic Ocean and everything else they’ve done to date has been entirely worthwhile.
“Who gets to say they drove from the Georgia-Russia border to Vancouver Island via Alaska?” queried Marianne.
Marianne was a hospital administrator and Chris’ last job was the head of catering at two large hospitals. They both left their jobs and sold many of their possessions while keeping their house and renting it out in order to maintain some income for their trip.
They also bought the camper van for their travels and sleeping quarters. It was an 18-year-old vehicle with 40,000 miles under its belt that has now logged another 70,000 for a total of 110,000.
The trip began in earnest on January 5, 2020 at Telford in Shropshire, England.
“We cut a ribbon, we got filmed by the BBC and we drove off into the sunset before COVID,” said Chris.
Everything went well the first three months through France, Italy, Austria, Slovenia and other neighbouring countries until they hit Turkey. That’s when the full impact of COVID became apparent and the Fishers wound up spending an extensive period of time going nowhere.
“We were only supposed to be in Turkey three weeks,” noted Chris. “We were there 18 months.”
But the people were great to them and made it all more bearable.
“We’ve found the countries that have the least will give you the most,” said Chris.
The Fishers even became goodwill ambassadors during their time in the Antalya region of Turkey and got involved in the Dekafok project for the preservation of green and loggerhead sea turtles.
They raised funds through GoFundMe after meeting a woman who had given up her job to protect turtles coming up on the beach.
“We’re now the main sponsors for a turtle conservation project,” raved Marianne. “Randomly, the stars aligned for us to meet her.”
With changing circumstances such as civil wars and unrest in other countries as well as the Russian conflict with Ukraine, the trip literally turned in another direction once the Fishers could get moving again.
“You have to listen to local advice and be sensible when you travel,” Chris reasoned.
“When we got to the Russian border and had to do a hand-brake turn, we realized we’re not quitters,” added Marianne.
“With borders closed, we decided we couldn’t wait,” said Chris.
They shifted from Istanbul taking the camper van back to the United Kingdom for a couple of weeks and then shipping it to Charleston, South Carolina. They eventually arrived in B.C. after traversing through Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and other states along the way.
“We spent a few days on the Island saying hi to Aunt Julia,” grinned Chris.
Then they headed north to Alaska via the Dempster Highway through the Northwest Territories and the Yukon to the Arctic Ocean and back to Chemainus.
Chris has been taking extensive videos of all their experiences on YouTube where they have paid sponsorships. So they are still working, in a way, to help pay the bills for their travels.
“I think it’s been a real test of everything,” said Chris. “You don’t know where you’re going to sleep, where you’re going to get water from.
“I prefer to stay in the more remote places. It’s been fascinating to see. Travelling like this you get another perspective on a country.”
“I don’t put high expectations on many things,” offered Marianne. “I find it leads to a much better experience. I always go with a fresh open mind.”
The final chapter is a long way from being written. Chris intends to write a book someday.
With revamped plans and restrictions on the time foreign vehicles can be in certain countries, “it’s complicated,” said Chris.
The Fishers are going to tour a bit more of B.C. next and into Alberta before heading south, likely as far as Mexico, and then fly back to England while the camper van is shipped to Melbourne, Australia. Later, they’ll fly to Australia to reunite with their home on wheels for extensive travels Down Under and probably into New Zealand – unless the plan changes.
“I’d say we’ve got about two years to go on this one,” said Chris.
“The world situation is constantly changing. It’s like a game of chess. You just have to make sure you don’t get check-mated.”
You can follow the Fishers under Tread The Globe on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and on the web at www.treadtheglobe.com.