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Adventures on a Tuk Tuk

05 Medi 2012


In 2012, Nick Gough co-founded The Tuk Tuk Educational Trust alongside fellow teacher Rich Sears, both are now attempting to drive around the world in a tuk tuk in order to raise awareness of access to education initiatives.

Nick volunteered as a teacher in Malawi, before going to Cardiff University where he gained a BSc in Economics (Cardiff Business School) and an MSc in International Relations (School of European Studies). Having graduated, Nick returned to teaching economics for four years where he returned to teach in Nepal.

Cardiff University are the main education sponsor of the expedition.

Actress Joanna Lumley, OBE has described the expedition as "inspired lunacy". So tell us, what inspired you to drive round the world in a tuk tuk?

Rich: Both Nick and I are driven by our passion to promote and advance education worldwide. We both consider ourselves lucky to have had the opportunity to travel and teach in Africa, Asia and Latin America we came face-to-face with the educational challenges facing less economically developed countries. I vividly remember walking into a classroom in Ratanakiri, the jungle province of North-Eastern Cambodia and being met with a sea of faces of students, ranging from babies to teenagers. Whilst they had benches to sit and work on, a blackboard and a teacher; there were no pens, paper or chalk - no learning materials whatsoever - and the teacher didn't speak the same language as the children in his class!

From a global development perspective, these children were actually a success story - they had access to primary schooling. 61 million primary-aged children worldwide currently do not have access to any form of schooling, and millions more, like those students in the classroom in Ratanakiri, still have no access to quality learning opportunities. It was impossible not to be moved by that and want to do something about it.

Nick and I travelled through Thailand around 8 years now and fell in love with tuk tuks. We had the idea of embarking upon an overland expedition in one of these crazy little vehicles, taking advantage of its open and slow-paced nature to explore and unlock cultures and communities that you might usually speed through in another means of transport. We thought it'd be a great way to learn about and from their ways of life, their struggles, ambitions and aspirations. Around 4 years ago these two ideas came together, using the tuk tuk to expose people to the kind of experiences that had had such a great impact on us. Things escalated rapidly and here we are now, about to set off!

Nick: Well I think that Rich has covered most of it there. Both of us have seen how there are some great success stories out there where locals abroad who against all odds have made amazing contributions to education in their communities. We want to give people who are able an opportunity to support these projects. We hope by telling these positive stories and contrasting them to the position of the lack of education worldwide that we will be highlighting what is possible. Through the MDGs we (world leaders) have made promises for education that we aren’t going to be able to keep by 2015. Universal access to primary education was a target and there are still 61 million children without education which means our generation is going to fail in our obligation. We are going to try and inspire the next generation to get involved in development discourse.

We aren’t important people and that makes it difficult to be able to generate a substantial amount of noise about this, so we hope that by using an unusual vehicle (our tuk tuk!) we might draw more attention to these problems and advocacy for ‘Education for All.’

Tell us about the tuk tuk and where did you get it?TukTukTreharne2

Nick: It is an Indian made Piaggio Ape which is imported to Southampton and made road worthy for the UK.

What’s its top speed?

Rich: Top speed of 34mph (downhill with a following wind!). Driving up hill is a different matter... the steepest hills can see us travelling around six mph. As you can imagine this endears us to the drivers behind and bodes well for the Himalayas.    

You’ve started the UK leg and visited us at Main Building.  Was it good to be back at the University?

Nick: Yes I have very fond memories of being at Cardiff however I never thought that I would be driving a tuk tuk down Woodville Road! Driving through Cathays brings all those great memories flooding back.  

What are your best memories of University?

Nick: My best memories of Cardiff are from a variety of sources. I particularly enjoyed my post grad in International Relations on the academic side of things. Socially, everything from being a fresher in Talybont, nights in the union, and enjoying everything that Cardiff has to offer. I was also a member of the hockey club for my 4 years at Cardiff where we enjoyed success on and off the pitch.

Would you recommend studying at Cardiff?

Nick: Definitely. It has something for everyone. Excellence in academia, music, sport and socially, it ticks all the boxes and has an atmosphere that I personally think is unrivalled at other universities I have visited. Being a teacher I have always recommended it to the students that I have taught as a brilliant university to be part of in an exciting capital city. So I guess that is a yes. Since I left Cardiff I have been living with various university friends in London where we have a great group of mates that have all kept in touch and see a lot of each other.

Where in the world will you be heading after covering 2,500 miles of the UK?

Rich: On 25th September we'll be catching a ferry to France, from where we'll work our way down through Europe to Turkey. After another ferry crossing to Egypt, we'll travel down through East Africa to South Africa and then ship the tuk tuk across to India. We'll travel across South and South East Asia to Singapore, where we'll ship the vehicle to the West coast of the US. Then we'll work our way down through Central America, along the West coast of South America, working round to Rio de Janeiro where the expedition ends, over 50 countries and around 37,000 miles later.

How long do you expect the expedition to take and how many miles will you cover?

Nick: It should take 14 months in total - but we are prepared go for as long as it takes. We will cover somewhere near 37, 000 miles beating the current world record of 24,000.

How can people keep in touch and support your expedition?

Rich: The best way for people to keep in touch and show their support for us is by liking our Facebook page, following us on Twitter or by checking out our live map  which can be accessed via our website and by sharing these links with their friends and families. People can also sponsor us by donating to our charity, The Tuk Tuk Educational Trust - again, they can do so via our website. All donations go directly to grassroots educational projects, where even the smallest amount can go a very long way. If anyone has any useful contacts, skills or information we'd also love to hear from them! Any support would be very gratefully received.

Thank you for your time guys, good luck!

Related Links

Tuk Tuk Educational Trust

Tuk Tuk Travels on Twitter

Tuk Tuk Travels on Facebook


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