Expatica news

Language barrier stops Briton’s peace walk in France

   LONDON, Feb 29, 2008 (AFP) – A British peace activist aiming to walk to
India to prove a money-free world is possible has turned back at the first
hurdle, after getting to France and finding he needed to speak French.
   Writing on his blog Friday a month after starting his trek, 28-year-old
Mark Boyle said he and two friends accompanying him ran into problems the
minute they arrived in the French port of Calais.
   "Not only did no one… speak the language, they also see us as just a
bunch of freeloading backpackers, which is the complete opposite of what the
pilgrimage is really about," he wrote.
   "That really scared us, and given that we now were pretty much out of food,
hadn’t slept in days and were really cold, we had to reassess the whole
   "We spoke to a few people who were willing to talk and they said that
France would not go for this unless we could speak fluent French, which none
of us could."
   After the setback, Boyle said he was advised to head instead for
neighbouring Belgium "as folk said they would be more likely to want to speak
some English".
   "The only trouble was the first decent-sized town in Belgium was 170
kilometres (106 miles) away, and all we had was three tins of soup, a bag of
trail mix and a chocolate bar to sustain us," he said.
   "As it was unlikely that we would get a chance to help or be helped by
French people in the journey getting there, the task looked daunting to say
the least," he said, adding that he had no choice but to head back to Britain.
   Boyle set out from his home in Bristol, western England, at the end of
January aiming to end up at Porbandar in India, Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace,
after the 9,000-mile (14,500-kilometre) trek.
   According to his official website, Boyle is walking "without any form of
money because he wants his life to be his message." He had hoped to take about
two and a half years to reach India.
   The coordinator of the project, Dawn Tovar, denied Boyle had abandoned
plans for his marathon walk.
   "He has not given up his project," she told AFP. "He is currently walking
in the southeast of England. He will tour around the UK, learn French and
leave again for Porbandar."