Meet the man writing 'Stop Brexit' across Europe with a van and GPS tracker
PUBLISHED: 10:30 08 August 2018
Consultant Andy Pardy packed in his job, bought a van and embarked on a very unusual anti-Brexit mission
As a passionate pro-European mourning the potential of Britain’s last summer in the EU, Andy Pardy was looking for some kind of project to vent his frustration at Brexit.
The epiphany came as he was running, and staring at the fitness app which tracked his progress on a map. Theoretically one could use such a tracker to map out any shape, or indeed, words.
And it was with that that the 28-year-old did what anybody would do – pack in his job, buy a van and spend the summer driving across 32 European countries in a carefully constructed route to spell out ‘Stop Brexit’ for anyone tracking his progress.
“It’s a crazy idea,” he concedes, speaking to The New European from the Arctic Circle, where he is in the middle of drawing the ‘P’.
“I had it when I was on a run. You know, I was tracing my route on a run using a running app and just thought, why can’t I do this on a big scale?”.
So the digital transformation consultant from Exeter dug out his maps, plotted his route and set out on the journey that began in Scotland last month and will come to an end in Iberia at the end of October.
“It took me a long time [to plot the route] – I think it took me about three or four weeks,” he says.
“I realised I wanted to spell ‘Stop Brexit’. I knew the shapes that I needed to draw across the continent, and I then started plotting various places I also wanted to visit.
“I knew the rough shape and then started to work out how I could draw it by going past or through or staying in the places I really wanted to visit. So I’ve combined it – it’s about drawing the words and making the point, but it’s also about trying to visit some of the best places and bring them to life, which I hope I’m doing through my Instagram and Twitter and through my blog.”
It is, he says “a poignant time to do it – it’s the last summer that we are in the EU as we know it.
“Of course we don’t know what the outcome of the discussions will be in terms of freedom of movement, but it’s a statement I wanted to make.
“I’ve always wanted to do something like this around Europe and I’ve been frustrated with the debate and the way Brexit’s been going over the last couple of years. I wanted to leave my job and go and do something for myself, but also to try and rally as many people as I can and just do something different.”
Having spent his formative years in Germany – his father was in the Army – and later working in Spain, Andy says he has “loved being part of the EU”.
“I felt powerless to do anything about it so I decided to, you know, embark on a little personal mission,” he says.
“I hope to try and share some stories and some local viewpoints when I got into the proper EU member states and just start exploring and having conversations. I’ve met loads of people on the road and spoken about what I’m doing and everyone so far thinks it’s absolutely fantastic. It’s just been a great talking point and it’s nice to find people with similar views.”
The S started last month, at Loch Lomond (“it’s somewhere I’d always wanted to go, I’d never been to Scotland before”) and taking in Northern Ireland, the Republic, Wales and then Cornwall, ending on a beach which Andy used to visit as a child.
The T, meanwhile, “was crazy because I had to drive all the way from London to Gothenburg just to start the letter, which was a two- or three-day journey”.
Strictly speaking, anyone following Andy on the live online tracker will see him write ‘Stop tixerB’ in real time, as he’s doing the second word backwards.
“It makes sense in terms of the weather really, to start with the T and then end in Spain and Portugal, spelling the B. Because it’ll be around late October then and I’d rather be in Spain and Portugal than Latvia and Lithuania.”
Having completed the S alone, he was joined for the T by his girlfriend Katy, a nurse. How did she feel about his vast and perhaps quixotic mission?
“Well, a lot of people obviously thought it was barmy, and it is crazy when you think about it,” he says.
“She had the same sort of reaction – crazy, like, really, how are you going to do that, how are you physically going to do that?
“And I was like, don’t worry, I’ve already planned it. Because I’d been beavering away in the background working out whether it was actually possible, what sort of van I might need, how long would it take, how much would it cost.
“I did all that before announcing that I thought it was a plausible thing to do and, yeah, she thought it was great.”
In total, the journey will take in – deep breath – the UK, Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Luxembourg, Andorra, Spain and Portugal.
They have so far survived on supplies bought in Lidl in Salisbury, where Andy’s mother lives, before departing – tinned food and pasta cooked on the road to avoid Scandinavia’s famously wallet-busting prices.
“As soon as we get to Estonia we’ll treat ourselves hopefully to a meal, something that’s cooked in an oven,” says Andy. “Anything that’s cooked in an oven.”
As for what he’ll do afterwards, he’s not sure.
“I’ve been consulting for eight, nine years… maybe I’ll go back to it, maybe I won’t.
“Whilst I’ve got my health, whilst we’re still in the EU I thought I’d, you know, get out on the road.”
It’s not a cheap trip. The van – a 10-year-old VW Transporter – cost £6,000, while Andy estimates their travelling will clock in at £5,000. After toying with the idea of crowdfunding, he ended up taking out his savings.
“I had basically enough… I had the deposit for a house. And I was at the stage where it was like… I wouldn’t say I had a mid-life crisis, but I had to really think, ok, do I want to buy a house, be locked into a commitment whereby I have to stay in my job for the foreseeable future, or do I take that money and just do something like this? And I decided to do this.
“I might live to regret it, I might not,” he muses. “You know, I don’t think I will, to be honest.”