While he waited, Bushby steadfastly eschewed anything resembling a job. Ive offered him work as a housecleaner, said his friend Kyla Poirer, a Canadian who manages a swank Melaque hotel. And other friends asked him to haul jet skis out of the water, but he always has an excuse. He says hes got to be available to talk to the film producers. Once, Bushby did a stint as a waiter at a fancy restaurant. It was horrible, he said. After three shifts, I was done with the clients and all their snootinesswith their sideways comments about how the tea wasnt hot enough and their food wasnt arranged on the plate the right way. If I did that for a living, Id end up putting a plate over someones head.
Most mornings, Bushby took his own table at La Flora. He enjoyed a bottomless cup of coffee, complements of La Floras owner, an admirer of his expedition, and he peered at his laptop, poaching a Wi-Fi signal from a nearby shop.
While Bushby is clearly consumed by his goal, he doesnt glorify his achievements. At La Flora, we watched a BBC video about his 2006 Bering Strait crossing, and he never got boastful. Im an average guy, he said. Im less than average. Im an underachiever. All Im doing is putting one foot in front of the other.
On the laptops screen, the BBCs narrator whipped himself into a lather over how cold the Bering Sea is, and Bushby rolled his eyes, then aped the mans fretful upper crust British delivery. One could perish in that water in a matter of seconds, he crowed. Seconds, I say! Mere seconds!
The moment yielded more than a brief laugh. It also pointed toward the very quality thats endeared him to strangers across two continents. Hes a world traveler, yes, and a record setter, but he remains a working class bloke from the north of England. Encountering him, you recognize at once that his quest is not Olympian, but human and plodding. You want to shelter and feed him. You want to buy him a cup of coffee.
With the Bering Strait behind him, Bushby will likely survive if he manages to continue his journey. Though what remains isnt easy. Russia still presents formidable obstaclesskiing isnt one of Bushbys strengths, visa regulations are maddening, temperatures can reach -80°F, and chartered flights into Siberia can cost more than $12,000.
But once he clears those hurdles, its just a long hike home, through Asia and Europe. Bushbys goal is to walk back into Britain via the emergency service corridor inside the Chunnel, the 31-mile train tube beneath the English Channel. Then hell continue on to the modest brick home in Hull, England, where his mum waved him good-bye so long ago. With the ongoing visa issues, Bushby cant say with any certainty when hell complete the journey. But he knows this: He will not touch British soil unless he gets there on foot.