It's on the Meter – World Taxi Challenge was a round-the-world motoring expedition that successfully broke the Guinness World Records for the longest ever journey by taxi and the highest altitude ever reached by taxi.
Three friends – Paul Archer, Johno Ellison and Leigh Purnell – used a 1992 Fairway Driver London Black Cab named Hannah to drive 43,319.5miles (69,716.12km) around the world.
The expedition officially began at the London Transport Museum on 17 February 17 2011 and finished at the same point on 11 May 2012 having circumnavigated the globe – the trip initially was only meant to take six months! The team raised £20,000 for the British Red Cross in the process; the nominal meter fee for the completed journey was £79,006.80!
Tell us a bit about who you are and what projects you are currently involved with?
I run my own business and go on misadventures. I started when I was 18 with World Challenge and have been doing it ever since. I have hitchhiked and used local transport to cross West Africa and the Sahara Desert, via Timbuktu, to Morocco; snow-boarded the Himalayas; kayaked the White Nile; started an on-going volunteer project in Uganda and also driven a taxi around the world!
Can you remember much about your World Challenge Expedition to Kenya in 2005?
To this day I can remember a lot and have some great lasting memories. We did some work in a school, trekking with the Maasai, climbed Mount Kenya and even managed some chill time on the beach at Mombasa after what was a pretty hectic but enjoyable time around Kenya.
What motivated you to take part?
My sister Sinead had undertaken a World Challenge a couple of years earlier to Zambia and I didn’t want to be outdone by her! But I also knew how much fun and how life-changing it could be so I didn’t hesitate. I’m sure my adventurous streak was with me then but it was relatively dormant at that stage.
What did you learn from the experience?
How to deal with challenging situations. I was in charge of the flights outbound and inbound so had to organise passports, baggage, check-in, transport etc. and learnt a lot about the skills needed (organisation, communication, budgeting) to do this in the process, which has stood me in good stead over the years.
Did it help mould you into the person that you are today?
It certainly did and influenced a lot of the adventures I’ve done since. After coming back from Kenya, I went and worked for six months on a building site lifting stone to save money so that I could fly back out to Africa! My adventurous spirit was definitely kick-started by my World Challenge.
Would you recommend a World Challenge expedition to other students and why?
It’s a must as far as I’m concerned. Students have got a couple of years to make it happen from a fundraising perspective and it really is an amazing experience. From a school perspective, it adds a bit of kudos as well.
What inspired you to attempt the It’s on the Meter Challenge?
It was almost entirely down to the beer! We wanted to do something after university and while sat in the back of a taxi after an evening out, we wondered what the longest ever taxi journey was, found out that there was a World Record so then decided to try and beat it!
We set off for Sydney in February 2011 in a 1992 battered taxi that we bought off eBay with our student loans for about £1,300. The road trip was three years in the making but we didn’t quite envisage how out of hand it would get.
Due to the publicity we managed to secure a large taxi sponsor and they challenged us to go the whole way around the world! And we figured that that was better than getting real jobs! Fifteen months later we returned home with two World Records to our names!
What were the highlights of the challenge?
Finland in the middle of winter, seeing the Northern Lights, was really exciting; some of our desert adventures were cool; driving through Tibet and driving up to Everest Base Camp on route there, and in the process setting another World Record for the highest taxi ride, was certainly an experience as well.
Then when we got home and after quite a few media interviews, I got to drive with the Spice Girls in the closing ceremony of the London Olympics, which was another high point.
Did the information surrounding fitness and preparedness, that you learned on your World Challenge expedition, stand you in good stead for your journeys?
It isn’t hard to get fit and you should be at least walking or running regularly. People who aren’t fit tend to have a miserable time on expedition, particularly in the tougher areas when everyone else is enjoying looking at the surrounding scenery and really making the most of the experience.
I’d recommend going out for long walks in your walking boots; blisters can be a real pain if you don’t prepare in advance. It’s encouraging to hear that World Challenge are now insisting on fitness tests for potential Challengers as the secret to any valuable school trip is to be fully prepared.
Did the lessons you learnt on your World Challenge expedition play a part in the challenge’s success?
Very much so. The core skills that I learnt on expedition in challenging situations really helped and you come to realise that the world isn’t as scary as it may first seem and that you do tend to find yourself in incredible situations because of people's kindness. World Challenge taught me to respect that.
What tips would you give to anyone thinking about undertaking a significant challenge?
Planning and preparation – there is certainly no glamour in not preparing. There is a certain degree of planning you must always do, but there has to be a degree of flexibility as well.
Money management is also key. We had some sponsors when we set out and were lucky to get more while on the road but the vast majority of the expedition was self-funded. We worked really, really hard for three years and saved every penny we could and then we could afford to go on an adventure that we’d always wanted to do.
What three things would you make sure you had with you on expedition?
My Kindle, penknife and a mobile phone – you can always buy a sim card when you’re abroad.
What is next in the pipeline for you?
I currently run my own business; it’s a technology start-up and is very much tied in to doing challenges, so I have a few little expeditions up my sleeve which are even more ridiculous, but they are still very much in their infancy.
Paul Archer, Stroud, Gloucestershire – Kenya 2005