With just £1000 and little cycling experience, Kerry O'Neill, 35, recently set about on a brave and ambitious adventure to cycle 2000 miles from her Bristol home to Rome. Her six-week ride will recreate the classic Grand Tour of Europe, made famous by Victorian Britain's rich, young and predominantly male aristocrats.
With nothing more than limited rations, waterproofs and a pre-loaded my Travel Cash Prepaid MasterCard®, Kerry's tour will revisit The Grand Tour's key destinations of Paris and Geneva, crossing the Alps at Mont Cenis, then to Venice via Vicenza and finally Rome via Florence, on a budget of just £1,000.
When her contract with sustainable transport charity Sustrans ended in June 2011, Kerry saved her final month's pay, renamed her bike P45, and planned a recession-busting adventure. Her trip through the vineyards, waterways and Alpine passes of France and Italy proves you don't need to fly, to be wealthy (or to go to danger zones) to challenge yourself.
Kerry says of her journey: "When my job ended, I got serious about this long-standing daydream. I got my bike serviced, booked a maintenance class, did a quick Italian course and started researching this original tourist trail. My mum developed severe arthritis at my age, so I'm determined to make the most of my fitness, whilst I can. I'll be raising money for Arthritis Research UK on my way, too."
With limited monies Kerry sought the support of my Travel Cash to help fund her adventure. Myles Stephenson, founder and CEO of my Travel Cash, was happy to help such an adventurous and determined individual: "To cycle alone from the UK to Italy on just £1000 is no mean feat. Kerry's resolve in undertaking such an adventure with such little money is admirable.
"Sponsoring her Grand Tour was a perfect fit for us – the premise of the my Travel Cash prepaid currency card is to allow people to enjoy their travels without having to worry about money. The cards work like a pay-as-you-go mobile phone, you load them with money before you travel and top them up when needed, meaning you only spend what you load - great if, like Kerry, you need to stick to a budget when abroad."
my Travel Cash has also scrapped ATM withdrawal fees meaning Kerry can withdraw smaller amounts of cash as and when she needs it, without incurring unnecessary fees that would eat in to her £1000 budget. For example, using the Euro card to make a withdrawal in Euros could save her up to £4.75 on a typical withdrawal of £100, compared to using her debit or credit card*."
my Travel Cash also offers a fantastic reward for all customers - 1% unlimited cashback on everything they buy with their card, paid directly to the prepaid card account the following month after it has been used. This means Kerry is actually earning money on her Grand Tour every time she uses the card to pay for purchases.
Commenting on the my Travel Cash Prepaid MasterCard® card, Kerry said: "I was concerned how I would keep track of the fabled Grand of a budget. A friend suggested a prepaid fee-free card and, following some research, my Travel Cash came up as the best deal for me.
"I loved the fact I wouldn't be charged for withdrawing money from an ATM and that they also give cashback on purchases. Even better, by using the my Travel Cash card I avoid the fees from my bank for using my debit card abroad. Free to get, free to use, free to top up. Genius**!
"my Travel Cash's generosity of sponsorship has also allowed me to reserve some of my savings for when I return, meaning I'm not stressing about lack of money or finding a job when I get home. I can't thank them enough."
In its early days, the Grand Tour was dominated by men, as the cycling adventure book market is today. In riding and writing a book about ‘The Grand Tour on a Grand', Kerry hopes to inspire women to set off on their own low-carbon, budget adventures, too.
Kerry adds: "I want anyone to think they could do something like this. That's why my Grand Tour has a budget of £1,000, and will take just six weeks. Many people have flexible employers, or might be due a few months' sabbatical leave. I'd love it if my ride, or the book that follows, inspires anyone else to take that first step towards beginning their own adventure".
Kerry's route to Rome takes in the highlights of Paris, the Alps, Venice and Florence, travelling at around the same speeds as the Victorians' horse-drawn carriages did. This tour is like that made by historical figures such as Christopher Wren (architects), Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley (writers). The phenomenon of the Grand Tour was also the subject of 2009's four-part TV series, called Kevin McLoud's Grand Tour.
my Travel Cash (mytravelcash.com) offers three prepaid MasterCard cards in Multi-Currency (Sterling), Euros and US Dollars. An Express Delivery option allows cards to be delivered in just 3 working days.
my Travel Cash also provides a Currency Home Delivery Service for 20 popular currencies.