Engines revving, horns blaring, crowds cheering, the Gumball Rally 3000 rolled into Porto Montenegro on Wednesday. Cars and charity are passions of mine, so combining the two as Gumball has been doing since 1999 seemed like a good idea. As its name suggests, the rally is a 3,000-mile drive from Riga, Latvia to Mykonos, Greece. Participants come from all over the world, ranging from tattooed teenagers to sexagenarians from Texas. It was set up in 1999 and attracts a loyal band of followers who raise hundreds of thousands of pounds every year for worthy causes.
It was amazing for me to see how easy it is now to cross borders in Europe. Well I remember from my childhood the journeys we would make from Bulgaria to Morocco, crossing 15 or so different borders, each one requiring a different visa. My father would start preparing for the journey many weeks in advance. Now we just sailed through the European Union, as easily as one would cross from one county in England to another.
We are driving a BMW i8 electric hybrid – still a supercar, but ecologically friendly. Nearly 2,000 miles into the trip and we’ve only spent 180€ on petrol. As well as meeting most of the other drivers, an eclectic bunch who are all great fun, we have met politicians and business leaders along the way. The welcome in Montenegro was particularly friendly, as we lunched at the Porto Montenegro Yacht Club pool and met various dignitaries.
As well as celebrities and important people, one of the highlights of the trip has been seeing the delighted smiles on the faces of the kids as we passed through small rural villages. They’ve probably never seen vehicles like this. On many occasions, we stopped to let them sit behind the wheel. And then their parents would beg to have a look too.
It is events like this that make you realize that we are all global citizens. We should be building bridges not barriers. We shall be coming back to Montenegro for the Global Citizen Forum in October, and I for one can’t wait, though I think I will fly rather than drive next time!