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Wednesday 20 September 2023

Interviews: Alex Beresford & Billy Monger Celebrity Race Across the World

Alex Beresford and dad Noel

Why did you want to take part in the series?

Alex: I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to do something that we've never done before. Neither of us have ever backpacked, so it's a new experience. And, also, just to see some amazing places! Across continents and across countries, and you're getting to see everything at ground level, so it's completely different to just flying over – getting to immerse yourself in different cultures and communities. And then there's also the excitement of not knowing where we're actually going or how we're going to get there, every day is up in the air and can either all fall apart or can all come together and hopefully it comes together so we can win! That's why we signed up, right?!

Noel: Yes Sir! I'm into exploring new things, so this seemed like a good opportunity to see all the different cultures and how other people live and see how we get on, because we haven't spent a lot of time together over the last year and a half.

Alex: Yes, during Covid, being separate and not being able to see each other for a good period of time. I'm living in London and dad is living in Bristol, so we do get to see each but not really for proper quality time, sometimes it's very brief, so this is uninterrupted time and I don't know when we'll get that again.

Was the time that you'll get to spend together one of the things about taking part that really appealed to you?

Alex: Yes, definitely. You spend so much time with your parents as kids and then there's a massive chunk of your life where you're building your own life and you're separate, even though you're still in contact and still often together. So, this is an opportunity to spend some good quality time with one of your parents.

Would you say that you're quite adventurous?

Alex: I'd say we are both very adventurous, well I say that and we haven't actually backpacked before… But we're both up for experiencing life and new experiences! I guess I'm a chip off the old block, as they say, my dad is very outgoing, I'm very outgoing, so it made sense to do it with him.

What kind of travellers are you? Do you like your creature comforts, five-star hotels?

Alex: Ordering room service, having a nice time, taking a dip in the pool, I guess that's what we've been used to. Backpacking hasn't previously really appealed to me, to be honest with you, only because I'd always be thinking about 'where are we going to stay?', 'how am I going to wash?' all of those kinds of things. I am quite fussy I guess. I can be fussy, which is probably why I never wanted to do it before. But, at my age now, I think to myself, this is the right time. I'm up for a new experience and I'd like to challenge myself in different ways.

Noel: As Alex said, we've never done anything like this. The closest I've been to something like this is probably sleeping outside after a night out on the drink! So, it's going to be interesting!

Alex: I think also, our lives, well not so much dad's because he's retired now, but our lives are so busy that when I think holiday, I think two weeks, it's got to be in a sunny destination, I want guaranteed good weather, you want to guarantee it's going to be exactly what you need because you're escaping the rat race back home. But, what's different with this is we're not escaping the rat race, we're actually in a race! I don't know exactly what to expect and I'm happy to go with the flow, but I imagine that at times it is going to be quite testing isn't it? It's going to be uncomfortable, there's going to be some dead time where you want to move but you can't move, and it's a race so I can't imagine how relaxing it's going to be. However, it's a one-off experience, obviously it's a race from start to finish but at the same time we want a great experience, we want to also be able to stop off and go and see some great things.

Noel: I'm also interested to meet the other competitors.

Alex: Yes, we also want to be able to size everybody up and see who our competition is!

How competitive are you both? Are you in it to win it?

Noel: We are very competitive, but we're here to enjoy it and see things, different cultures, how people live, explore all the nice things we come across. It's not just head down get to the finish line.

Alex: We want to be looking up, we don't want to be looking down. You've got to find that fine balance of wanting to win, but to get to the end and win having not seen anything would actually be a loss.

How do you feel about travelling without a mobile phone or credit cards?

Alex: I'm really struggling with that. I keep going to put my hand in my pocket because I think my phone is there, and then it's not. So, I think my dad will probably cope better than me because although he's used to being on his phone, it's the young ones really isn't it who are used to being on their phones, having them attached to their hands. So, I am going to struggle, although I am hoping that something that will come out of this experience is me being able to put down my phone because I am on it all the time. I also want to call home desperately, it's part of my routine. My watch is still on English time and I'm thinking, my son has just got home, and I'd like to give him a call to see how his day was and I can't do that, and that's quite heart breaking.

Noel: Yes, I was thinking the same thing, so I brought some puzzle books.

Alex: I didn't bring anything like that! So, I might need to borrow one so I can do something! I also do have an old school iPod that I managed to borrow from a friend so that will keep me entertained.

What are you imagining your biggest challenges might be during the trip?

Noel: Money!

Alex: This trip is about sacrifices; you have to sacrifice at every stage to make your money last. You have to really think about your choices and, also, there will be some gambles, so I'm worried about the gambles that we take - will they be the right gambles? Will they be the wrong gambles?

Noel: We could make a bad choice but with the other series that I've watched, it's about the recovery.

Alex: Yes, that's the thing, this race will be won on choices. You need to make the right choices; I've done my research as well with previous series and I've seen that it's an open race until the end.

Noel: If we make a bad choice, we'll want to make sure we don't make it again, and I've also seen people recover from those bad choices.

Alex: That's the good thing as well, there's room for mistakes throughout this whole process. If you make a mistake, and you get left behind, it might give you the opportunity to go and do something that you wouldn't have necessarily got to do if you had got on that bus that you wanted to get on. So, it's about weighing up the pros and cons of every choice.

It sounds like you have thoroughly watched the previous series of Race Across the World, did you pick up any tips from them?

Alex: I think you have to; you have to get yourself into it. In terms of tips, it was the choices thing. From watching the previous series, I've had thoughts at the start of 'they're definitely going to win,' and then they didn't win. And that's the beauty of it, that we're all on an equal playing field.

Have you got a strategy going into the race?

Alex: I don't think you can have a strategy for this, other than spend your money wisely. That's probably the biggest strategy, so that we can actually stay in the competition, because it would be heart breaking to have to leave because we run out of money.

Noel: Trying to work our way on the transport so we don't have to pay!

Alex: Yes, we'll serve drinks, we'll do whatever we need to do in order to save money! But really, I don't think you can have too much of a strategy, just because there are so many twists and turns. So, I think if you try and pick a way to do this, that could actually be your downfall. Instead, I think tackling your problems as they come up is the way to do this.

Have you packed anything for this trip that you just can't live without?

Alex: Well, I like to look after my beard, so I shaved it down for the start, but I'm debating whether I'll end up growing the beard out or not, so I've brought my beard pruning stuff with me. So, I've got my cutthroat blade, which I will use from time to time to tidy things up and still try and remain fairly respectable. But ask me in seven days' time… I think it's all going to go out the window!

Noel: I've got my puzzle books, but that's about it really.

Alex: We packed really simply and that's actually one thing that worries me. I don't actually have any of my creature comforts or things that I like to do, so in the quiet time it's going to be quite difficult. Even today, I was in my room on my own and I started to think, and I could feel myself getting a bit emotional about wanting to call home.

Would you say you cope well during a crisis? Are you calm under pressure?

Alex: I'd like to say that hypothetically we'd be good in a crisis, but lack of sleep, lack of food and all these other factors, could affect your state of mind and you could end up making a couple of bad choices. Who knows?

What do the rest of your family make of you two doing this trip together?

Noel: They're right behind us!

Alex: Yes, all the way! They think it's such a great opportunity, I know that lots of them are jealous because they're not getting to do it! My wife is absolutely beside herself that she's not here doing this, because this is something that she would love to do. We only got married recently so we've gone from just getting married, still going through the honeymoon period and then I've left her for a month! So, we better come back with a win!

Billy Monger and sister Bonny

Why did you want to take part in Celebrity Race Across The World?

Billy: To be honest, when we got approached for it and it was suggested that I do it with Bonny, I wasn't too sure Bon would be up for doing it. The one thing that did make me think that maybe she would be up for doing it was the fact that it was about travelling because we've spoken about going travelling before. So, I was a bit unsure myself, I'd not watched the series before, and then I spoke to Bon about it and she said it could be quite cool. So, we sat down and watched it and got more and more into it and then decided why not!

Bonny: And here we are!

So, have you always wanted to travel?

Bonny: Yeah, we've always spoken about travelling and going and doing something together, but we've never actually been organised enough to do it. With this, it's not organised for us, and we have to do it ourselves so it's kind of like being thrown in the deep end and you've just got to do it. I just thought, it will be fun, and it's the one time where we'll both actually have a month off where we can say let's go and do something different, so it was kind of a no brainer, and we get to spend a bit of time together and have a laugh.

What kind of travellers are you? Do you like your creature comforts, five-star hotels or are you adventurous and up for backpacking?

Bonny: I've always wanted to backpack. I've never actually backpacked before but it's exciting to do it. If we had been planning our own travels together it probably wouldn't quite have been backpacking!

Billy: It wouldn't be all five-star stuff either, but it would probably be a little bit different to what I imagine this is going to be like, in terms of doing everything on such a budget and staying in hostels and being tight on money for food. That probably wouldn't have been such a thing if we'd gone travelling ourselves outside of this race – I like to think we probably would have eaten well! So, there's a few things that will probably be a bit different to how we would have done it.

Bonny: Definitely.

Billy: But it's exciting to try some new things as well!

How competitive are you both? Are you in it to win it?

Billy: I think so! More so now we're closer to it, now we're actually here at the start. We've been sat in our hotel room going through what languages we know and what could be useful, little tactics we think we could use, so we're getting a little bit more competitive now we're here.

Bonny: But we've only seen these four walls, so that's probably going to go completely out of the window tomorrow when we actually get outside.

Billy: Yeah, we've come up with all these elaborate plans and then we're going to end up in the complete wrong direction to what we think we will and what we've planned will be completely useless!

Do either of you speak any other languages?

Billy: No…

Bonny: Well, we've just discovered Billy can speak a little bit of French!

Billy: I did GCSE French at school and I was alright but I've not used the language since, so it's just completely gone from my memory. But now we're actually out here and we're thinking in that sort of way, I've remembered a couple of phrases that could be useful. So, there might be a tiny, tiny bit of broken French!

Bonny: We were just trying to work out how to say 'sister', but he can only say 'dad', so he's just going to be saying 'my name is Billy, and this is my dad,' so that's probably going to get us some funny looks!

What other skills to you think you'll be able to bring to the race?

Billy: Well, when I was going through the bits of broken French that I may or may not know, Bonny started doing her charades, and what she's going to try and do to visually explain to people what we're trying to say. And I think it's a hidden talent, so I'm looking forward to seeing that action!

Bonny: I don't really know what strengths we bring to the table, but we're both hard workers! So, when it gets to the point where we get to do some work, we'll take that in our stride and have a bit of fun with it and try and make the most out of it.

How do you feel about travelling without a mobile phone or credit cards?

Billy: It's going to be really weird. Even just today, leaving the UK and flying across, me and Bon kept tapping our pockets thinking we'd lost our phones, completely forgetting that they're now gone completely. I feel like it's worse when we're in our hotel room before the start of it, because we're sat here and we haven't got much to do, so you'd normally just go on your phone, but maybe when we get going, and we're busy thinking about getting across the world...

Bonny: I think we'll soon forget about phones, but it is hard because you rely on them so much, and just to get out your card and tap it for a bottle of water or something, whereas you actually have to think.

How do you think you'll do with the budgeting?

Billy: I don't know to be honest... I might struggle with the budgeting; I do think I'm going to have to look after the purse strings a little bit!

Bonny: Earlier Billy said, 'maybe we should get a taxi as soon as we start and get on our way' and I said, 'no, that's going to be too expensive,' and I think that's the only time I've ever said that! Because if I'm in London, I'd just say let's get in a taxi and not even think about it, or just jump on a bus, so I do think maybe it's starting to sink in.

Billy: I think because we're competitive, we will just naturally realise that we have to be good with that, so I think it will help us out a bit that we're a bit competitive.

What do the rest of your family make of you two doing this trip together?

Billy: Most of them are laughing at us and saying, 'are you sure?' I don't think we've instilled a lot of confidence in our friends and family that this is something we're going to excel at. But I'm hoping we're going to surprise people!

Do you think you'll be able to sustain your close relationship during the race?

Bonny: Well, we've been locked in this room together for three hours now and we haven't had an argument yet, so we're off to a good start!

Billy: So far so good! It's getting on potentially 10-hour long buses and stuff, and being in high-pressure situations as well, as I think there's going to be a few of them along the way isn't there, maybe where Bonny wants to get a bus and I want to get a train, decisions like that that we've got to make along the way. I'm hoping we don't fall out at any point! There might just be a bit of back and forth.

Bonny: A bit of snapping at each other maybe if we're both tired and hungry.

Billy: So far, I think we're in a good starting position – we're not angry at each other from the get-go!

What do you think your biggest challenges might be along the way?

Bonny: I think finding the modes of transport, I don't know whether there's a train network or a rail network here or what the buses are like, so it's going to be figuring all that out and getting to grips with what the travel is like here – what the most popular modes of transport are, and what's the cheapest. As soon as we get our head around that I think we'll be able to get on with it a bit more, but it's going be the slow start, I think.

Have you packed anything for this trip that you just can't live without?

Billy: This one is for you, Bon… You know what you've got.

Bonny: I'm a bit of a fake tan queen because I'm so pale. I'm translucent! I can't do with being pale! But I think I'm doing okay, bearing in mind that last time I went on holiday I went for 10 days, and my suitcase was 36 kilograms! This time round my rucksack is only 16 kilograms, so I think I'm doing really well!

Billy: Funnily enough when I thought about the things I needed for travelling fake tan wasn't in the top 10!

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