Thousands of visitors come to Dubrovnik every week, but some are more special than the others. The pair that really caught our attention are Martin Hutchinson and his dog Starsky, cycling around the world and planting trees everywhere they go! Hutchinson, an ex-firefighter, has been on the road for years now – staying at fire stations and sharing his ideas about improving the world to anyone who wants to listen, including numerous school children. And it's quite simple: you should enjoy, appreciate and admire the planet. When you realize how special it is, you will treat it better! We caught up with Starsky & Hutch during their visit to Dubrovnik and this is what they (well, mostly Martin) said to us.
Can you tell me something about your background?
This could be quite interesting! I am now 58 and I'm content with my life. You'll say: why did the certain thing happen? There is no big reason that certain things in your life happen that make you follow the path. You have that choice and if you keep following the right path, you'll be content in the end. You can look back and say: ok, that's why it happened! When I was younger I had an Indian mother and an English father. Someone comes to me and says: look, if you could, would you want to wake up one morning totally white? And I said: yes, yes, of course I do! But that would be the biggest mistake ever. There are things that you get and you might not understand why you have them, but they are there for a reason. There wasn't just one thing that changed my life, it's just big events and small events that made me the person that I'm today. When you get older, you are what your life has been. So your experiences are where you are. I'm more confident to say what I want to do because of my experiences. I'm content because I look back and say that everything happened for a reason and for me it's been the right thing. Why didn't I get married, why didn't I have children? It wasn’t for me; I didn't want to do it. I'm not materialistic, I am not matrimonial. I like children, but I don’t want to have my own, I didn’t have that feeling, it wasn’t meant for me. If I did, I would’ve fought against my feeling.
How did your journey start?
I was sailing on my yacht in Africa, going all around the world and I lost it. I had to sink it. Then I had nothing in my life – which was great, freedom! I went to Australia to visit my friends and I came to China, went back to England, then South America and I just started walking. I had no intensions to do so, but I just started and I enjoyed it, I had no time limit, nothing. Since 2006 I’ve been walking all to 2016. I walked 34 thousand kilometres, visited 21 countries, went to 600 schools. I wish I could remember at least 10 percent of what I did. I know it was good, I enjoyed it, it was what I wanted to do and I’ve have no regrets about doing it. Things come back, you remember bits and pieces, but you can never remember it all. It was a great experience. The idea, the philosophy behind it, was that we need to slow down! Everybody is rushing and you don’t even get an idea of the planet or what are we here for – to see the beauty. So slow down, just enjoy the planet.
And did you enjoy every country that you visited?
Yes, it’s all experience! I went to 600 schools in Latin America to talk about my personal opinions and what I’ve seen. I had videos and photos to show them and ask them about their opinion, because that is all around them, even if they didn’t notice it. When you live somewhere, you get used to things and accept them. But when you come in, as a stranger, you notice things that people don’t seem to see.
Can compare countries and even places inside one country when you travel around?
Yes, and I don’t know why, but people keep coming to me and telling me about their lives, the environment around them, the temperature, climate and that sorts of things. Yes, things are happening for sure, but is man doing it? I don’t know! Maybe we’re contributing a little bit to it. At the moment, during the last month there’s sudden panic about climate change and children having anxiety problems, committing suicides. C’mon! The planet is 4.5 billion years old, it’s moving and maybe we’ve upset it a little bit. We can always put something back and change it, but maybe it’s our time to go. If we say that this planet is a year old, we could say that we’ve been here for around two seconds. Maybe it’s time for us to move on and let somebody else come. If the dinosaurs were still here, we wouldn’t be here, so maybe it’s time for somebody else to enjoy the planet. I don’t know, nobody knows! We should enjoy our time on the planet, try to see the beauty and see what happens.
The experiences that you’ve had on your journey must be difficult to put into words
I find all this fascinating! When I look at what people are doing, I find it really amusing. How people can come somewhere, drink, but can’t take their bottle with them when they are leaving. C’mon, it was full when you arrived, it was heavier! (laughs) I find it very amusing from the sarcastic point of view. I enjoy it, but that’s me. I love traveling, but it’s not the sightseeing story, we just wonder why people are the way they are. It’s educational, I’m not on holiday, I’m learning.
Are some things repeating in every country that you visit?
Oh God there is rubbish everywhere! Overflowing bins! The bins are full but people are putting more rubbish on it. That is happening everywhere! The ironic part is that if the bin is full there, two seconds away there is an empty bin. I’ve filmed adults putting the rubbish on top and I’m thinking – what is it with you people?! The countries are becoming the same. Beaches are full of rubbish. In Latin America, they are putting everything in the sea.
Are there countries that we can look up to as good examples of proper practice?
There are countries such as Austria and Slovenia, in which you can look up in the terms of keeping things clean. But their lifestyle – it’s terrible! People are bored and fed up because everything is too perfect. I like things to be a bit of a mess, because it’s natural, but I don’t want the rubbish everywhere. However, I don’t like everything else being perfect – I like to see the missing tile on the roof, unpainted window… In Austria and Slovenia, it’s like you’ve entered a scene from a film. And people are unhappy, they cannot socialize. Give them a drink and then they change, without it they are strict, closed, like policeman. So, environmentally they are ok, but their lifestyle is bad. Which is strange, since I always thought if the environment is better, people will be happier. But somehow it doesn’t work that way.
And which countries are environmentally bad?
Italy, you should see the rubbish there, it’s incredible! Rome is the most famous and the dirtiest capital in Europe. You go by the river outside the Vatican and there are big trees full of plastic, they look like Christmas trees. When I was there, policeman came and I asked him – what is this? And he says: Oh c’mon, that’s Italy! And who knows what all goes down the river. Two weeks later there are news that whales were found on shore with stomach full of plastic. What do you expect. You put it all in the river! Every country has its story. Italy is the worst, but Spain was the worst before it. On my YouTube account I put video titled ‘’The dirty prostitutes in Spain’’, actually talking about rubbish there and it has the highest numbers of clicks. There is a huge amount of sick people looking at it just because of the word prostitute!
Do you have a goal and if so what is it?
My goal is not to change people, because I don’t have the right to do that. I am trying to build individual responsibility. I can’t tell someone what to do, but individually we all know what we are doing wrong to hurt the environment. So if you smoke, that’s up to you. When you throw your rubbish on the street, then it’s everybody’s problem. If you want to smoke, that’s alright. But put your thing in the right place and that’s it. Same is if you are driving your car. Do you really have to drive it to the shop? You can just walk. You should be conscious about what you are doing. Also, I think people need to start to see the beauty in the planet, how amazing it is. When they see it, then hopefully they will start to respect it. I think we lost the connection with the planet and that’s the idea behind trying to encourage people to plant trees. Because then that tree is theirs, it’s special, they have to look out for it. There is one good idea for any country to start – the tourist offices should put small plants of trees outside their office, so tourists can buy them and find a place to plant them. It’s better than taking home souvenirs, nobody is going to take a look at it. By planting a tree, you are actually leaving a memory and you can tell your family: oh, we planted a tree here! So, instead of taking something, if you enjoyed your holiday, put something back.
How do people react?
We get good reactions. I’m not going to lie to you and say that everything is wonderful and that I’m changing the world, because people just don’t care. They say that it’s a wonderful idea and throw some more rubbish out there. But I am not bothered by that sort of thing. I am all for looking forward. What’s behind, it’s done. I’ve never been at the same place long enough to see some changes. I’ll never go back to same place, I don’t care, I’ve done my bit and it’s up to them now. Am I wasting my time? I have no clue!
You go to schools, what are the responses of children?
Terrible. I’ve been to 704 schools. Either I have picked the wrong ones or the system is bad. If you talk to young children, from six to 12 years old, they are absolutely fantastic kids. They’ve got questions, enthusiasm, energy, creativity, imagination… 14 to 16 has lost all of that! The ones that you want to be aware of the things and make them understand, they show no interest and have no questions, nothing. The system is wrong, it’s so out of date. You have one adult trying to control 25 or more children and most of them are hyper, they don’t want to be there and they don’t really want to learn. Get them out of the classroom! We should let the children play and observe them, try to see what they are good at, and then work on that. We’ve got to change things. We’ve come with all this technology, but we are still old fashioned. We should be happier, but we are not. There are children committing suicide, because of the stress, anxiety, tension. C’mon that’s children that we are doing this to! I am anti Greta Thunberg, she’s started very well, with good ideas, but should have been taken out after the first speech. Now people have jumped on this and are going to pull her apart. Adults are using her and people are seeing that now. And I think that have done more damage to anybody working on environment because people are going to criticize it even more. Everybody is laughing at it now. I said it from the beginning, it’s dangerous and it will end up in tears for her. I would say that that is child abuse.
You’ve been in Dubrovnik for couple of days, what is your view on it?
This is a perfect example. We are in Dubrovnik, on a beach with a view on the Old City, but it’s full of rubbish. Rubbish is absolutely everywhere and people accept it. Tourism brings money, but it also brings corruption, greed and a lot of mess. It’s just like anywhere else in the world. I expected this. Everywhere you go there are restaurants, bars, pizza huts and every place starts to look the same. Because you don’t see the city, only restaurants... It’s too much. I was surprised to see that there is no McDonalds in the Old City. But actually, the Old City is beautiful. It really makes you think how we lived in the past, it’s wonderful. It’s similar to Pompeii, it fascinates me, like history is alive! But again, it’s not set up for tourism. I’d hate to be here in June, July and August. I think that a lot of people get fed up with it because they can’t move.
And Croatia in general?
I’ve had a very good time in Croatia, people were very good to me. We planted 22 trees, four plants, four grapevines and a herb. We’ve seen a great percentage of the country, but there is a lot more that we’ve could have seen. The island of Pag is lovely! The coast is incredible, it’s a wonderful place for sailing, absolutely a dream. Diving in the beautiful clean water too. It’s a very beautiful spot and I really enjoyed it. But, if you go to the park or one of the famous beaches, the rubbish is unbelievable. Also, the locals shared that a lot of young English people are coming there and the amounts of money they are bringing is unbelievable, just like the amount of drugs – and no one says a thing. How can this be? All of these things are actually illegal and it’s all in harmony.
While you go through a country, you can see the problems, not only environmental?
We see corruption, how things should be done. You hear a lot of people saying that it’s wonderful, but they are tourists, holidaymakers. When you talk to locals, they tell you a lot, so I’m not making up anything. They told me a lot about the things that are wrong in Croatia and it’s like anywhere else in the world. People come here and say that it’s beautiful, but they need to know that there are another sides of it. If you cut out the corruption, this country could be very wealthy, because the money from tourism comes in. Things could be better for you, better roads, hospitals, schools…
You have the greatest travelling buddy, Starsky
He’s an asset. We’ve met in Portugal. We chose each other. I walked him one day and kept coming back day after day. And it was meant to be because he’s absolutely perfect for what we’re doing. He’s been to 107 schools, he’s fantastic with the kids, he doesn’t bark or bother anybody. Of course, he bothers other dogs, he’s not perfect, not a robot, but 80 percent good dog. I say that we are Starsky and Hutch of the 21st century. We are a team. We are part of the planet and to love another human is something and to love another animal is even better. He picks up the rubbish, so he does his bit. I don’t know what it is like to travel with other dogs, but with him it’s been perfect.
You have a special way of travelling, with a bicycle?
I walked 34 thousand kilometres first and now I travel with a bicycle, because I want to do the same thing but in a slightly different way. The three-wheeled bicycle that I have has been around ever since the two-wheeled bicycle, which is more popular. The idea is that if you ride a three-wheeled bicycle, you get a lot of pain from it, but you just enjoy it. I’m 58, I am riding a bicycle and I get no pain from it, so that’s my point. Also, I do it as a sacrifice, just as walking. You got to make the effort. You can make things easy, but your body needs to work. If you’ve got a fantastic body, you got to keep it active, otherwise it will collapse and die. The way to do it is to keep on moving. I want to die healthy.
What surprises you the most when you travel around?
I find it unbelievable how much human can poo. And they poo all around! They drive in the car, open the car door, go out, poo and go away. Why did you have to do it there? What is in their mind when they are doing this?! Also, a lot of rubbish is from the car drivers, not from people walking, and it makes me think: what is wrong with you people? Put it in your car, drive to the bin and throw it out! It’s a combination of bad attitude and laziness. And thinking that somebody else will deal with it. That’s why I am always saying that you should be careful that you put trash in the right bin, because then people who come afterwards will put it in the right place, and if you don’t you’re just making the problem bigger. I’ve got videos of Zagreb where they’ve got these recycling bins and there is so much rubbish around it. People are throwing out their beds, computers… What is wrong with them? You can see that there is no room, that nobody’s picking it up and you just keep adding it? There is a theory and it has worked in Belgium – no bins, no rubbish. It’s strange, but it does work. You got to change people’s way of thinking and sometimes you need to tell them what to do. It’s like the way my mother used to do with my dad. She used to ask him to fix something and he’ll say he’ll do it later, then she would say: oh, your friend could do that, right? And then, he was: no, no, I’ll do it! Reverse psychology helps a lot.
How do you choose your destinations?
We don’t. It’s Starsky basically, he chooses. We’ve been to South America and Central America and we hope to finish in Australia in 2030. For this part, we want to cover every country in Europe and really don’t want to visit the same places unless it’s necessary. We have to do it all on a bicycle too. I can’t go to Spain, Portugal, France… Because we’ve been there. We have to go on the south of Italy, because we haven’t been there and then come back here, go to Montenegro, Poland, try to figure out how to get to Germany and stay there, Holland… Northern Europe will be much harder because of the climate, so we need to plan how we will do it. Maybe we will stay at one place for winter months.
So, you don’t have a ‘’home’’?
No. Well, this is it – the planet. I couldn’t stay at one spot. Even as a child, I was always curios, I had to know what is around the corner. I could never stop. I don’t think I could ever be still, unless I find something that really holds me at one place. I’ll get bored of the same place, but maybe if I have something to do… I would love to spend a week in a school, having classes from Monday to Friday, I have so much to explain if I had time. For example, we take water for granted since it’s here. But it’s 4.5 billon old, it’s been through dinosaurs, other humans, animals, all kind of things and it has come back. It’s ancient, very old water. And it has memory! If you want people to take care of water, you should explain the beauty of it and then they will realize that they’ve been taking it for granted and that it’s precious. That’s what I’d like to do.
You are not aiming to be a hero, to save the world?
We can’t be heroes! Nobody is going to say – Martin Hutchinson saved the world. And if you think he is, you are kidding yourself! I don’t really know why I am doing it, but I am doing it. There so reason behind it, I am doing something that I am meant to do. I don’t know why, but maybe in 10 years, if I am still alive, I will get my answer. I keep it low key, keep it quiet and that’s fine because I want it that way. If is meant to be, it will come, but you have to wait, can’t force it. And if it doesn’t come, there is some reason why it didn’t come. I don’t want big attention because I’ve just seen what it does to you and that’s not for me. There’s one thing I’d love to do - to get up on the big, world’s stage and say: ‘’From 2000 to 2019 people have been talking, we had some fantastic speeches. There is really nothing else to say that hasn’t been said a hundred times, so let’s stop talking, go on plant a tree, goodbye.’’