Jamie Bezencenet

Jamie Bezencenet

Following a nationwide search, Jamie Bezencenet has been chosen as lastminute.com’s Spontaneity Champion.  The hunt for someone with a contagious passion for living in the moment started in November and inspired over 35,000 public votes in just 51 days. Jamie was chosen from the top three (as voted for on www.lovelivinglastminute.com) by a judging panel that includes TV adventurer Simon Reeve.  


As ‘Spontaneity Champion,’ Jamie Bezencenet won’t even have to give up his day job. With up to £50,000 worth of lastminute.com travel and treats to road-test, Jamie will have the chance to completely up-grade his 2014, filling his free time with amazing experiences. A number of his fully paid, spontaneous ‘missions’ will be picked by lastminute.com’s social audience and could include travelling long-haul for a weekend, playing hotel roulette or road-testing the latest in West End theatre. Once he is back from another weekend away or evening on the town, Jamie will have the opportunity to curate and share his adventures with the public.


Britain has hailed its most spontaneous person, so we talk to him about his new accolade and what it means for his passport!


How spontaneous are you? Is this a trait that you have always had?


Very! For me, being spontaneous has always meant not allowing myself to be bored. It means using the resources around you in the most fun way possible. It’s definitely something I’ve always had. As a kid I had endless energy and a keen eye when it came to making fun in boring situations. My mates reminded me recently of the time that I was so excited to have received a parcel in the post during a rather boring ‘reading week’ at Uni. I took the parcel and bundled my housemates into the car and drove to the nearest squash court along with a load of cricket pads, helmets and squash rackets. It turned out that my bag of “200 assorted bouncy balls” had arrived. We invented the fastest game on the planet which involved smacking the balls around the court and trying not to die.


Please tell us about your experience of skipping your flight back from your Florence holiday.


That was such a great trip, and definitely fits the bill of being spontaneous! On the last evening of our stay we got talking to a local and he told us he had a 1965 Fiat Cinquecento for sale. Being mad keen on cars, both of us were very interested, but we also knew that a 45 year old car with an engine capacity the size of a bottle of coke was hardly the first choice when it comes to transcontinental vehicles. Even more importantly we knew that we didn’t have time to check out the condition of the car before catching our morning flight home. It was definitely an either/or scenario. I can’t remember if it was the local booze or that we were feeling particularly ‘devil-may-care’ but I’m pretty sure it didn’t take long for us to make up our mind.

The next morning we were taken to the car and I remember that the cold and sober light of day did not shine a particularly optimistic glow on our newly acquired carriage home. The car had three flat tyres, showed not one single sign of starting when the key was turned, and was nearly completely covered in snails and moss. We were then told that in fact it hadn’t been moved, or even started, in 6 years.  A few hours later though and we had it all sorted. We were on the road, and on the way home! I can honestly say that the hours we spent meandering along the spectacular coastal route towards Monaco, with the sun behind us and beautiful towns such as Portofino below us, were some of the most memorable ever. It was our first proper road trip and the feeling of pure freedom was overwhelming.

However, as the daylight faded, so did the strength of the tiny 500cc engine. I know a bit about engines and did my best to help, but I soon realised that the prognosis was bad.......very bad. She finally gave up in a tunnel near Genoa. 12 hours later we had been towed all the way back to Florence, sold the car back to Antonio (at a big discount) and were on our way to the airport with new tickets. Not exactly what most would have called a ‘successful endeavour’ but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world! We decided on the ‘path less well trodden’ and there’s no doubt that it was a more rewarding one!


Can you give us an insight into your blog?

Blogging is going to be a new skill for me to learn but I’m very much looking forward to sharing my experiences on the lastminute.com blog.

I love telling stories and this will be another medium in which to do it. I hope to be able to keep the stories really fun and also to appeal to the widest audience possible. In my view, a truly good idea is one that is appealing to everybody.


When did you passion for travelling begin?


I was lucky enough to go on a sailing holiday when I was quite young. I remember being amazed by the sense of freedom and the vastness of the open sea. I think this opened my mind to the possibilities of what the world had to offer.  Also, the idea of travelling under your own steam, or wind in this case, interested me hugely. Some of my most rewarding trips so far have been when driving or riding great distances across countries, and seeing the environment change around you.


What has been your most exciting travel experience so far?


In our second year at university, 5 friends and I entered the Mongol Rally which involved driving 10,000 miles from London to Ulaan Baatar in Mongolia. We were three teams of two in cars that were older than we were and bought off ebay for a few hundred quid. It was a true test of ingenuity, teamwork and unfaltering belief in our ability to overcome the obstacles that arose. For me the most testing time of the trip was when we were only about 1000 miles from our destination, and about 3 weeks into the journey, at a place called Semey on the Kazak/Russian border. The other boys were in front of me in the queue to get our exit stamps out of Kazakhstan and into ‘no-man’s land’ before heading over to the Russian border. They successfully got their passports stamped and proceeded through but for some reason the border officials decided that my Russian visa was not valid and so I couldn’t go through. After hours of arguing my case it became clear that words were useless (and amazingly so too were bribes!) The boys were stuck in no-man’s land without the possibility of returning to my side, and I was stuck in Kazakhstan. Even worse was the fact that I only had 48 hours left on my Kazakh visa before I would be deported from the country and sent home. In perhaps the biggest test of my resolve I’ve ever had I decided that the only chance of carrying on to Mongolia was to take the car and drive 1000km, alone, in the wrong direction, across the Aral desert, towards Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, in order to find a Russian embassy, get a visa, and then return to the boys........all in 48 hours. Further obstacles to achieving this were that the Russian embassy is only open once a week and that I only had a compass to get me there. 20 hours later I arrived in Astana and was shattered. Even though I had arrived I had no idea what to do from there. I remember calling my dad on the satellite phone from the side of a main road in the city. I had no idea how he could help but he tried his best to lift my spirits. Whilst this was happening a crowd was gathering around the car (it was bright orange like the Baywatch truck, so I was used to this attention). I didn’t think much of it but then heard someone speak English. I told my dad I’d call him back. It turns out I’d parked next to an Indian restaurant and the owner spoke excellent English. I’m not a religious person but what followed is so unlikely that I wouldn’t have believed it if it hadn’t happened to me and is as close as I can imagine to ‘someone looking over me’. The owner of the restaurant insisted I come inside and an hour later I was fed, bathed and heading to the Russian embassy with his head cook who happened to speak Russian and know someone who worked there. A short while later I had my visa in my hand and was being given an escort back to the edge of the city with food supplies and a map next to me in the car. I arrived back at the border crossing with 4 hours to spare.


How did you feel when you won?

Overwhelmed! I was taken to the rooftop bar at the ME Hotel but they had told me that the other two finalists were there as well and that there was a ‘final challenge’, so I did not expect to hear “CONGRATULATIONS!” as I turned the corner to see my girlfriend and a load of mates up there as well! It still hasn’t truly sunk in. This is a life changing opportunity and I’m still just so appreciative to everyone who voted for me and to the judges for believing in me. 


Where is your first place that you are going to visit?


That’s a good question! The public are currently voting on the lastminute.com facebook page where I will be going this weekend. It’s between Berlin, Amsterdam and Barcelona, so all really fun cities!


How will you mould this around your day job?


I’m going to take it as it comes. I have an understanding boss which is a big help! It would be easy to just try and go on a load of long haul, expensive trips but this isn’t very helpful for most working people who just want to do something a bit spontaneous and last minute. Therefore the challenge is really to think how much fun you can have within the constraints of a normal job. I think people would be more interested to see this.


How will you be recording your experiences?


I’m going to be keeping everyone up to date and also interacting with anyone who has some ideas on lastminute.com’s social media channels. Head over to their Youtube channel, facebook page and also one their blog. http://blog.lastminute.com/.




by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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