A hitch-hiker's guide to stop bullying

Maximus McNeill relaxes on the Costa del Sol after his gruelling 2,800km hitch-hike.
Maximus McNeill relaxes on the Costa del Sol after his gruelling 2,800km hitch-hike. / Tony Bryant.
  • A British actor and campaigner set himself the challenge to get from Scotland to the Costa del Sol with no money in his pockets to highlight a problem suffered by many children

A British actor has participated in a gruelling awareness campaign in order to highlight the problems of children who suffer from bullying. Maximus McNeill embarked on a 2,800-kilometre hitch-hike from Dunbar, on the southeast coast of Scotland, to Malaga. The journey took twelve days to complete and was followed by more than 2,500 people on Facebook.

Maximus, 37, who has secured several acting roles on UK television - as well as being the body-double for Robert Carlyle in Trainspotting 2 - undertook the task after becoming worried about the seriousness of bullying in the UK.

A victim of bullying himself as a child, Maximus has imperforate anus, a defect that is present from birth, and this condition has continued to cause him emotional trauma throughout his life. During his schooling, he was victim to cruel taunts and social exclusion, and even at home, his stepfather would ridicule and verbally abuse the youngster. After appearing on prime time television in the UK, he was subjected to further abuse from a social media campaign, and so the actor decided to try to do something to highlight the problem.

"I was born in Edinburgh, but because of my condition we had to move to England. I was a young kid with a strong Scottish accent who was different, and so I got regular beatings and verbal abuse from the other pupils. The verbal abuse continued at home and this is why I realised that I had to do something, because this type of stuff is happening to kids today," Maximus explained to SUR in English.

After a spontaneous decision, the adventurous campaigner set off on his journey, which began in Dunbar on Friday 21 September and ended in Fuengirola on Tuesday. Maximus made a list of things he could and could not do on the trip. He travelled with just a few spare clothes, a first aid kit and his mobile phone and tablet, which were used to record the journey. He was not allowed to carry money, so had to walk on the roads to secure rides and beg for food and accommodation.

"People were just amazing. I was brought breakfasts and dinners, had lifts from lorry drivers and holidaymakers, and even had a hotel room paid for by someone who had followed the campaign on social media," the actor said.

Although Maximus received plenty of support along the way, there were times when he considered quitting, but the thought of "children committing suicide because they don't know who to turn to" gave him the will to succeed.

"Many people contacted me to tell their stories. These kids had been abused and bullied, and these are the kind of stories that sometimes end with suicide. Listening to this had me in tears on several occasions, but it made me more determined to get my message across - if I can overcome bullying, then you can," Maximus said, poignantly.