Charles Hammerton, a 25-year old former member of the Royal Air Force now living in Cornwall, England is the first to acknowledge that he has had a few rough years.
While trying to deal with mental health struggles and coming to terms with a troubled upbringing, he experienced the deaths of both his adopted mother and his biological one, who passed away within months of each other. With feelings of helplessness building, Charles found a unique way to get some perspective on life and get on the road towards healing; by travelling across Europe with his best friend Bandit, a ferret.
Charles first met Bandit when he was stationed with the Royal Air Force in England, after he discovered a ferret rescue centre just five minutes away from his base. He knew he wanted a furry friend, but due to regulations, he couldn’t keep a dog or a cat in the barracks. He sought permissions and paperwork from officers, and was eventually given the green light to get a ferret.
After visiting the centre, it was obvious to Charles which one he would choose. “I saw one little dude knocking over pots in the garden, having fun on his own and causing carnage, and I just remember thinking, yup, that’s the one! That’s a Bandit,” he told Lonely Planet.
Charles left the Air Force back in 2017, and decided to travel. He used it as an opportunity to bond with Bandit, work on himself and raise money for a veteran’s charity that he represented. He describes Bandit as his emotional support throughout this time, and the pair travelled through 14 countries together.
“When we hit the road, it was like two mates together. He would sit on the dash on the long rides, or curl up on my lap. When we arrived at destinations we’d go and explore together from Pompeii to Paris, the Arctic Circle to the beaches of Spain, we even watched the northern lights together! He could be called and come to you on command, he could be walked without his lead on and would walk for miles and miles in a day. We had a really, really special bond. I knew what he wanted and when, and equally when I slipped into a deep depression he would come and nibble at my ear or curl up on my lap,” Charles told Lonely Planet.
Unfortunately, Bandit passed away when they returned to England, something that inspired Charles to write a memoir and self-help book titled ‘Before Our Adventures’, which chronicles his difficult past, how Bandit aided him, and includes the methods and philosophy that helped him overcome his struggles. Today he coaches teenagers experiencing hardship at home and school.
When it comes to travel, Charles has plenty of advice for people dreaming of shaking up their own lives. “Listen to that small voice that tells you to go places. There’s a burning desire within all of us to achieve something. The only thing more dangerous than taking a risk is conforming to a society that doesn’t understand your desires. Oh, and when you do go through customs with a ferret, don’t tell them you don’t know where you’re going, how long you’re going for and that you live in your van with him! You’ll Definitely get your vehicle searched!”
More information on Charles is available at his official website.