Around the World in a Big Blue Bus


Filip Kernan and Hannah LaFrance


When we sat down with Mr. Mabbott, we did not know what to expect. On one hand, we thought we’d be speaking to your average Ipswich High School math teacher. On the other hand, however, we knew that this math teacher was also the man who moved here from Scotland and drove the sticker-covered big blue van that stands out so much in the parking lot. Some might find owning a van like that to be strange, but once he explained the story to us it made perfect sense why.


Mr. Mabbott first talked about when he first started traveling.  He described that he had an intense curiosity about “experiencing different cultures.”  He said that he took his first big trip during the summer between his freshman and sophomore years of university.  He took a trip to Disneyland and worked there during the summer.  Being from Scotland, this was a big trip and was the first big trip that he took.  But it was far from the last trip he took nor was it the biggest trip.

The story of the van starts in 2011, when Mr. Mabbott and his then-girlfriend (now wife) decided to drive from London to Mongolia.  She was inspired by the book “Where the Pavement Ends,” by Erika Warmbrunn, which told the story of a woman who biked through Mongolia, China, and Vietnam. After some research, they discovered the charity “Mongol Rally,” which raises money for Mongolian families, orphans, and street children. Drivers such as Mr. Mabbott and his girlfriend donate their cars to Mongolians in need at the end of the trip.

After purchasing a former New York Department of Transportation van, they shipped it from Salem to London, then flew out to England to begin their journey. The drive itself went through sixteen countries and spanned over ten thousand miles. They traveled across most of Europe, climbed the Ural mountains into the Central Asian Steppe, and went through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia to reach Mongolia. Unfortunately, this route is no longer possible today due to certain areas that one would have to cross, such as the Russia-Ukraine border.

This was not the only trip that Mr. Mabbott and his wife have done together. In fact, Mr. Mabbott said that the trip to Mongolia instilled a very adventurous spirit in them and they try to do a big trip every two years.  After their wedding, one of Mr. Mabbott’s gifts to his wife was a very similar van to the one they drove to Mongolia as his wife noted often how she “missed the bus.”  For their honeymoon, they decided to cycle from Paris to Istanbul. Four months after their daughter was born, they took her on a bicycle trip around the United States and Canada. Before she was born, they tried to do a trip about every two years, and they plan to continue their travel more “comfortably” while she is young. They hope to cycle through Western Europe within the next few years.

For now, though, Mr. Mabbott is happy to teach us math here at Ipswich High School. Described as a “pretty swell guy” and “the coolest teacher ever” by his students Chris and Quinn, he is a popular and beloved teacher. He is certainly a positive addition to the Ipswich High School team.