Brothers take on 101-task mission

Scotsmen get public input to ensure Asia sojourn thrills, chills, fulfills


Most people would welcome a couple of weeks of vacation and many may even have further daydreamed of taking a whole year off, possibly to backpack around the world or do volunteer work.

But Scottish brothers Lee and Lindsay Vine figured they could top such run-of-the-mill ideas by taking a rather unusual year off. Since December, they have been traveling around Asia trying to accomplish 101 tasks chosen for them by the Internet-surfing public.

It’s a project that “puts the public in control of our lives for 12 months,” says the brothers’ Web site.

At a coffee shop near a ¥3,900-a-night hostel in Tokyo in early August, Lee Vine, 33, said the terms of the mission were as follows: “One year, two brothers and three simple rules — challenges cannot be illegal, immoral or cause death.”

The brothers toured Japan from July 28 to Aug. 9 before moving on to Olympics-host China. Japan was 10th on the list of a dozen countries the brothers plan to visit during their yearlong sojourn.

The project began in April 2007, when they began collecting ideas for challenges on their Web site. After getting 250 original proposals, some 150,000 Web site viewers from all over the world whittled the list down to 101 challenges last December.

The challenges are diverse. They’ve bungee-jumped in the jungles of Thailand wearing nothing but kilts. They’ve given out free hugs in Tokyo to strangers in crowded Shibuya. And they’ve even had drinks in the frigid Absolut Ice Bar in Nishi-Azabu, where everything is made of ice and the only things covering their bodies were bikinis.

But it’s not just bizarre antics that are on their to-do list. In India, they distributed soccer uniforms from professional soccer teams to underprivileged children. In Cambodia, they visited an orphanage and spent a weekend being their big brothers. They’ve also hung out with elephants in Sri Lanka.

According to Lindsay, 28, their motive for taking on these challenges came from their stepfather, the father of their two younger brothers, who died of lung cancer in March 2006. “We were lost and did not know what (we) wanted to do,” he said. “We decided to take a year out of the U.K. to get back on track.”

Then they came up with the “brilliant” idea of letting others decide how to spend their year out “because we wanted to have an amazing year of traveling,” Lindsay said. “We wanted people to put us in all sorts of situations and to make us see a whole variety of different aspects of every country and culture.” The brothers chose Asia as their destination because the region appealed to them as exotic, he said.

Their younger brothers, Leyton, 25, and Lyle, 19, could not join the journey as Leyton was short of savings and Lyle had to attend school. “They’re really jealous,” Lee said of the two brothers left behind in Britain.

Lee quit his job as a personal computer trainer to be able to go on the trip, but the Scottish police force, where Lindsay holds a position as an officer, let him take the year off.

They started the trip in India, then went to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan and China. They will then continue on to Nepal, before returning to India in December.

Their combined budget for the yearlong trip is ¥3.12 million. To limit their spending, the brothers are staying at hostels, eating cheaply, using an Internet telephone and refraining from flying as much as possible, Lee said.

Their unique trip eventually caught the attention of British broadcaster Channel 4, which sent cameraman Mark Rainsforth to accompany the brothers on about 60 challenges in eight countries, including Japan.

“The challenges are so diverse that it appeals to a wide audience. From testing their bravery by jumping off high cliffs into freezing cold waters to transforming into ladies in Thailand and to climbing mountains wearing orangutan outfits in Borneo,” Rainsforth said. “I am so excited to be involved in the project and capture these amazing stories.”

One of Lee Vine’s favorite challenges so far is titled “Bond of Brothers,” which entailed making and starring in a James Bond 007 movie in Koh Lanta, Thailand. Being Scotsmen like Sean Connery, who played the original James Bond, they acted it out in a strong Scottish accent. The brothers spent two days producing a 10-minute film including a jet-ski chase, renting the vehicles and hiring Thai police officers, who were happy to act for free.

During their stay in Japan, Tokyoites had some more chances to witness the Vines’ silly challenges.

In Shibuya, they organized a “flash mob,” in which they had about 40 people suddenly perform a dance and then walk off as if nothing had happened.

On another occasion, Lindsay dressed up as a shark and ran around the city trying to capture a dead fish from Lee in public places, including a fish market, the subway and a sushi bar.

While the brothers try their best to complete their tasks, there are some they could not accomplish.

In Tokyo for example, the brothers never got to appear on a Japanese TV show, could not take part in a sumo tournament nor learn kendo, as people did not want to get involved or be filmed, Lindsay said.

But their great success in Japan was the “cosplay” (costume play) challenge at the Cosplay Parade in Nagoya on Aug. 2, Lindsay said. At this event, which drew some 300 people from at least 13 countries, Lee dressed as the Green Ranger from the “Power Rangers” TV show, and Lindsay as a sort of “bat man.”

When she first learned of their adventurous journey, their mother was very concerned, Lee said. But she finally understood that they wanted to have fun and was powerless to prevent them, he said. Now their mother, two brothers and friends are planning to join them to celebrate the end of their journey in India.

“It’s better to regret what you have done than have to forever regret doing nothing at all,” Lindsay said.

The siblings’ Web site is: