Trekking Couple Circles Planet Three Times In 424 Days

trekking

They started trekking the planet more than a year ago, promising to travel the globe bringing children in classrooms from around the world with them, virtually, as they visited scores of countries and continents. Now their journey is complete and Darren and Sandy Van Soye are back to tell about it.

The story begins in February 2012, when the couple from Southern California started on a global adventure to raise awareness about world geography and make the subject more accessible to children. Hoping to visit 50 countries on six continents in 424 days, they planned to share the journey with more than 700 classrooms representing 50,000 students.

“Our dream is to educate children about geography and world cultures so we’ve planned the ultimate trek around the world to do just that,” Sandy Van Soye told Gadling when they began. In January of this year after passing the 50,000 mile mark, they had stopped in 40 countries with another dozen or so to go before returning to the United Sates. At the time, they had already beaten their own projections with 850 classrooms in 20 countries following their journey online.

Now with their world trek complete, the Van Soyes have traveled a total of 77,000 miles or the equivalent of three times around the earth at its equator. Their trek is an impressive amount of travel in such a short period of time for sure. But how they went about it is even more interesting.Starting on January 28, 2012, the journey began aboard a cruise ship, Princess CruisesPacific Princess, a small ship, which proved to be an efficient mode of transportation.

“We used cruise ships to get us between continents so that we could see more of the world,” said Sandy Van Soye. Spending 97 days of the nearly 500-day trek at sea the couple racked up 35 ports in 18 countries. An impressive number but travel via cruise ship is not the fastest way to be sure. From San Diego, it took 29 days to reach Sydney Australia, normally a 16- or 17-hour flight. But along the way, they visited Hawaii, American Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand.

trekkingAfter a seven-day trek in Tasmania, the team boarded another cruise ship, Ocean Princess to travel near Australia’s eastern coast, along the way visiting the Great Barrier Reef, the city of Darwin, Bali, Indonesia, and Ko Samui, Thailand, before arriving in Singapore. At each stop, they selected travel plans that would show students following along the natural beauty and unique people they encountered.

On land for the next eight months via a series of multiple day hikes, they visited 27 more countries in Asia, Europe and Africa before boarding the Pacific Princess in Rome. That Mediterranean sailing crossed the Atlantic Ocean, sailing up the Amazon River all the way to Manaus, Brazil.

Two months on land took them through 4,600 miles of South America before the final leg of their trek a voyage on Star Princess in Valparaíso, Chile, for their fifth and final cruise home.

trekkingOf all the places they went, which was their favorite? Kenya because of its rich culture and natural beauty

“It is a place that kids (have) heard of, so it was a pleasure to go there and talk more about it,” said Sandy of their visit to three Kenyan schools, one in the Maasai Mara and two in the Samburu region.

The biggest surprise along the way? Riga, Latvia

“There was just so much to see and do here and, though it is a capital city, it was relatively inexpensive,” said Sandy.

In addition to a lifetime of memories, the Van Soye’s trek produced a library of 60 four-page education modules for teachers available as supplements to existing classroom materials.
Also, their Trekking the Planet website contains free articles, quizzes, more than 70 documentary videos and a summary infographic: “Trekking The Planet: By The Numbers.

So is that the end of the road for this couple? Hardly.

Driven by the fact that nearly a third of U.S. young adults cannot locate the Pacific Ocean on a map, Trekking the Planet hopes to help educators change these statistics with future geography-oriented projects.


[Photo credit – TrekkingThePlanet]

AirBaltic expands, spruces up

Yesterday, Latvian airline AirBaltic launched two new routes: Riga-Madrid and Riga-Beirut.

Riga-based AirBaltic is an airline to watch. Little known in North America, the airline is notable for its low starting fares and the inclusion of most of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations on its route map. But what really sets the airline apart from the pack is its range of underserved destinations across Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Middle East, and the Nordic countries.

These less well-served destinations include Baku, Tbilisi, and Yerevan in the Caucasus; Almaty, Dushanbe, and Tashkent in Central Asia; Amman, Beirut, Dubai, and Tel Aviv in the Middle East; and destinations like Kuopio, Tromsø, and Visby across Nordic Europe.

The catch is that most routes fly in and out of Riga, a beautiful city that is sadly not exactly top-of-mind among most visitors to Europe. While AirBaltic’s fabulous range of destinations can best be accessed from a starting-point in the Baltics or the Nordic countries, the airline’s fares for connecting flights from cities across Western Europe can also be quite competitive.

In anticipation, no doubt, of the summer traffic to come, AirBaltic also upgraded its site yesterday. The visual changes are minimal, but they go some way toward making the site more streamlined and enjoyable to peruse.

(Image: Flickr/Londo_Mollari)

Latvia fed up with “English pigs” – creates anti-Brit police force

The Latvian capital city of Riga is home to a lot of beautiful things, and I’m not just talking about their stunning blonde women.

Sadly, a lot of that beauty is being spoiled by British tourists who don’t understand how to behave when abroad. The mayor of Riga complains about large groups of drunk Brits screaming and taking over the local bars and strip clubs.

One local resident went on record to say “They are drunk by the time they get off the plane and they don’t sober up again until they go back home three days later”.

One British organization even offers full package deals of “strip clubs and shooting” where stag party revelers can get lap dances and then shoot a couple of rounds with an AK-47, all for just $260.

Apparently the extreme low cost of flying within Europe has brought out some of the worst the UK has to offer, forcing the mayor to take some drastic measures. Starting this week, a dedicated division of the Riga police will be on the lookout for British tourists who take their fun a little too far. One man has already spent 3 days in jail for peeing on the Latvian national monument, so they obviously are not joking around. Oh, and the phrase “English pigs”? That is how the Latvian interior minister referred to these tourists. Classy.

In Riga, Latvia, avoid the following bars and clubs

The US Embassy in Riga, Latvia, has issued a warning to American tourists to avoid certain establishments that have become “notorious for credit card fraud extortion scams, prostitution rings and violence by organized criminals.”

What’s more, the embassy has prohibited all of its employees from doing business at these places.

They are as follows:

  • “Foxy Lounge” – Terbatas 2; located below the “Fashion Café” in the basement of the “Vegas” casino at the corner of Terbatas and Merkela streets near the flower market.
  • “Roxy Klub” – Kalku 24; located near the entrance to Old Town on Kalku street.
  • “Lord’s Pub” (formerly “Groks Pub”)-Kalku 22; located next door to Roxy Klub.
  • “Puzzle” (formerly “Pink Panther”)-Kalku 22; also located next door to Groks Pub.
  • “Mary” – Audeju 13; located on the east side of Galleria “Centrs” Mall.
  • “DD Bars”
  • “Saxon” – Laipu 7; located near “Livu Square” in a small street to the right of restaurant “Steiku Haoss”.
  • “Doll House” a.k.a “Zig Zag” – Marstalu 12; located to the right of Reformed Church.
  • “Bar Fly” – Vagnera 8; located near “Livu Square” in a small street to the right of “Roxy”, “Groks” and “Pink Panther”.
  • “Zephry Bar” – located near Galleria Center in Old Town, near the youth hostel.
  • “Mademoiselle Cigar Club” – Valnu street; located in Old Town across from “Lounge 8″.
  • “Nobu Sushi” – Grecinieku 28; located in Old Town.