Is This The Ultimate (And Least Practical) Round The World Trip?

If you have a thing about cartography, Reddit’s “MapPorn” page is almost too much to bear. If you also have a thing about travel as well, beware – this one can devour entire afternoons. For example, here’s one map that has captured the imaginations of thousands of globetrotting enthusiasts in a way its creator never intended.

What’s the shortest route that will take you through every country in the world? Reddit user e8odie, laid up in bed with a broken leg, decided to find out. When he posted the resulting map on the site, the comments went nuts. Why? Because even though the map was clearly labelled a thought-experiment, most of the fun was imagining if it was a real land route. Just how practical is it? The general consensus: “not very.”

Here are a few obstacles we spotted for this ultimate round-the-world trip.
1. Darien Gap
The route takes you from Panama to Colombia by plunging into the Darien Gap, a sprawling mat of swampland and forest that was described by the journalist Robert Young Pelton as “probably the most dangerous place in the Western Hemisphere”. Expect such life-affirming delights as virtually impassable jungle, drug traffickers, kidnappers, understandably trigger-happy paramilitary troops and a truly profound lack of good roads. It’s perfectly possible to visit the Darien Gap, but crossing it? Have fun.

2. Russia By Land
Putting aside the bureaucratic nightmare of getting permission to cross the Bering Strait on foot (or the hot water you can land in if you don’t get it), there’s the small matter of crossing a colossal administrative region of Russia called Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. Driving a vehicle designed for even the toughest roads? Too bad, because there aren’t any — barring those laid down in winter. It’s thousands of miles of roadless tundra, forest and Arctic desert. It’s what planes were invented for.

3. North Korea to South Korea
A few years back, it was still possibly to cross the border between Russia and North Korea via the train station at Tumangan — as long as you have the correct visas and a state-approved tour guide. It may still be possible, although it’s certainly not part of North Korea’s attempt to build a tourism industry. You might make it all the way down to the DMZ — but from there? Forget it. Retrace your steps and take the ferry.

4. Israel to Lebanon
Welcome to the Rosh HaNikra border crossing, administered by the United Nations and the Israel Defense Forces. Are you a diplomat or UN official? Do you work well in conditions of extreme diplomatic tension? Can you run faster than Usain Bolt? If your answers to all of these questions aren’t “yes,” stay clear.

5. Armenia to Azerbaijan
Staying with the happy topic of violent border clashes, let’s consider Armenia and Azerbaijan. They went to war in the early ’90s — a situation that endured as a mutually hostile standoff. This “frozen conflict” thawed in 2011 and it’s still pumping out a fair bit of heat. Right now, that border is officially closed — and trying to enter Azerbaijan with a passport that shows signs of being used in Armenia is a fairly terrible idea.

So – what have we missed?

Traveler Visits Every Country In The World Without Boarding A Plane

A British man has accomplished what many world travelers have only dreamed of. Over the course of the past four years, he has managed to visit every country on the planet, which is a very impressive feat considering some of the places he had to go to in order to earn this unique distinction. But perhaps most impressive of all is that he traveled to all of those places without ever stepping foot on a plane, something that is increasingly difficult in this day and age.

Graham Hughes (33) set out on his journey on January 1, 2009. He began his travels in Uruguay and continued on for 203 weeks before finally reaching his 201st, and final, country earlier this week. His last stop was South Sudan, the Earth’s newest nation and one that didn’t even exist when he started his wanderings.

Hughes tells Australian newspaper The Age that he traveled with four rules as his guiding principles. First and foremost, he barred himself from ever flying. He also vowed to not drive himself anywhere either, which meant that in order to get around he had to take scheduled ground transportation. Finally, in order to say that he officially visited a country he had to step foot on dry land.In order to visit every country on Earth he of course had to find ways to get into places like Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan. You would think that those places would be extremely challenging to enter, but Graham says that many of them lack the infrastructure necessary to properly patrol their borders, making it relatively easy to slip in or out. Other countries weren’t quite so easy, however, as he was arrested while trying to sneak into Russia and was detained for a week in the Congo as well.

The most difficult countries to reach, at least in terms of logistics, were island nations like those found in the South Pacific. Hughes says that supply ships visit them infrequently and he often had to time his travel just right or risk missing a ship and end up waiting for weeks for the next one to embark. Most of us would obviously just hop a flight, but when you ban yourself from using that form of travel, it can really limit your mobility.

In 2009, Graham set a world record for visiting the most countries in a single year at 133. After that, he spent the ensuing months knocking off the remaining 68 countries while also raising funds for WaterAid, an organization dedicated to promoting clean drinking water around the globe.

So, what do you think of Graham’s efforts? Is he the ultimate world traveler or the ultimate guy with a checklist? While I admire his ability to travel to so many places, particularly without flying, I can’t help but think that many of those destinations were just a blur for him. I think I’d like to replicate the same journey, but do so at a much slower pace. How about you?

[Photo Credit: AFP]

Cyclist Sets New Round-The-World Record

A British cyclist named Mike Hall, riding in a round-the-world race, has set a new record for circling the globe on a bike. Hall completed his 18,000-mile journey last week, arriving back in London just 91 days and 18 hour after he set out. That breaks the previous record, set by Alan Bate in 2010, by more than two weeks.

When Hall left London three months back he was racing against eight other riders in the first ever World Cycling Racing Grand Tour. Each of the riders set out to circumnavigate the planet on a route of their choosing, although they were required to cover at least 18,000 miles along the way. Traveling west to east, Hall first crossed Europe into Turkey, where he then hopped a flight to India and continued his ride all the way to the border of Bangladesh. From there it was off to Australia, where he rode across that continent before cycling the length of New Zealand. After that, it was on to Vancouver and a crossing of North America that ended in Maine. The final stage of the ride was from Portugal back to the U.K., arriving at the finish line on June 4.

Halls approach to the race was to travel as light and fast as possible, and to that end he carried only the bare minimum of gear. While most of his competitors set out with 60 pounds of equipment strapped to their bikes, Hall took a little more than half that. This helped him to cover an average of nearly 200 miles per day for the entire three months that he was on the road. Meanwhile, the three other men who still remain in the race are continuing to make their way toward the finish line. One is currently in India, another is in Turkey, while the third is in New Mexico.

As if setting a new world’s record wasn’t enough, June 4 also happens to be Mike’s birthday. He was lucky enough to not only arrive home on that day but also celebrate his record setting win with friends and family.

[Photo credit: Rory Hitchens of Upgrade Bikes]

Video: Exercising Around The World

How do you stay fit while you travel? The hotel gym? Walking around sightseeing? Unless you’re an adrenaline junkie, you probably don’t put too much thought into exercising while you’re on the road. So this video of blogger Steve Kamb exercising around the world provides a refreshing and practical look at how you can stay active anywhere.

Check out Steve warming up with jumping jacks in Bangkok; jumping rope in Shanghai; pounding out the push-ups at Machu Picchu; and doing vertical push-ups in front of the Guinness factory in Dublin. Yeah, this guy is good. Onward, we see Steve running in Monte Carlo; doing some jaw-dropping pull-ups in Santa Monica, California; and swimming in Puerto Rico.

In all, Steve traveled to 16 countries over 18 months and shot footage of himself exercising in all of them. While Steve’s self-funded, round-the-world trip is impressive, I think the true moral of this story is that there’s no reason you can’t stay fit – or even get fitter – while on vacation. All you need is your body and some spectacular destinations for inspiration.

Video: Filmmakers ‘Make It Count’ By Circling The Globe In 10 Days

Filmmaker Casey Neistat was recently contracted by sports apparel giant Nike to create a short film about its Fuelband, a high-tech bracelet designed to keep track of our workouts. Nike was hoping to build social media buzz around a new ad campaign that featured the tagline, and Twitter hashtag, #makeitcount. Turns out Casey and his buddy Max “made it count” by using Nike’s money to fund a 10-day round the world adventure that saw them visit Paris, Cairo, Johannesburg and a host of other interesting destinations before running out of money.

The two men filmed their little excursion and the resulting short film can be found below. The video is a fantastic mix of truly great travel destinations interspersed with inspiring quotes from a variety of prominent historical figures. The combination of the two will leave you wanting to make your own round-the-world journey, although figuring out how to get Nike to fund it is an entirely different challenge.