The most famous round the world trip, Phileas Fogg’s in Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days” took place at ground level because he had no choice. Now there is a choice, and in fact going around entirely at ground level is a lot more difficult than in Jules Verne’s day. Michael Palin managed it, following the same route and with a film crew along, in the 1980s, but it wasn’t easy then and is harder now, as passenger transport by sea dries up.
It’s easier, of course, if you take longer – investment guru Jim Rogers spent 20 months doing it on a bike, and then three years going round again in a customized, canary yellow Mercedes. Since I started hanging out on Twitter, I’ve come across several people planning, or already embarked on, lengthy trips. People like Uncornered Market already on the road for over three years, or “D” of DTravelsRound who’s just one month in. I suspect that for them it’s all about the journey – making it round the world is secondary.
At the other extreme are “Private Jet Expeditions”. For some reason I keep getting brochures for them, even though I’d need a terminal diagnosis before I’d contemplate actually going on one. The latest brochure is from National Geographic: 24 days by “specially outfitted Boeing 757” carrying 78 passengers. If you and a companion have a spare $64,950 each (single supplement: $8,350) you’ll get to visit Lima (for Cusco and Machu Picchu), Easter Island, Samoa, the Great Barrier Reef or Daintree Rain Forest, Angkor, Chengdu, Lhasa or Xi’an, the Taj Mahal, Serengeti or Ngorongoro, Luxor or Petra and Marrakech.
Of course, the most time you’ll get to spend anywhere is two nights: in Lima, Samoa and Chengdu you only get one night. So even at places like Angkor, where you can feel short-changed if you have three days, you get just one full day. I was considering the cultural confusion that would set in, until I realized that you’re not visiting countries on this trip, you’re just checking off “sights”. But you do go round the world – appropriately enough, from Orlando.
I’ve been thinking about this because I’m planning my next trip, using a One World award which will take me round the world for the third time. The first time I didn’t even think of it as a RTW trip – I went overland from Beijing to Islamabad and from Paro in Bhutan to Chennai, but I flew a lot, too. The second time I went overland from Scotland to Saigon by rail, and did think of it as a RTW. This time I’ll be doing almost the whole trip by plane – some overland here and there, especially in India, but lots and lots of flights.
I will start at Raleigh-Durham airport, heading west, and I will arrive back there from the east, having gone all the way round. And I will spend six to eight months traveling. But somehow, it doesn’t feel like a round the world trip. So what do you think? Leave me a comment and let me know what a round the world trip means to you. Does the National Geographic trip count? Does mine?