by Niall Doherty

Hola from Portland, Oregon. I’ve been here having a blast at The World Domination Summit (just as legendary as it sounds) for the past few days. On Wednesday I’m flying back to Spain, and it may well be my last flight for a few years.

You may remember back in February I wrote about the grand adventure I’m planning to embark on later this year. In short, it’s to be a three-year, round-the-world trip, during which I’ll spend 3-4 month stints living in several different countries.

I’m still up for that, but I’ve added a small twist: I’m going to try do it without flying.

Why no fly?

Mostly just for the hell of it. I figure the challenge of circumnavigating the globe without stepping foot on an airplane will make for a bigger adventure and a better story. Rather than flying over huge chunks of land and sea, I’ll be forced to take my time and savor the journey, explore towns I’ve never heard of, and meet more random people.

There are also environmental reasons, though those are more of a bonus than anything. I can’t pretend to be some kind of eco-warrior here. It’s a bit like when I went vegetarian: I was mostly just curious to see what I could get out of it, and it was only later that I came to appreciate all the traditional arguments made in favor of plant-based diets.

As mentioned, I hope to live for 3-4 months in several different countries as I make my way around. I have in mind such places as India, Vietnam, Japan, New Zealand and Brazil. I love the idea of staying put for a little while, taking the time to find an apartment, make some friends, suss out the local hot spots. That appeals to me much more than just dropping into a place for a quick week or two before moving on to the next landmark (though I will be doing quite a bit of that as well).

But wait! Is this even possible?

Sure. A quick bit of googling turned up a bunch of people who have done it recently and blogged about their experience. Such as…

  • Lara and Tom from World In Slow Motion. They started out from London in May 2008 and made it back within a year.
  • Ed Gillespie and his girlfriend Fiona managed it a year earlier, their trip taking 12 months or so. Ed not only blogged the whole trip, but also wrote a column about it for The Observer.
  • Nick and Holly, yet another couple from the UK, averaged a speed of 3.6mph as they circumnavigated the globe in 20 months, arriving back in London a little over a year ago.
  • This Michael Hodson chap, who I believe is American. He made it around sans aircraft in 16 months, starting back in late-2008.

So yeah, definitely doable. But that doesn’t mean it’s gonna be easy 😉

Major challenges

I haven’t done a helluva lot of research for the trip yet, so it’s likely I’ll over or understate a few things, but here are what I believe will be the primary challenges along the way:

1) Getting through the Middle East

I’ll need to get from Turkey to India somehow, and Iran is the easiest and most direct way. Or at least it should be. But visa regulations and such make that leg of the journey a tad tricky. I’ll have to do a bit more investigating to see if it’s a plausible route for me.

I couldn’t help but notice that all the folks I listed above opted to avoid traveling through the Middle East, taking the Russia-Mongolia route instead. I may end up doing that myself, though it would be a hell of a detour traveling to India that way.

2) Japan to New Zealand

Once I’m in India, getting to Japan is pretty easy by all accounts. Getting from there to New Zealand however is a different story. Ideally I’d like to travel by sea via Taiwan, then down through the Philippines and Indonesia, stopping off for a few weeks in each place, no major hurry. I’m just not sure how plausible that is.

3) Crossing the Pacific

Sure, there are plenty of cruise liners that traverse the big P, but how to get on board one without spending a fortune or becoming a cabin boy? An alternative is to travel by freighter, but that appears to be just as expensive and a lot less fun.

One other possibility is latching on with a private sailboat. If I learned how to sail while in New Zealand, I might be able to convince some wily old sea dog to bring me along on his next crossing. It would still cost money, but would likely work out cheaper, plus there would a greater likelihood of stopping off at some places like French Polynesia and the Galapagos Islands.

But hey, it’ll be at least another two years before I set eyes on the South Pacific, so I won’t worry too much about this part of the journey just yet.

4) Long time gone

The most continuous time I’ve ever spent away from Ireland is 11 months. This whole RTW trip would mean I’d have to be away from home and not see family or friends for at least three years, maybe more. And that’s the best case scenario.

The worst case is that someone dies or becomes seriously ill and I need to get back home asap. If that were to happen, and as long as I could afford it, I’d have to break my no-fly rule.

5) Money

Oh yeah, the money bit. I imagine I’ll have to pay for things like food and accommodation along the way 😉

How I plan to do that, I’m not exactly sure. Hopefully the projects I’ve been diligently working on here in Spain will result in a few low-maintenance income streams for the coming years. That would be the ideal, allowing me plenty of free time as I travel. However, I’m also fortunate in that I have some nifty web design skills, so I can always knuckle down for a month or two when needed and do some freelance work to bring the ching-ching in. I figure I’d have to earn at least $10k per year on average to make ends meet.

Of course, I’ll be happy to share with my email subscribers exactly how I earn and spend my money along the way.

What’s your ridiculous adventure?

So I’m shooting to do a lap of the globe without flying, Tyler Tervooren is aiming to climb the highest mountain on every continent, Chris Guillebeau is trying to visit every country in the world before his 35th birthday, and Nate Damm is busy walking across America.

Such goals sound a bit crazy, right? You might be thinking, “What’s the point?”

Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter if other people think your goal is ridiculous, or that you’re crazy for trying. You don’t have to justify your ridiculous adventure to anyone. All that really matters is that it’s meaningful to you, that it excites you and makes you feel alive. I definitely feel that way when I get to thinking about my upcoming journey 😉

How about you? What’s your ridiculous adventure?