by Niall Doherty

I’m on the road again, continuing my trip around the world without flying after a five-month stay in Nepal. I’m writing this from a hotel in Gorakhpur in the North of India. It took a taxi, two buses, one rickshaw and about nineteen hours to get here.

Early tomorrow I’ll catch a 42-hour train to Chennai in the South of India, where I’ll have a couple of weeks to try arrange passage to Sri Lanka. Earlier this month I dopped €1k to secure a ride aboard a freighter from Sri Lanka to Malaysia, departing October 9th. I learned literally twenty minutes after I made that booking that there’s no ferry service between India and Sri Lanka. Oops.

Here are my options…

Plan A

Try find a cargo ship that will take me from the South of India to Sri Lanka. If I can’t manage that, I’ll have effectively wasted that €1k.

I can’t say I’m too confident about this plan. As far as I know, it’s illegal for cargo ships to carry passengers from India to Sri Lanka. Graham Hughes (the English chap who has visited almost every country in the world without flying) was in the South of India two years ago, and despite working for the National Geographic Adventure channel and getting in contact with the head of the Sri Lankan tourist board in the UK, he still couldn’t find a way across those waters without flying.

Plan B

If I can’t get to Sri Lanka by October 9th, I’ll make my way up to New Delhi and apply for a visa for Pakistan there. I failed several times to get a Pakistani visa while in Europe earlier this year (every embassy I contacted told me that I could only apply back in my own country), but a well-traveled friend assures me I’ll be able to pick one up in Delhi.

If that is indeed the case, I should be able to travel from India to Pakistan, and then cross the highest border checkpoint in the world into China. From there, I can journey on to Southeast Asia overland.

Plan C

If the Pakistan visa proves elusive, I’ll try return to Nepal and have another crack at traveling to China via Tibet. They change the rules and dates for tourists in Tibet all the time, but I’m sure if I had another five months in Nepal that I could manage to get through at some point.

One small problem with this plan however: My Indian visa expires in early December, and I’m not allowed back into Nepal until January. I can only hope that a few extra rupees slipped into an appropriate hand at the border will make that a non-issue.

The road less traveled

I was explaining all the above to a random traveler I met at a pub in Kathmandu last Friday, and she couldn’t understand why I don’t just forget the whole no-fly thing and hop a plan to Thailand.

What are you trying to prove? Why don’t you just let go and make it easy on yourself?

I didn’t really have a good answer for her. But I also knew I didn’t need one. This journey is meaningful to me, and that’s all that really matters.

Besides, these challenges are all part of the adventure. If I thought it was going to be easy to travel around the world without flying, I never would have tried it. As Steve Pavlina once wrote

Life’s problems do not exist to beat you down. They exist to help you grow.

I’m going to try negotiate with badass sea captains in the South of India. I may have to travel through Pakistan and all across China. I might have no choice but to try bribe my way back to Nepal.

Or, I could just hop a plane to Thailand. But where’s the fun in that?


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