For 16 months, Michael Hodson from Go, See, Write traveled through 44 countries and covered 6 continents – all without getting on an airplane. Read on to hear about some of the more unusual modes of transportation he used and what traveling the world by land and sea was really like.
Jazz Hostels: You traveled for 16 months, visited 44 countries and 6 continents without ever getting on an airplane. What modes of transportation did you use?
Michael: I have a tattoo on my back that goes over most of them. Here’s a pretty full list: cargo freighters, buses, trains, taxis, rental cars, donkey, sailboat, tuk-tuk, motorcycle, and lorry/truck. Off the top of my head, those are the ones I can think of.
Jazz Hostels: What was the wackiest form of transportation you used on this trip?
Michael: Riding on top of a lorry/truck was probably the oddest. In northern Kenya, there is no public mode of transport, so to get to the Ethiopian border, I had to get a ride on one of the cargo trucks driving that route. Since it was so dusty while the truck was moving, all of us passengers rode up on the metal framework on top of the truck. It was quite an odd two days, to say the least.
Jazz Hostels: What was your favorite mode of transportation and why?
Michael: I am a huge train fan, like many people. I got to take a 3 day train ride from Zambia to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that was something I was just fondly remembering last week with one of the passengers I met. It was an old train that would randomly stop along the route every few hours, for reasons we were never sure of. Those stops gave us a chance to interact with the locals on the path, most specifically the children who were so excited to see us.
Jazz Hostels: Why did you decide to avoid air travel on this trip?
Michael: I wanted to experience the size and scope of the world. It isn’t that I dislike air travel — on the contrary, I think it is amazing that one can fly half-way around the world in the span of less than one day. But by the same measure, I don’t think you get a true sense for how big the world is that way. For example, I recall being on the bridge of the cargo freighter I took across the Pacific. We were eight days out of port from New Zealand and as I looked over the navigation maps and radar readouts with the 2nd officer, I realized that we weren’t yet halfway to landfall in Panama — that the Pacific was that incredibly large.
Jazz Hostels: 6 continents and 44 countries is a lot of traveling to get in 16 months, especially without the speed of flying. How much of your trip was spent in transit?
Michael: Way, way too much. I can state that this form of journey is not for everyone. Because I had to cover so many miles through generally slow methods, I had to move almost constantly. Spending more than two or three days in a place was a luxury I would rarely afford, to stay on schedule (and even with that, I ended up taking 16 months, instead of the original plan of 12). I haven’t done final calculations of travel times, but I probably spent somewhere in the ball park of 2,000 hours in pure transport, meaning more than 80 days just spent in buses, trains, boats and so forth. It was a journey of fairly constant movement.
Jazz Hostels: Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous quote “Life is a journey, not a destination” seems appropriate to describe your trip from an outside view. Was this sentiment a part of your trip or did you feel more connected to the time your spent in a location?
Michael: I enjoy both the journey and the destination, but yes, this particular trip was probably more about the power and feelings of the journey. I feel in love with a few great places (Cape Town, Istanbul, Colombia, New Zealand, and more), but I also truly fell in love with moving. On those occasions when I did spend four or five days in one location, invariably I got the itch to move again. Moving was my constant. And it was actually the moving that recharged my batteries.
Jazz Hostels: What kind of traveling are you doing now or have planned for the future?
Michael: As I write this, I am actually back home for a bit, working on some possible business propositions that might require me to do some face-to-face meetings here in the States. That has slightly pushed back my 2011 travel plans, but I am hopeful that I can get back on the road in a few weeks. I want to do some overlanding in the Middle East and get my dive master certification in Dahab, Egypt.
Jazz Hostels: Thank you, Michael. Good luck to you on your 2011 adventures!