A Little Advice…Travel Around the World Without Flying (One)

Our guest traveler for the next three weeks gets mad props from me for making the commitment to travel around the world without taking a single flight. Michael, from the Go See Write Travel Blog, has traveled around the world over the past year without a single plane ride. I really respect his commitment to feel every footstep of his journey and the his choice to take reduce the carbon footprint of his RTW trip. His year of land and sea travel makes him the perfect person to share key tips over the next three about how to travel without flying – a tip or two each week covering how he’s managed his sans-flying trip  :-)

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One of my primary reasons for taking a trip around the world without flying was because I wanted to get a full appreciation of the size of the world.  After exactly one year on the road without leaving the ground, and still having not made it all around yet, I can say – it’s big.  Really big.  And more amazing that I ever would have imagined.

Decorative chicken buses are the way to travel through Central America, Panama

Decorative chicken buses are the way to travel through Central America, Panama (c) GoSeeWrite.com

Modern plane travel is one of the miracles of modern convenience.  One can get on an airplane in the heart of Middle America one afternoon and wake up the next morning in Germany or China.  These days, you can get to about anywhere in the world from a major city in the States in 24 hours – give or take a few.  I love the ease of it, but at least for me, there is a disconnect there that I wanted to eliminate at least once in my life. I wanted to feel the miles – feel the distance – know that I had actually traveled – and in some sense, earn my first journey around the world.

Most of the tips I could give you about an around-the-world trip without planes would be the same sort of tips you’d normally read about any long trip – websites with good hostel/hotel reviews, key phrases you should learn in a language before you arrive, safety issues, and so on – so instead I will try to make these tips and thoughts more focused on the uniqueness of a ground level circumnavigation.

Overland travel takes longer: Plan for perpetual movement

You move constantly.  Assuming you are traveling on a budget, whether one of time or money, you can’t really stay anywhere for too long.  I originally wanted to try to make it around inside of a year, but it is going to take me about sixteen months as it turns out.  The longest I’ve been able to stay in any one location is roughly a week and I’ve only pulled that off a few times. My stay at most locations is usually about three or four days.  The reason for this is quite simple: ground travel takes a hell of a lot more time than hopping on a plane.

A motorbike in front of a colorful building in Hoi An, Veitnam

A motorbike in front of a colorful building in Hoi An, Veitnam (c) GoSeeWrite.com

As a recent example, I recently had to get from Chiang Mai, Thailand to Hong Kong to catch my freighter to Australia – it took me seven days and I was moving for at least eight hours on each and every one of those seven days.  The same mileage could have been taken care of by about a six-hour plane ride.  A trip similar to mine is going to be primarily about traveling; that is it’s very nature.

How to Travel the World Without Flying (Two)

Part Three: How to Travel the World Without Flying (Three)

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Michael Hodson is, or was, a lawyer in Northwest Arkansas who decided to take a year off and travel around the world with two rules: no reservations and no airplanes.  He’s kept up the 2nd half of the promise and only slightly fallen short on the 1st half.  He blogs at Go See Write.com

Previous Guest Post we love:
An Unexpected Stop in the Sudan with ThePlanetD

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  • http://travelsofadam.com Adam

    Can't wait to read more about overland travel! I think the best part of traveling this way is the fact that not only do you get stories from your destinations, but from your way of getting TO those destinations.

    • ShannonOD

      That's so true. Some of my best stories are the overnight bus rides with
      midnight border crossings in the freezing cold! :-) It really does add to
      the experience if you're on a more adventurous mode of transport than an
      airplane!

  • http://www.nomadicchick.com/ Nomadic Chick

    Thanks for this Shannon! I've been waiting eagerly. Overland does take a while, but I prefer that over flying everywhere. It just feels right, and the people I've met or events I encountered – you just don't get on an airplane.

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    • http://www.foggodyssey.com/ T-roy

      There is a book by Jeff Greenwald called “The Size of The World” that he wrote about his travel around the world never taking a flight. It a fun read and you can really connect with his frustrations (esp when he was in the Middle East) about issues with land transportation only.

      I did a blog post about it on my website and you can check it out below:
      http://www.foggodyssey.com/2009/07/05/real-travel-books-worth-reading/

      • http://www.alittleadrift.com Shannon

        That is definitely one I will add to my list of books to pick up if I see them :-) I also love those other books in the post! If I was going to stay home for a bit longer I would add several of these to my library queue! Thanks for the rec T-Roy :-)

        • http://foggodyssey.com/ T-roy

          here is a book by Jeff Greenwald called “The Size of The World” that he wrote about his travel around the world never taking a flight. It a fun read and you can really connect with his frustrations (esp when he was in the Middle East) about issues with land transportation only.

          I did a blog post about it on my website and you can check it out below:
          http://www.foggodyssey.com/2009/07/05/real-trav

  • rachelcotterill

    I love taking different modes of transport (our last few holidays have involved bicycles, ferries, cars, and trains, as well as aeroplanes). When we took the transmongolian railway, I was actually surprised at how little time it took to get from western Russia to eastern China on the train…

    • ShannonOD

      Glad that you're enjoying the post – his tips next week give a bit more of
      the specifics on how he's managed this trip without the plane flights, and
      what sites/people he used to book trips :-)

  • http://travelsofadam.com Adam

    Can't wait to read more about overland travel! I think the best part of traveling this way is the fact that not only do you get stories from your destinations, but from your way of getting TO those destinations.

    • ShannonOD

      That's so true. Some of my best stories are the overnight bus rides with
      midnight border crossings in the freezing cold! :-) It really does add to
      the experience if you're on a more adventurous mode of transport than an
      airplane!

  • http://www.nomadicchick.com/ Nomadic Chick

    Thanks for this Shannon! I've been waiting eagerly. Overland does take a while, but I prefer that over flying everywhere. It just feels right, and the people I've met or events I encountered – you just don't get on an airplane.

    • ShannonOD

      Glad that you're enjoying the post – his tips next week give a bit more of
      the specifics on how he's managed this trip without the plane flights, and
      what sites/people he used to book trips :-)

  • rachelcotterill

    I love taking different modes of transport (our last few holidays have involved bicycles, ferries, cars, and trains, as well as aeroplanes). When we took the transmongolian railway, I was actually surprised at how little time it took to get from western Russia to eastern China on the train…

    • ShannonOD

      I'm really jealous of your trip on the Transmongolian – it's on my bucket list to do it really slowly and explore along the way :-) You're right though, it adds a bit of excitement to the traveling when you add in a variety of it all, rather than the easiest point from A to Z :-)

  • ShannonOD

    That is definitely one I will add to my list of books to pick up if I see them :-) I also love those other books in the post! If I was going to stay home for a bit longer I would add several of these to my library queue! Thanks for the rec T-Roy :-) (& sorry if you get this response twice – something crazy was going on w/my comments system :(

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  • ShannonOD

    I'm really jealous of your trip on the Transmongolian – it's on my bucket list to do it really slowly and explore along the way :-) You're right though, it adds a bit of excitement to the traveling when you add in a variety of it all, rather than the easiest point from A to Z :-)

  • http://foggodyssey.com/ T-roy

    here is a book by Jeff Greenwald called “The Size of The World” that he wrote about his travel around the world never taking a flight. It a fun read and you can really connect with his frustrations (esp when he was in the Middle East) about issues with land transportation only.

    I did a blog post about it on my website and you can check it out below:
    http://www.foggodyssey.com/2009/07/05/real-trav

    • ShannonOD

      That is definitely one I will add to my list of books to pick up if I see them :-) I also love those other books in the post! If I was going to stay home for a bit longer I would add several of these to my library queue! Thanks for the rec T-Roy :-) (& sorry if you get this response twice – something crazy was going on w/my comments system :(

      • http://www.foggodyssey.com/ foggodyssey

        Shannon- The first two books (Goliath Expedition & Don't Tell Mom…) are such sweet books to read. If you read anything at all while traveling, I would pack those two with you when ya leave out. They are perfect books to read while sitting on a bus, train or plane. You won't get bored with them and their both ALL TRUE!

        I picked up the “Don't Tell Mom…” book in Brisbane at the airport when i was flying back to Dubai. The title was what grabbed me and since it was non-fiction I thought I would give it a go. I was laughing so hard in the terminal, waiting on my flight, that people thought something was wrong with me. I had it read by the time we got to Dubai and didn't sleep a wink because so. :)

        • ShannonOD

          You have me sold now on these two books. One of the two will likely be the
          first that I start out with when I leave! I had a really depressing book at
          the beginning of my last travels, and it was not great – I am all for the
          laugh out loud funny :-) Thanks for the detailed rec Troy!

  • http://travelcalling.blogspot.com/ Angela

    I'm so used to taking the plane that when I need a train I panic! I so would like to travel more often by train, but I think in Europe they are not very well organised, or at least, I never find the connection that suits my needs! Maybe I need to sort my priorities first ;-)

  • http://travelcalling.blogspot.com/ Angela

    I'm so used to taking the plane that when I need a train I panic! I so would like to travel more often by train, but I think in Europe they are not very well organised, or at least, I never find the connection that suits my needs! Maybe I need to sort my priorities first ;-)

    • ShannonOD

      That's definitely tough when your specific train route doesn't have good
      stops – but it is probably worth a second look to check if there's a chance
      you could train it on shorter distances instead of flights! :-)

  • ShannonOD

    That's definitely tough when your specific train route doesn't have good
    stops – but it is probably worth a second look to check if there's a chance
    you could train it on shorter distances instead of flights! :-)

  • mobilelawyer

    Well — I just got off my third freighter — this one from Australia to NZ. The last one back home is going to be the biggie — 20 days. If anyone has any direct questions for me on these series of posts — email me at michaelshodson@yahoo.com — not the gmail address on my blogspot. Thanks, Michael

  • mobilelawyer

    Well — I just got off my third freighter — this one from Australia to NZ. The last one back home is going to be the biggie — 20 days. If anyone has any direct questions for me on these series of posts — email me at michaelshodson@yahoo.com — not the gmail address on my blogspot. Thanks, Michael

  • http://www.foggodyssey.com/ foggodyssey

    Shannon- The first two books (Goliath Expedition & Don't Tell Mom…) are such sweet books to read. If you read anything at all while traveling, I would pack those two with you when ya leave out. They are perfect books to read while sitting on a bus, train or plane. You won't get bored with them and their both ALL TRUE!

    I picked up the “Don't Tell Mom…” book in Brisbane at the airport when i was flying back to Dubai. The title was what grabbed me and since it was non-fiction I thought I would give it a go. I was laughing so hard in the terminal, waiting on my flight, that people thought something was wrong with me. I had it read by the time we got to Dubai and didn't sleep a wink because so. :)

  • ShannonOD

    You have me sold now on these two books. One of the two will likely be the
    first that I start out with when I leave! I had a really depressing book at
    the beginning of my last travels, and it was not great – I am all for the
    laugh out loud funny :-) Thanks for the detailed rec Troy!

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