Okay, dear readers, it’s time to announce my next big travel move…and it’s a big one! Here’s the story of how The Ultimate Train Challenge came to pass:
This post was originally published in July 2011. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content. The Ultimate Train Challenge took place in September of 2011
One Dark and Stormy Night in New Zealand…
I received an email from online travel colleague Michael Hodson of GoSeeWrite. He had gotten wind of my recent train travel adventures in Australia, and being a fellow rail enthusiast himself, he shared a fledgling idea he was developing to coordinate a train challenge among a small group of travel bloggers.
At the time I loved the idea, but since I was mired in choices, travel fatigue, and confusion about what my next step should be, I simply couldn’t commit and had to decline his offer to join in on the fun.
Months Later, One Sunny Day in Toronto…
I noticed plans for the Ultimate Train Challenge were under way and gazed at the formidable list of participants with a degree of envy, and a slight pang of remorse for not jumping on-board when I had the chance.
Then I met Ayngelina of Bacon is Magic (in person at aToronto travel writer meet-up), who was one of the participants of the Ultimate Train Challenge, but was dealing with some complications that might entail her having to regretfully pull out. She must have seen the flash of inspiration in my eyes, because she suggested I get in touch with Michael, who would surely still like to have me along.
One Thing Led To Another, and…
After a few conversations with Michael and the Ultimate Train Challenge gang, I gleefully joined the challenge!
The Ultimate Train Challenge
The Ultimate Train Challenge is a friendly competition among prominent travel bloggers to rack up as many miles on trains as possible betweenLisbon andSaigon – in just 30 days. (That’s about 25,000kms, given the slightly less-than-direct route we’ll be taking).
We’ll meet each other (many of us for the first time) in Lisbon on August 30th, and after a day or two of planning, we’ll scatter throughout Europe on September 1st choosing our own train routes between Lisbon and Moscow.
Some of us are letting Ultimate Train Challenge forum participants choose our route, and some are even upping the anti by trying to sleep only on trains throughout the journey. And with a few bonus challenges like reader-suggested scavenger hunts (ie: get a picture of a Russian train attendant giving you a hug or kiss), there’s ample room for reader participation and challenger fun.
We’ll reconvene in Moscow around mid-September before boarding the Trans-Siberian together, which will take us on a 6-8 day journey through Russia, Mongolia, and China, ending in Beijing. Then we’ll race against the clock as we choo-choo our way as quickly as possible from Beijing to Saigonin time for the September 30th deadline.
It’s Also for Charity
In future posts, I’ll be announcing some excellent partnerships we’ve developed to make this ultimate train journey possible, but we’re also not just doing this challenge for ourselves; we are trying to raise $10,000 for charity as well!
So I’m up to my eyeballs in preparations for the Ultimate Train Challenge right now, including securing visas for Russia, Mongolia, China, and Vietnam – all in panicked record amounts of time. I’m paying exorbitantly to expedite the applications and sitting on pins and needles with each passing day, praying that I’ll have my passport back by mid-August, since that’s when I leave Canada to spend a few weeks in Sweden (yes, with my Swedish Squeeze!) prior to the train challenge beginning.
This says nothing of trying to plan my route, get a new computer, and wrap up my (never-long-enough) time in Canada during the first half of August – no small task on any front.
But alas, these are the adventures of The Professional Hobo. All Aboard!