Have you ever felt the tug of the horizon, or been filled with a fierce desire to seek a life of freedom on the open road? Have you ever felt the rumble of cylinders or the squeeze in your thighs as your feet push the pedals? Have you ever left a million footprints behind you or pressed tire tracks into the dust of a faraway land? Have you ever turned the key in the ignition with only miles of unknown adventures ahead? Have you ever drawn a finish line that you barely believed you could reach?
For the twenty storytellers featured today in our ‘On the Road to Somewhere’ theme, the answer is a resounding yes. Together they have driven, cycled and walked across six continents — conveying themselves by car and motorbike, on bicycles, scooters and rickshaws, and even on foot. We (genuinely) calculated that these twenty journeys rack up enough cumulative miles travel to the moon and beyond.
Road trips (and trips without roads) are all about earning your destination. When you fly somewhere, you risk missing out on all the fun of getting there, or as travel writer Mike Sowden puts it, “You feel like you have skipped straight to dessert without eating your greens… cheating yourself out of a sense of adventure.”
If stories are indeed the existential currency of explorers, then these intrepid road-trippers have already earned themselves a small fortune to hand down to the grand-children. Today we celebrate their twenty gloriously impractical alternatives for crossing our planet, and raise a glass to those who believe that, in the timeless words of Hemingway:
At the end of this post you’ll find the exciting details for our next Storytelling Theme — ‘Wonders of the World’ — coming up at the beginning of November. In the meantime, hit play to listen to our road trip playlist, peruse the wonderful stories below, and savour the excitement of travelling vicariously along the roads of far away lands.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes described Al Humphrey’s journey to cycle around the world as, ‘Probably the first great adventure of the New Millennium.’ This is the story of how it all began and how Al had to make the terrifying decision to abandon his carefully laid plans for Asia, and instead turn right for Africa. Read the full story on Maptia here.
Alastair Humphreys was voted National Geographic’s 2012 Adventure of the Year and is currently writing a new book about ‘Microadventures’. Read our previous Latitude Series Interview with Al or buy his wonderfully written books about his adventures while cycling around the world. If you enjoy his story on Maptia be sure to drop him a line @Al_Humphreys to say thanks. It’s a gripping tale and we were hooked.
Originally written on a typewriter from the back of a 150cc Lambretta scooter, these stories tell the tale of Ron and Tove’s remarkable adventures across Latin America in the 1960s. Their son, Gordon Bowman, has put together a wonderful book about their journey, and has shared three of the chapters on Maptia so far — from Guatemala, Colombia and Peru. Reading these wonderful accounts feels like a glimpse back in time. Find all three stories on Maptia here.
Back in 1960, Ron Bowman made an epic trip from Canada to Latin America on a 150cc Lambretta scooter. 45 years later, his son Gordon received a faded and wonderfully detailed manuscript detailing his Dad’s adventures. Gordon is currently raising money on Kickstarter to self publish this amazing story complete with the original photographs, which he has restored and put together into a beautiful book with great care. With less than a week to go on the project it’s going to be a close call to hit his $20k target. Here at Maptia we were both moved and enthralled by The Scooter Diaries and we’ve already backed the project.
If you love travel and adventure, then head over to The Scooter Diaries Kickstarter project right away — we would absolutely love to see this project fully funded!
Driving through the windswept landscapes of Kazakhstan and Mongolia, this is the story of Dave and Deb’s final leg as part of the Adventurist’s infamous Mongol Rally — a 10,000 mile adventure from London, England to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia. This road trip is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Read the full story on Maptia here.
Dave and Deb of The PlanetD have explored all seven continents and over 80 countries. Living by their motto, “Adventure is For Everyone”, they aim to prove that you don’t have to be an uber-athlete, adrenaline junkie or a part of the ultra rich to be an adventurer. Read more about why they travel or say hi to them on Twitter @theplanetd.
Another brainchild of the Adventurists, the Rickshaw Run takes place on what is essentially a glorified lawnmower. The majority of teams, including Kim Dinan’s, were always destined for breakdowns. In fact, Kim’s team broke down every single day. Yet each time they did, Kim encountered the most astounding people who helped them on their way. Read the full story on Maptia here.
Last year Kim Dinan sold all pretty much everything she owned and left her 9-5 job to travel the world with her husband Brian. You can check out her blog over at so-many-places.com and read her recently published book ‘Life on Fire: A Step-by-Step Guide to Living your Dreams’. If enjoyed Kim’s story be sure to drop her a line on Twitter @RTWsomanyplaces.
Alex Gandy regales his journey cycling the Wakhan Corridor. Following rocky tracks deep into the Pamirs, a remote mountain range crossing parts of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, Alex shares stunning photos and wonderfully vivid memories of this stretch of beautifully remote and challenging riding. Read the full story on Maptia here.
When we last spoke with Alex he was refuelling in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. He is currently cycling across Asia, with no fixed route or destination. Keep up to date with his progress at cycling-east.com. Alex’s objective is to live simply and journey to places seldom visited. He is also raising money for Future of Nepal and would really appreciate any donations via his Just Giving Page.
Three thousand miles and ten million footsteps later, Leon McCarron had crossed the vast and empty expanse of the Gobi Desert on foot and walked from Mongolia to Hong Kong. Along the way, Leon found time to appreciate the otherworldly sunsets and morbid beauty of the rolling rocky wilderness. Read the full story on Maptia here.
Leon McCarron is a Northern Irish adventurer and cameraman who specialises in long distance, human-powered expeditions. The 4-part TV series, ‘Walking Home From Mongolia’ will be available on DVD from 21 November 2013, as will a book of the same name by Rob Lilwall. Head over to leonmccarron.com to pre-order and you can say hi to Leon on Twitter @leonmccarron.
How do you make the world’s most dangerous road more dangerous? You drive it the wrong way round. Climbing uphill from 4,000ft to 14,000ft in elevation, dodging tourist mountain bikers coming down the hill at high speeds, Alex Chacón tells the hair-raising tale of his drive up the North Yungas Road in Bolivia — nicknamed La Via de Muerte (the Road of Death). Read the full story on Maptia here.
Chances are that you might have already seen Alex’s Modern Motorcycle Diaries video (when we last checked it had received over 1.2 million views). Following in Che Guevara’s path down the Pan American Highway — through 22 countries and covering over 82,000 miles — Alex’s journey is an inspiration to motorcyclists worldwide. You can learn more about his trip over on expeditionsouth.com or say hi to Alex on Twitter @ExpeditionSouth.
Karl Bushby’s story is one of the most remarkable we have heard to date — he is walking from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. to hand deliver a letter to the Russian Ambassador, asking him to reconsider a 5-year visa ban. Only then will Karl be able to complete his 15-year odyssey to walk 36,000 miles around the world. Read the full story on Maptia here.
9 | Our Epic Tale
Evan Michael Rummel believes that we all want some kind of adventure out of life. Passing through the Badlands, Craters of the Moon and Yellowstone National Park, his glorious summer road-trip from Detroit to Seattle (and back again), was nothing if not an epic adventure. Read the full story on Maptia here.
Allan Karl shares a snapshot of his remarkable round the world motorbike adventure, describing his battle with fearsome winds and treacherous dirt roads through a desolate and surreal landscape of vast, white salt deserts from Uyuni in Bolivia to Calama in Northern Chile. Read the full story on Maptia here.
Allan Karl is raising money via Kickstarter to self publish a beautiful book about his adventures. At the time of writing, Allan had already smashed his target, but if he hits his ambitious stretch goal, he will tear up his riding jacket and give backers a specially designed bookmark with a piece of that jacket. We’ve backed it and we think you should check out Allan’s awesome project too. You can read more about his adventures over at worldrider.com and find him on Twitter @worldrider.
This is the story of two moments, 394 days apart, on the same spot of land in Gibraltar, facing the vast continent of Africa. In-between lies the adventure of Ian Packham’s solo and unassisted circumnavigation of Africa using public transport. This was where his journey began, and over a year later, where it came to an end. Read the full story on Maptia here.
This is the story of Alex Berger’s epic 13 day road trip from Arizona up to Colorado. Over high mountain passes, along the headwaters of North America’s greatest rivers, and through relaxing aspen groves — the leaves turning vibrant colours as the fall arrived — Alex explored his ancestral territory. Read the full story on Maptia here.
Alex Berger is an entrepreneur, a talented photographer, a guest lecturer and MA student at the University of Copenhagen. You can read his recent thesis (which incidentally received a perfect score) investigating the impact of Facebook on the backpacker community, check out his blog at virtualwayfarer.com, or say hi on Twitter at @AlexBerger.
Gabby Watson and her family of four drove over 7,000 kilometres through remote wilderness and the dusty outback to visit one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks, Uluru — otherwise known as Ayers Rock — experiencing a couple of hair-raising moments along the way. Read the full story on Maptia here.
Gabby Watson is a mountain walker, photographer, writer, life-long traveller, mum of two and you can find her profile on Maptia here. We’re sure that you will enjoy her beautiful photographs and writing as much as we did.
Lucking out on the weather, Katie Coakley drove through the dramatically changing landscape along Iceland’s southern coast. Her beautiful photography aside, we were intrigued to learn that herding sheep with Jeeps is commonplace in that part of the world. Read the full story on Maptia here.
Mari Jamadi met Rick in a maze of cubicles, where they bonded over their shared hatred of all things corporate and fell in love (in an epic way). Casting off their current lives, they quit their jobs, unloaded their belongings and set off on an epic journey across the world. You can see their phenomenal photography and follow their migration route over at nomadic-habit.com.
Along with beautiful wanderlust-inducing photographs (you’ll even spot one of her photos featured as the cover image for this theme) Briana De Marco tells the tale of her adventures driving through the stunning landscapes of the 800,000 hectare Joshua Tree National Park. Read the full story on Maptia here.
Briana De Marco is a storyteller, traveler, and filmmaker who runs a global storytelling studio with her husband to create films, photos, and words around the world. Take a look at her blog wanderingstudy.com, where she has been documenting her travels along with her husband David.
20 | Worth Its Salt
We’ll round off with a story from one of Maptia’s co-founders — Dorothy Sanders. Journeys and adventures like this jeep trip through the otherworldly salt flats of the Bolivian Altiplano, helped foster Dorothy’s passion for exploration and travel. Read the full story on Maptia here.
Other than being the CEO, co-founder and designer at Maptia, Dorothy is a hiker of mountains, a lover of beautiful design and a consumer of good books. Say hi on Twitter @doro1hy — she would love to hear from you.
We hope you enjoyed this collection of road related escapades! If you feel suitably inspired, then please do tweet this post and @mention any friends who you think might also enjoy perusing these stories too.
Wonders of the World: Maptia Storytelling Theme 3
We believe that like beauty, wonder is in the eye of the beholder. The original Greek list of the Seven Wonders only covered the world as they saw it and the only one of these still standing is the Great Pyramid of Giza. Today there are many more lists: The Seven Natural Wonders of the World, New Seven Wonders of Nature, Seven Wonders of the Underwater World, Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, and many more. We’re seeking stories that capture the essence of these remarkable places — unique in the sense that so many of us have stood and gazed in awe on precisely the same spot on our planet — so many of our lives have intersected at these places.
The top stories for this theme will be featured in a few week’s time on the Maptia Blog — keep an eye out at the beginning of November and be sure to complete your stories in time for a chance to be featured.
For now, just a small group of founding storytellers are contributing to Maptia and we are only able to send a limited number of new invites each week. We don’t yet have the resources to cope with more, and are still working on the coding and design. However, if you have a story in mind about one of the Wonders of the World, and absolutely can’t wait to get started, then send a 200-word snippet and photo to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will shuffle your invite right to the front of the queue.
What did you think of our second Storytelling Theme? Which stories resonated with you the most? Will any of them inspire you to embark on road trips of your own? Let us know in the comments below. In the meantime, here are a couple of suggested reads if you’re looking for more inspiration.