On the Road to Somewhere: Maptia Storytelling Theme 2

By Maptia, Co-founder Team Share

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:

It’s good to have an end to journey towards; but know that it is the journey that matters, in the end.
— 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. 


1 | Turn Right for Africa

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.

If I was a brave man I would turn around right now... instead I keep pedalling. What on earth are you doing, Al? You bloody idiot. It is one of the worst moments of my life.
— Al Humphreys

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.


2 | The Scooter Diaries

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 timeFind all three stories on Maptia here.

Our noble scooter, conqueror of the Alleghenies and the Sierra Madres, sputtered and quit. The Andes laughed.
— Gordon Bowman

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! 


3 | Mongol Rally Mishaps and Memories

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. 

We compared our Mongolian map with other teams and realized that ours was complete crap, so soon we tossed it and started driving on blind faith.
— Dave and Deb

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.  


4 | Beauty in the Breakdowns 

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.

This is going to be wild, I thought to myself. Then, just like that, Sunny broke down. And that was when the magic started...
— Kim Dinan

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.


5 | Highlights from the Pamir Highway 

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. 

Perched at near 4,000m they’re practically isolated during the winter months with no running water, minute amounts of electricity from generators and just dung to burn for heating.
— Alex Gandy

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.


6 | Walking Mongolia to Hong Kong

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.

When I find myself in situations like this I know my appreciation for life increases exponentially. In fact, I’ve never felt more alive than when about to fall off a cliff in China.
— Leon McCarron

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.


7 | Driving the World’s Most Dangerous Road

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.

I don’t know if it was the danger or the beauty, or perhaps a combination of both, just the right balance of beauty and danger, it was awesome.
— Alex Chacón

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. 


8 | On Foot Across America: The Bushby 3000

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.

By day five I was almost immobile, barely able to walk after the feet took such a pounding on that first long downhill.
— Karl Bushby

Karl Bushby is an ex-British Paratrooper on a 15-year mission to complete the longest continuous walk in human history. You can say hi to Karl on Twitter @bushby3000 or track his progress in real time over at bushby3000.com.


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.

What if the sights and sounds that came through our path impacted us so greatly that our soul came alive to what the world has to offer...
— Evan Michael Rummel

Evan Michael Rummel is an international filmmaker based in NYC. He loves adventures, storytelling and excessively long hashtags. Take a look at some of the videos he has produced so far on Vimeo, follow his antics on Twitter at @LookitsEvan. 


10 | Road Tested and Listening to the Wind 

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.

So stunned by the scenery, I forgot about the wind, and the road. Volcanoes thrust from the landscape all around me.
— Allan Karl

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.


11 | Encircle Africa: Where the Journey Begins (and Ends) 

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.

I stood alone beyond the last bus stop in Europe, facing Africa, with roughly a year of travel ahead of me.
— Ian Packham

Ian Packham is a writer and adventurer, and recently completed the first solo and unassisted circumnavigation of Africa by public transport, covering some 25,000 miles. You can read his journal in full over at encircleafrica.org  or drop him a note on Twitter @IanMPackham.


12 | Road Trip through Beautiful Ancestral Territory

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.

No matter how far I wander, or where I hang my hat, I’ll always be a Colorado country boy at heart.
— Alex Berger

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.comor say hi on Twitter at @AlexBerger.     


13 | Smoke and Mirrors at Dusk

Delia Monk hopped aboard a local bus to escape the urban sprawl of Ninh Binh and set out on the back of a scooter to explore the rice paddies and looming karsts of Vietnam, lit by a breathtaking sunset. Read the full story on Maptia here.

I gawped and I snapped as we watched the sun sink behind the huge towering karsts and illuminate everything in its path.
— Delia Monk

In a past life Delia Monk was a politics correspondent at a daily UK paper. Today she can be found travelling around the world with her notepad instead. You can peruse her adventures over at worldinwords.net  or drop her a friendly note on Twitter @DeliaMonk.


14 | Cycling the Lost Coast

Challenged by the brutal climbs and loose dirt tracks, Tom Allen recounts his thrilling ride along the deserted King Range and Usal Roads in California. Read the full story on Maptia here.

The track plunged down through dense forest, rocks and loose gravel shaking our bikes and bones, disc brakes squealing round sketchy hairpins.
— Tom Allen

A firm believer in the potential of bike travel for making meaningful, personal journeys, Tom Allen shares his adventures on his excellent blog over at tomsbiketrip.com. Let him know if you enjoyed his story as much as we did over on Twitter @Tomsbiketrip.


15 | Eat Sleep Surf in Indonesia

Rian Cope and Dylan Brayshaw  spent 115 days cycling across the Indonesian archipelago, stopping to surf some of the most perfect waves on the face of the planet, and exploring the wonderful diversity of these beautiful islands. Read the full story on Maptia here.

Bays of white sand, small wooden shacks selling cigarettes and rice, children running out to see these strange contraptions we were riding, it was everything we expected.
— Rian Cope and Dylan Brayshaw

Rian Cope and Dylan Brayshaw now cycle, travel and surf to new destinations around the world — recording these adventures over at eatsleepsurf.com.au to inspire others to walk along an unbeaten path. Check out this trailer for the 4-part DVD series documenting their Indonesian trip. 


16 | Outback Family Road Trip

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.

It had taken a stranger to remind us that travel is never as straightforward as you expect, but when you are open to the experience, it often turns out even better than you imagined.
— Gabby Watson

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.


17 | Riding the Ring Road Vík to Jökulsárlón

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. 

Icelanders are very superstitious; the land looks as if its inhabited by elves.
— Katie Coakley

Katie Coakley is a traveller, writer, hiker, diver and connoisseur of Colorado brews. You can find more of her adventurous tales at katieonthemap.com or drop her a friendly note on Twitter @KatieCoakley. 


18 | Gobi Desert Tour

8 days. 6 people. 1 shower. Camels. Goats. Sheep. Mari Jamadi shares the tale of her unlikely Mongolian adventures in a Russian van from Ulaanbaatar to the Gobi Desert (and back). Read the full story on Maptia here.

We arrived in a magical area that felt like The Land Before Time. As you walk around this untouched land, you fully expect a T-Rex to appear from behind the hills.
— Mari Jamadi

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.  


19 |  Driving through Joshua Tree

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.

Or when you look up at the sky to see a netting of stars that circle around your head if you dedicate enough hours, and coyote pups try out their new songs from a den that might not be so far away.
— Briana De Marco

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.

Translucent shadows of the Milky Way, like jets of steam from a celestial kettle, are strung cobweb-like over pinprick stars.
— Dorothy Sanders

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 stories@maptia.com 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. 


Places are Made of a Thousand Stories  Our illustrated launch post that describes our vision to build a global storytelling platform.

Great Expeditions A thrilling photo essay containing 20 of the greatest adventurers and explorers from the past and present.


Date added
Location Taghazout, Morocco