Around the World in 14 Years


Let’s get one thing straight: circumnavigation isn’t easy.

Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition took 3 years to sail around the world; the man himself killed due to his own arrogance and ineptitude in the Philippines. Likewise, Francis Drake spent 3 years and 3 months trying to prove “anything a Portuguese sailing for Spain can do, an Englishman can do better,” failing only because of his secret mission to find the Atlantis of the Sands in the Rub’ al Khali for Queen Elizabeth the First. Wait. Strike that. Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series is about as accurate as Wikipedia, albeit far more interesting. What is certain is that these men faced challenges like no other: uncertain winds, brutal climates, and native peoples. Add to these the “normal” threats of mutiny, debilitating disease, and the very real possibility of starvation, and going once around the world was no picnic by half.

Modern circumnavigators have it no easier.

In 2002, Steve Fossett became the first person to fly around the world alone, nonstop, in any kind of aircraft; his vehicle of choice was the 10-story high balloon Spirit of Freedom. From takeoff to landing, this journey took him 14 days 19 hours 50 minutes over a course of 20,626.48 miles (33,195.10 km). Of his entire aircraft, only the capsule survived the landing; it was later given the the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. In addition to the circumnavigation record, the voyage also set a number of ballooning records: Fastest (200 miles per hour), Fastest Around the World (13.5 days), Longest Distance Flown Solo in a Balloon (20,482.26 miles), and 24-Hour Balloon Distance (3,186.80 miles).

And then there’s Jason Lewis, who traversed the world under human power. Lewis and his companion Stevie Smith mountain-biked through France, Spain and Portugal; peddled a paddle-boat across the Atlantic to Miami; roller-bladed across much of North America; and then peddled the paddle-boat from San Fransisco to Hilo, Hawaii, where Smith ended his journey. Lewis then hiked across Hawaii; paddle-boated from Hawaii to Tarawa atoll and then – along with the boat’s builder – on to the Solomon Islands. There he was joined by April Abril, who helped him cross the Coral Sea to Australia. Lewis then cycled across Australia and had to spend some time raising funds to continue his journey. Once again, Lewis took to his paddle-boat, paddling from Darwin, Australia to East Timor; there he traded his paddle-boat for a kayak, with which he traversed the Indonesian archipelago.  Landing in Singapore, he biked from Singapore to the Himalayas, where he hiked and biked to the Indian port of Mumbai. There, he was reunited with his paddle-boat and crossed the Arabian Sea to Djibouti. He faced legal problems in Africa and was forced to complete his journeys there mainly by night. Lewis finally reached Syria, where he completed the remainder of his circumnavigation by bicycle.  Most notable in an expedition beset by hazards of all types, Lewis survived two bouts of malaria, septicemia, mild schizophrenia, and a crocodile attack. The entire expedition took roughly 13 years.

Now, I haven’t come close to the accomplishments of any of these men in any respect but one: I’ve gone the distance. Using the accepted distance of 24,091.5 miles as the distance around the world at the equator, I completed my 14 year journey at 4:15 PM EST on October 10, 2013.

I began running back in the seventh grade because I didn’t make the basketball team. Although I eventually succeeded, by that time running had become my passion. There’s something soothing about the rhythm and pace of placing one foot after another for miles on end. I memorized poetry, songs, and learned to be alone with my own thoughts. In that regard, my failure to make the basketball team is also responsible for this blog.

So, what did this circumnavigation cost me? By my count, I used at least 14 pairs of shoes, 60 pairs of socks, 5 rolls of duct tape, 20 large boxes of band-aids, hundreds of Cliff energy gels, and copious amounts of water. But at least I didn’t suffer from scurvy.



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