For some it is the dream of a lifetime; they’ve saved up for years and want to treat themselves to months of enjoyment with a blend of adventure, interesting encounters and leisurely vacation. For others, the world trip is a social or business project; they have objectives, meetings and often hope to change the world!
Between dream and reality
Last summer, a 25-year old Dutch student went on a five-week tour of Asia. At least that's what her loved ones thought. In actual fact, Zilla van den Born never left Amsterdam! Using her expertise with touch-up software Photoshop she was able to make others believe she had really left by publishing photos of herself on the social networks in a range of fabulously exotic settings!
- Getting away, escaping daily routine… some people really manage to do it! Last year, Sylvain, joint-author of website www.voyageautourdumonde.fr (only in French), conducted a survey of round the world trips undertaken by French people by analyzing about one hundred dedicated blogs. He found that, on average, a round the world trip lasts a year and costs €14,500. To qualify as a "round the world trip" your itinerary must cover several continents, although not necessarily all five! The round the world trips surveyed by Sylvain all included Asia, 93% included South America, but only 25% included a trip to Africa and just 3% comprised a visit to Central Asia. The five most visited countries are China (63%), the United States (34 %), Mexico(33%), Mongolia (31%) and Japan (22%).
The survey also shows that the round-the-world travelers' average age is 27. 42% travel with their partner, 27% as a family, 24% on their own and 7% with friends. People travelling with friends tend to take airplanes more often than the other categories. Families are the category that uses air travel the least. Also, over eight in ten solo travelers are men.
It would seem that a round the world trip is above all a question of will-power and anticipation: travelers have to save for several years, ensure that they are well-informed, organized and prepared well in advance. Like James Asquith, the 24 year-old Britain who became the youngest man to visit all the world's 196 countries, as recognized by the UNO. To finance his trip, which lasted five years and cost €150,000, James saved up the money he earned in summer jobs and also worked during his trip when necessary.
Not quite what you expected
A world tour is a life-changing experience. Even the most organized person can't avoid the fact that every trip has its unforeseen events. For example, when Mary Lou Mahaney, a 72-year old American, took off on her round the world trip she didn't know she would ride a quad in Namibia or stroke lions in Botswana. Neither did German traveler Gunther Holtorf, who embarked on an 18-month trip to Africa with his wife after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, know that he wouldn't be home until October 2014. That's what happens when Wanderlust grips you…
The budget is often crucial. This said, two students, Milan and Muammer, recently took up the challenge of travelling around the world without a bean in their pockets! This wasn't exactly an easy travel theme to keep to. So they gave themselves 80 days to meet their objective and "prove that there are people who will help you all over the world."
Three young Norwegians decided on an equally difficult, but perhaps more original round-the-world travel theme: "The Topless Tour", which created quite a buzz! Their photos — always taken from behind — notched up more than 20,000 likes on Facebook and 45,000 followers on Instagram. With their message, "uniting people across the globe to feel the freedom and share their beauty with the world", they have started a real trend and received lots of photos of topless travelers.
Themes must be in fashion. How about a round the world trip, simply for the sake of travelling around the world? No, you might find you're going round in circles. You would be better off going around the world in 80 beds, or taking a gastronomical world tour or traveling around the world by bike like the Argentine Pablo Garcia, or on foot like Jean Béliveau, the fifty-something Canadian who took 11 years to complete his trip, walking a total of 75,000 km across 64 countries: keep walking, Jean!
A trip to change the world
What all these long journeys across frontiers and continents have in common is the fact that they are enriching for those who go on them. The travelers return with a wealth of memories, experiences and new knowledge about both the world and themselves. That's one of the reasons why families undertake this kind of long haul journey: so that their children can learn through practice about the diversity of cultures, lifestyles and landscapes.
Miles Maurer, a 15-year old American who went on a 10-month tour of the world with his family won't contradict you: "It's much more effective to learn about the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia than in class!".
This enrichment gleaned as each kilometer is covered has prompted other projects. For example, the "Microcrédit en 4L" project of two French friends, Matthieu and Nicolas, who travelled around the world in a Renault 4 or "4L" to meet microfinance institutions all over the globe. Their objective was to promote the impact of microcredit – the granting of very small loans to entrepreneurs outside the traditional banking system – in developing countries.
Indian engineer, Naveen Rabelli, wants to prove that is possible to travel with a low carbon footprint. That's why he set himself the crazy challenge of driving from India to the United Kingdom in a solar tuk-tuk!
There are many initiatives of this kind all over the world thanks to round-the-world travelers who want the spirit of travel to serve innovation, solidarity and other causes. For example, Jonas Guyot and Matthieu Dardaillon have traveled from Senegal to India, via the Philippines, looking for social entrepreneurs who use their skills to serve the general interest, so that they can promote their actions.
The project of these two 24 year-olds, "Destination ChangeMakers", has turned into an initiatory journey that will definitely change their professional lives. In fact, it will change their lives altogether.