Are You Up for a Challenge?

by Gray Cargill on January 23, 2013

Post image for Are You Up for a Challenge?

Do you have a competitive spirit and a charitable heart? Then today’s post is for you.

In Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in 80 Days, Phileas Fogg makes a wager with members of his club to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. He brings his valet with him and together, they experience all sorts of exciting adventures in far-flung places. In the 1981 film The Cannonball Run starring Burt Reynolds, a variety of oddballs compete in an illegal coast-to-coast car race across the U.S. (based on a real-life race that took place four times during the 1970s). And of course, today, The Amazing Race sends teams of two around the globe following clues and getting into all sorts of misadventures to entertain millions of reality TV viewers.

What is it about adventure travel competitions that spark our imaginations? It seems romantic in some way, doesn’t it? But make no mistake, it is a challenge—logistically, physically, and mentally. Could you take on a challenge like that?

High Speed Train by Linda N, Flickr


In 2011, travel bloggers Michael Hodson of Go, See, Write, Jeannie Mark of Nomadic Chick and Nora Dunn of The Professonal Hobo took on such a challenge. For them, it was all about challenging themselves as they raced each other via train from Lisbon to Saigon. Michael has parlayed that experience into a company, Your World No Rules, and he’s inviting you to join in YWNR’s premier Challenge event:

The 2013 Ultimate Train Challenge

You have the entire month of May 2013 (31 days) to make it from Saigon to Lisbon or Lisbon to Saigon (your choice)–and you must do it by train. You’ll travel roughly 15,000 miles, choosing your own route and stopping in whatever cities you want to visit along the way.

The Cost

  • If you register by February 15th, the entry fee is $295 US (approx. £183 / €223).
  • If you register from February 16th to April 30th, the entry fee is $395 US (approx. £245 / €298).
  • If you enter from this post, you will get $30 off your entry fee. You just need to enter the code GC13UTC on the “Referral” line on the entry page to get the $30 discount.
  • The costs of travel and visas will likely be in the $2,000-$3,000 range, depending on how many countries you want to travel through, what kind of lodging you choose, and what you want to do when you’re not on the trains.

What You Get For Your Entry Fee

The benefits are detailed more fully here. In short:

  • HostelWorld will be providing 2 night’s free accommodation for everyone prior to departure and also offering various monetary coupons for other contests along the way;
  • You can blog your trip on their website to keep family and friends up to date with your journey;
  • You can use their live-mapping feature on the site, so everyone can keep up with you in real time;
  • You can take part in Intrepid Travel’s fun pre-launch party in both locations; and
  • You will be eligible for great prizes and raffle drawings such as two 15-day tours with Intrepid Travel for the first contestants to cross the finish line (in each direction), four global Passes from Eurail, etc.

night trains by Lachlan, Flickr

Why Would Anyone Do This?

Unlike Around the World in 80 Days or The Cannonball Run, there is no million-dollar pot of gold at the end of the race. If you have a competitive spirit and love to travel (especially by train), this could be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure you’ll be telling your kids and grandkids about years from now. And then there’s the charitable component.

The Charity

The Ultimate Train Challenge is asking contestants to raise $500 USD for Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit that serves needy children in Vietnam. Intrepid Travel has agreed to match each contribution dollar for dollar, up to $10,000 total. So, in addition to having an adventure of a lifetime, you and the other participants will help make a small, but positive difference in the lives of these children.

Newsletter giveaway bonus

Sign up for the UTC’s free newsletter to keep up with the latest developments on new sponsors, prizes and other news. As a bonus, the organizers will hold a drawing from all the newsletter subscribers in February and will be giving away a new Samsung Galaxy SIII to one lucky subscriber.

What Else You Need To Know

They don’t call this a “Challenge” for nothing. This is not a tour. You have to arrange for your own travel visas and plan your own route and other travel logistics. They have, however, put together some resource pages here for you to start making your plans. You can also feel free to email them with any questions that you have about anything at:

Will I Be Doing It?

The idea of me being able to take off 31 days in a row from my office is laughable. Also, I’m not even remotely competitive. So no, I won’t be taking the challenge.

So why am I publicizing it?

Because it does tickle my romantic imagination. I had fun following Michael, Jeannie and Nora’s adventures when they were live blogging during their own train challenge, and I know it’ll be fun following this year’s group as well.

And because I want to make sure that if you do register, you get that $30 discount (every little bit helps, right?). Full disclosure: I receive an affiliate fee for every participant I refer. I’m going to be handing any affiliate fee I earn back over to the organizers as a donation to the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. I may not be competitive, but I do have a charitable heart.

Are you up for the challenge? If so, you can use the link in the image below to register for the Ultimate Train Challenge. Don’t forget to use the code GC13UTC in the “Referral” line for your $30 discount. And if you can’t participate in this challenge, no worries. They’ll be rolling out more of them in the future. Following along vicariously can be a lot of fun, too.


Photo credits: High Speed Train by Linda N at Flickr; night trains by Lachlan at Flickr

Curious Nomad February 4, 2013 at 1:28 am

This looks exciting. I started doing the research.

Gray February 4, 2013 at 7:03 am

Good for you! Good luck with it!

JoAnna January 29, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Do it, Gray! Do it!

Gray January 29, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Troublemaker. 🙂

travelling crone January 26, 2013 at 6:54 pm

In a heart-beat! Too bad I am still romping my way through a 6 week-er of Thailand and Mexico. Boss just might have an issue is I want to take another month, not to mention visa! But I will most definitely be watching.

Gray January 26, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Wow, you must have a great job if you can take 6 weeks off in a row! That’s a good gig.

Michael Hodson January 28, 2013 at 9:43 am

Drop me a line if you want to talk about some of the details of this — would love to have you do it, if you can find the time off work. And since you are a blogger, I might be able to help with some details for you.

Jeff @ GoTravelzing January 24, 2013 at 11:05 am

I would love to do this. If they had one that lasted about 10 days then I could do it.

Gray January 26, 2013 at 11:03 am

Maybe they’ll do that someday, Jeff. You never know!

Michael Hodson January 28, 2013 at 9:44 am

Jeff, we might have some future (non-train) events that would work in that timeframe, but going from one end of Europe to the other end of Asia all on trains is going to take a bit more time. I think someone that is dedicated could do it in about 24-25 days… but that would be intense. Thanks for your interest though!

Kirstin January 24, 2013 at 2:07 am

I would be hopeless at this kind of challenge.. I have no sense of direction and I don’t know my left hand from my right hand.

I love the idea of having to take the train!

Gray January 26, 2013 at 11:05 am

LOL, we are kindred spirits, Kirstin! It sounds very romantic and exciting, but I’m like you, I’d get hopelessly lost. I’d probably wind up in Siberia.

Kirstin January 26, 2013 at 8:26 pm

When my friend and I were travelling in Paris she could wander the streets “aimlessly” and still know which direction to head to find the next place on our ‘must see’ list – without a map.

Gray January 26, 2013 at 8:46 pm

I would love to have such a built-in GPS. 🙂

Michael Hodson January 28, 2013 at 9:46 am

Kirstin, this is the PERFECT challenge for the directionally impaired. The train conductor is going to take care of all your spot to spot navigation for you!

Sere January 23, 2013 at 10:46 pm

What a neat idea! I like the idea of watching other people do this though, not actually participate haha. I’m like you Gray, not very competitive :0). What a fun thing to promote though. Good luck to you and the participants.

Gray January 26, 2013 at 11:09 am

I don’t need luck, Sere, I won’t be doing it, but I’ll have fun watching!

Michael Hodson January 28, 2013 at 9:48 am

Just to clarify a bit, Sere. The racing part is really only for the hard-core folks. Personally, I would never want to race myself, but we had some people that wanted to really push themselves. When I did the same route in 2011, I took a full 30 days to make it and had plenty of time off the trains. Full days in Bordeaux, Brussels, Berlin, Lithuania, Moscow, Bejing, Guillen and Hanoi. Plenty of time to get off the trains and explore around.

And we have tons of great NON-race prizes for things like best photo or best video and things like that also. I don’t want everyone to just focus on the race part. Thanks!

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: