From Lisbon To Saigon In One Shot: The Ultimate Train Challenge

This September, I will begin a race against 5 other travel bloggers to break the record for the world’s longest continuous train journey. To be more precise, The Ultimate Train Challenge will have me hopping from train to train, beginning in Lisbon, Portugal all the way to Vietnam’s Saigon.

madrid atocha station spainWhat Is The Ultimate Train Challenge?

In short, it’s a friendly competition between each of us who love travel to try and break a standing world record. Some of the major rules are: we must sleep on the train each night, can’t backtrack through a country once we’ve passed it, and aren’t allowed to repeat any length of rail. When I was first approached with the idea by Michael Hodson, I found both the travel and personal challenge difficult to resist.

I’ll spend a little over a week in Portugal, including the best city to visit in 2011 Porto, before the race begins on September 1rst. Aside from exploring Portugal, a country I haven’t visited yet, I’ll also be wrapping up the final preparations for a month where I’ll have extremely limited Internet access. Maintaining foXnoMad and all that comes with it will undoubtedly be my biggest challenge over the roughly 27 days the trip will take.

Join Me For Legs Of The Race

Those of you who might happen to be taking a train in Europe or along my route this September are more than welcome to join me for legs of my trip. I’ll announce the exact route I’m taking sometime in late July so if you want a beer, coffee, or conversation it’s on me if we can make schedules match.

  • Many days during the trip I’ll also be running into town to find wireless at cafes which I’ll post to foursquare and Gowalla if you want to come by and say hi.

I’m also planning a separate, major video project in late October that will have a paid camera-person position – a job that will include a few weeks of exotic travel. If you happen to be good with a video camera and want to join me on a short leg of the train journey (even if it’s just from one city to the next) you can help provide content for The Ultimate Train Challenge – auditioning for my camera-person job in the fall at the same time.

evil duckThe Devil Is In The Planning

Each of us train challenge participants can choose our own paths -north or south across Europe – then south from China into Vietnam. (The Trans-Siberian Railway will get me across Russia.) Planning (hardly my strong suit) train connections, times, and distances will be what determines when who gets where when. I’ll create an interactive map for you to follow along, give me suggestions, and see when we might cross paths potentially to meet up in your city for a few hours.

Why Take A Trip Like This?

Partially because of that very question – the goal to break a record and have some fun along with extreme travel overland – beginning and ending in two countries I’ve never been to before. Personally, I’ll find it extremely difficult to manage and maintain my day to day work and operations – something I’m not convinced I’ll be able to do. Pushing my limits while meeting new people and seeing places I never have will be my biggest motivator over nearly 15,000 kilometers (~9,600 miles) of train tracks.

[second photo by: limowreck666 (devil duck)]

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  1. eileen says:

    I wish we could have you chipped so we could follow your progress. That’s terrifically creepy, isn’t it? I’m mostly kidding, but would love to watch a small dot traversing a big map, and wonder what was holding you up when you weren’t moving much. Nothing too painful/annoying, I hope.

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    • Anil P. says:

      I really wish I could be chipped – a living wifi hotspot :) It is all sort of weird although now it’s even easier to find out more precisely where I am. I’ll be using Gowalla to track my process across the route:

      http://gowalla.com/foxnomad

      I’ll figure out some way to at least have the updates pop up somewhere on my site; though a map is a great idea :)

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      • eileen says:

        If you were a living wifi hotspot, people would crowd around you and fawn all over you. Oh wait, they already do.

        Yes, please, a map! with estimated distance traveled, distance remaining, time elapsed, and what time of day it is where you are at any given moment. that’s not too much to ask, is it?

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        • Anil P. says:

          Shouldn’t be too difficult; just need to integrate it with Gowalla so it updates a bit automatically. I should also put an Internet-withdrawal meter to show how close I am to meltdown :P

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  2. Gray says:

    I’m so excited you’re participating in this, Anil! I’m looking forward to living vicariously through you all and following your adventures. Good luck!

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  3. Priyank says:

    Okay, I’m excited to digitally follow you on this epic journey on rails. Trans manchuria should be fun, esp with the gauge transfer. Take a video when you are waiting at the border!

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  4. Should be a fun adventure… I’ve got my money on either you or Earl… but don’t tell the others I said that! ;-)

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  5. flip says:

    sounds like an awesome adventure!!!

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  6. Awesome that you’ll do the Ultimate Train Challenge, I think it’s a really cool idea. We are in Portugal right now and loving it, so you will have a great time here!! A shame that we keep missing each other (we were in Valencia last month!)

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  7. Mike says:

    That sounds like so much fun! I can’t wait until the race starts and to read all about it.

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  8. Dean says:

    This is an excellent idea and one that I’m a bit envious of because I love train travel! Look forward to reading about it.

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    • Anil P. says:

      Trains haven’t ever dominated my travel schedule so it will be interesting to see how they change across from west to east. Any good train advice for me??

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  9. Stephen says:

    Wow, what a trip.

    If you dont already know of it, http://www.cnvol.com/ has always been my go-to for trains within China.

    Good luck!

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    • Anil P. says:

      That is awesome and incredibly useful, thanks for sending the link. I’m thinking China is going to be one of the trickiest legs of the race.

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  10. Anjuli says:

    I am so excited about this trip you are taking- can’t wait to read about ANY updates you might post along the way. I know your internet access will be limited- but whatever you are able to share will be great. This is definitely going to be a trip of a lifetime!

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    • Anil P. says:

      Thanks Anjuli, I’ll have plenty of time to write on the train(s) so once I get a connection…if I get a connection…I’ll have plenty to share as the train challenge goes on.

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