It has taken a few months to recover from the Ultimate Train Challenge. The whole journey was well and truly magnificent, but I had little idea how much almost thirty straight days on trains, over almost 15,000 miles, would take out of me.
For the first time since a few occasions on my RTW trip, I felt old. As in, too old to be doing these continued bits of travel insanity. And for the 19,438th time in my life I said to myself, “time to get in better shape.”
Then I decided a beer and a cigar sounded better.
A Weak Attempt to Sum Up 30 Days
It is hard to summarize a journey like this in one post. It was a pleasure getting to know Nora and Jeannie better, though I am sure they were well and ready to be rid of me and my snoring and occasional moodiness after 14 or so straight days together. Just being able to spend a couple weeks with them was perhaps the biggest highlight.
The amount of miles that we all covered in 30 days still stuns me. I did 14,763 miles, Nora covered 14,536 miles and our winner, Jeannie, almost crossed the 15k mark with 14,965 miles.
To give you a little perspective, that is the rough equivalent of Los Angeles to Seattle to New York City to Atlanta and back to Los Angeles… twice. Or Cairo to Cape Town, back to Cairo, back to Cape Town again… and then a couple thousand more miles.
No wonder I was a little wiped out afterwords.
The scenery was spectacular. From some of my favorite cities in Europe, to views of the Mediterranean right by the side of the train, to the fall colors of the forests on the Tran-Manchurian, to the cities of Asia and the hills, oceans and rural scenery of Vietnam.
It was a symphony of pleasure for the eye.
But in short, I don’t know what to think about the whole experience. Exhilarating, exhausting, inspiring, annoying, beautiful, ugly, peaceful, frenzied, and so much more.
Our Wonderful Sponsors
One thing that must be done is thanking our sponsors. They were all not only quite easy to work with; they all at different points in the journey saved my entire trip. I hope they feel they got out of our partnership what they expected, because from my eyes, I have become an ardent supporter of each and every one of them.
Eurail.com were our sponsors for the European portion of our trip, which for me ended up being about 13 days of travel on rail systems covered by them. One post I am going to do (likely on the UTC website) is summarizing how much money having the Eurail pass ended up saving me for those 13 days.
My rough calculation… lots.
They were a simple joy to work with. From them working with me as my location changed a few times to get me my actual Eurail pass to helping me make plans for overnight trains to publicizing our adventure on their FB page, they were so damn wonderful to work with that I am specifically thinking of certain travel plans in 2012, just to work with them again.
It made me nervous to work with Real Russia, our sponsors from Moscow to Beijing, for one main reason — they had never worked with travel bloggers before on an arrangement like this. From my end of the view, they were fabulous. I hope that Jeannie and Nora and I met and exceeded their expectations also.
As I have written a few times before, Russia and China are not the easiest countries to travel in, even for experienced travelers, so having them around to answer questions and provide the needed support to make that part of the trip was quite a relief.
If you are heading to Russia to do the Trans-Mongolian or Trans-Manchurian, life is going to be a lot easier if you use one of the services to help you with your ticket buying and plans. Count me in as a strong supporter of you choosing Real Russia for that service.
Our last two sponsors came along a bit later in the planning process, but both ended up being vital cogs in our trip. Hostelbookers set up places for me to stay in Lisbon, Moscow, Beijing and in Saigon, for the vital week to try to get my energy back.
That took about two months, but the week in Saigon was an important first step to get my legs back under me.
I have always used Hostelbookers in the past, but after having the experience of working with them on a professional level, my loyalty has increased tenfold. Like Eurail.com, they are also quite active on Twitter and Facebook and provided fabulous support for our efforts also in those platforms.
Similar to Real Russia, U.K., China Odyssey Tours had never worked with travel bloggers before, so being part of bringing them into the social media and travel blogging world was a privilege. They provided some great support in each of the cities that we stopped at in China, along with some great tours.
At that point in the long journey, having a qualified tour guide take us around — without us worrying about where we needed to be and what to do — was such a welcomed relief from the day to day planning of the trip.
The best complement I can give China Odyssey Tours is the one I have given in a few other posts: if my parents want to take a trip to China, I will be telling them to book with these guys.
This is something I can summarize properly — I give a personal standing ovation to all of our sponsors. I love them all. I endorse them all. I can’t wait to work them all again. They were all a perfect joy to work with.
Go, See, Write Posts
Here are the posts that I did about the Ultimate Train Challenge on this website. I am going to likely be doing up another half-dozen or so in the coming months, which is not going to surprise any of you that follow me regularly (as I rarely write chronologically). I hope you enjoy them.
- Welcome to the Adventure
- Trans-Manchurian Via Real Russia
- One if by Land, Two if by Sea
- Day 1 Failure on the UTC
- Which Way Should I go with my Eurail Pass?
- Bordeaux, France Church Photo
- Monaco Train Station in Photos
- The Absurdity of Monaco
- Mid-Point Update and Plea for Help
- Tempelhof Airport and Unexpected Emotion
- Hitting the Scavenger Hunt Jackpot
- Day on the Trans-Manchurian Video
- Trans-Manchurian Thoughts
- UTC Heads to China
- Little Oddities in China
- Old Car in Garage in Hanoi
My Ultimate Train Challenge Posts
- Our Big Sponsor Announcement
- Warm Welcome to Real Russia
- And They’re Off! The Initial Route Plans
- The Dirty Word of Travel
- 48 Hours of Train Tribulations
- Crossing the Russa/China Border
- Trans-Manchurian by Video
- The Scavenger Hunt is Back On
- We have a Winner