For those of you that have been following along with my travels for a few years, you might remember that I engaged in a bit of train craziness/fun back in September of 2011 — going from Lisbon to Saigon, all on trains, all in 30 days — along with my good blogging friends Jeannie the Nomadic Chick and Nora the Professional Hobo.
It was fun. It was hard. It was an adventure.
And I got so many positive replies from it all that I decided to open it up this year to allow anyone and everyone to try the same adventure of a lifetime.
What’s it all about?
Simple. You start in either Lisbon or Saigon and need to make it to the other city, halfway across the world, in the 31 days of May — all by train.
As one that has done it, I can state it is not only doable but that it is simply the best way to experience the vastness of Europe and Asia. 15,000 miles/25,000 kilometers. See how massive and wonderful the planet you live on is, by the best mode of transport available.
Will I have time to do anything but ride on trains?
Absolutely. When Jeannie, Nora and I did it on separate routes in 2011, we each had between 20-22 days where we took some sort of train ride. Those days varied between all-day on the train (Moscow to Beijing is 6 straight days on the Trans-Manchurian, for instance), but plenty of them were 4-5 hours getting from one city to another.
No doubt, there is a lot of time on trains to make it in 31 days (therein lies the challenge), but there is also plenty of time off the trains exploring around and seeing the world.
I spent time exploring France, Belgium, Berlin, and Lithuania. Jeanne spent time exploring Spain, then northern Italy and Prague. Nora spent time exploring Spain, Switzerland, Prague and the Ukraine. Then we all joined up and explored Beijing, Guillen in southern China and Hanoi.
Hopefully, yes you have. Thought the great folks at Intrepid Travel (more on them in a moment), we partnered up with Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation for the UTC13 to try to raise a little money for charity.
We are asking each participant to try to raise $500 for the charity as part of their involvement in the project. It isn’t a requirement, but given the great things that they do and that Intrepid Travel is going to match each contribution dollar for dollar, up to $10,000, we hope everyone makes an effort.
You can ask your friends and family to contribute $25 if you make it, or $1 for every country you go to, or a $5 charity contribution for a postcard from you from the Great Wall of China. $500 sounds like a lot of money, but taken in small bites, we think it is doable… and then matched by Intrepid, to make a real difference in the world.
How much is it going to cost me?
We are charging an entry fee on our end to help offset the costs we have incurred in developing the website (a lot more expensive than I would have ever thought) and for the marketing we have done on the project. If you sign up by February 15th, the entry fee is $295. From then on, it is $395.
As to the costs of doing it all, it depends on how you want to travel, how much you spend on hotels/hostels, off-train tours you want to take, and what country you are from for visas. I’d say a reasonable range would be from $2,000-$4,000 or so.
Did I hear something about prizes?
We have some amazing sponsors. Let me go through it briefly, but for some more detail click on our prizes/discounts page here.
- Intrepid Travel is giving away two 15-day tours, valued at over $1,500 each, for the person that finishes first in each direction.
- Eurail is giving away two 10-day Global Rail Passes, valued at over $750 each, to two randomly selected participants that have signed up by March 1st. They have also agreed to give away two more 10-day Global Passes to the person that posts the Best Photo of/or on a Train and Best Video from the Trip.
- Urban Adventures has agreed to give 15% off any of their Urban Adventure tours to any participant and also do a ”Buy 5, get 1 free” discount for individual multiple city tours over the course of time, or 6 participants at the same time within one city.
- HostelWorld is offering two free nights stay prior to starting off on your quest in either of the two departure cities and a discount for booking through them for 3 months and… at least €300 in accommodation in properties listed on their site for the Best Off-Train Photo, as selected by them.
- Last, but not least Real Russia, U.K. is giving away two Trans-Manchurian tickets, valued at over $750), and is also doing a discount for anyone that books their Trans-Mongolian or Trans-Manchurian tickets through them.
There is a lot of fun stuff to be had… you excited yet?
Added free bonus
The very nice folks at Samsung gave me an unlocked Galaxy SIII to give away. And I am going to give it away to a randomly selected person that has signed up for the Your World, No Rules newsletter.
That newsletter is the easiest way for me to get out information on new events and other exciting news to people that are interested in challenge travel. I hope you click on over and sign up.
And I hope you seriously considering doing the Ultimate Train Challenge this May.
It will be an adventure you will tell your grandkids about.
There is so much more to talk about — this is a project I am really excited about — but go over and check out the website and see what you think. We did up a Resources Page that will help you work out your train plans and visas.
And I am available for all your questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sign up. You will not regret it.