It’s the month of May. You’ve got 31 days to make it from Saigon to Lisbon or Lisbon to Saigon. 15,000 miles (25,000 kilometers). You choose any route you want to take. Choose to stop and spend time wherever you want.
Just make the whole journey in the end by rail.
The ‘C’ word…it gets me every time. Challenge. It’s enticing, addicting, and it drips with seduction. Challenge – I’ll drop anything for you, just to get a taste of your sweet nectar. Damn you for having so much pull over me.
I love a good challenge, in fact many of my own itineraries are based on challenge – the Mongol Rally, living abroad in Vietnam, and walking the Camino de Santiago. I try to choose a challenge based trip every year – and this year the Lycian Way has enticed me and called me to the challenge in November 2013. However, I recently came across this Ultimate Train Challenge that promises many seducing moments – so many that I felt like I better share it with you – my fellow travel challenge junkies.
The Ultimate Train Challenge started by my friend Michael Hodsen is something I heard about in late 2011 when three travel bloggers did it, but I’m happy to tell you it has been opened up so that anyone can do it this year.
The concept is a simple one: You have to make it from Saigon to Lisbon — or Lisbon to Saigon — in the month of May. All by train. 31 days of travel. You make your own schedule and choose your own route. You decide much you are going to push yourself and how many places you are going to try to hit.
Although it a long distance to navigate, you will still have enough time to stop and do a lot off the trains. Barcelona, Paris, Venice, Berlin, Prague, Moscow, Beijing, Hanoi – all great cities to hit along the way.
How much does it 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).
• And because you are entering from this post, you will get $30 off your entry fee. You just need to enter the code OT13UTC on the “Referral” line on the entry page to get the $30 discount.
• The costs of travel and visas will likely be in the $2k-$3k range, depending on how many countries you want to hit, what kinds of places you want to stay, and what sort of events you want to hit off the trains.
What do you get for your entry fee?
The benefits are detailed more in full here. In short, you can record your trip on their website to keep family and friends up to date with your journey; they have a live-mapping feature on the site, so everyone can keep up with you in real time; Intrepid Travel is offering two fabulous 15-day tours to the first ones to cross the finish line in each direction; they are going to throw a fun pre-launch party in both locations; Eurail is offering up at least four of their Global Passes that they will be raffling off and giving away as prizes; HostelWorld is offering two free nights’ stay in each city beforehand and… more.
Any help on the planning?
First things first that everyone needs to understand – this is not a tour. You have to make your own plans, get your own visas, and make sure that you know what you are doing on the ground. The challenge of it all is that it is you vs. the rails – all on your own.
That being said, they have put together some resource pages here for you to start making your plans.
Do Good Along the Way – Raising Money for Charity
In addition to doing the challenge for yourself, the Ultimate Train Challenge has partnered up with Blue Dragon’s Children Foundation in Vietnam to make this whole project also help out some children in need.
They are asking each person to try to raise $500 for Blue Dragon. Intrepid Travel has agreed to match each contribution dollar for dollar, up to a $10,000 total. So, in addition to having an adventure of a lifetime, the entire group of participants is going to help make a small, but positive change in the world.
Ready to Sign Up?
Sign up. This could be the adventure that will change your life. And don’t forget to get your Ottsworld discount by inputting OT13UTC in the “Referral” box to get $30 off your entry fee and tell them that you found the UTC13 from Ottsworld. Thanks!
Disclosure: By signing up with the provided referral, Ottsworld will get a small commission for referring you. Hopefully it will buy me a beer in my next destination.