From swimming the Channel to cycling across the US, people have long been setting themselves self-imposed travel goals. We’ve brought together ten that fall at the more unusual end of the spectrum.
Their motivations are varied: some people wanted to beat a world record, others wanted to get to know a place or a country better … and one guy (see number seven) just simply loves peri-peri chicken.
What they have in common is a checklist, a clear goal and, for the most part, a tight budget. They are also – and this was not intentional – mostly men. Make of this what you will, but it seems there are less women travelling the world with very specific checklists. If you know any other people (women, men, families, couples) who have set themselves such a target, let us know in the comments below.
Walking every street in New York City
The contender Matt Green from Virginia, US (imjustwalkin.com)
Start date: December 2011
Finish date 2015, hopefully
The challenge Matt has already walked across the US, from east to west. This time, “instead of seeing a million places for a minute each”, he is focusing on New York City’s five boroughs, walking every block and covering more than 8,000 miles.
Travel tip “You can walk the same street a hundred times and have a hundred different experiences. If a tourist asked me for a recommendation, I’d tell them to walk down whatever street is nearest, and give it their full attention.”
Future plans “No idea!”
See also Ffyona Campbell covered 32,000km over 11 years, raising £180,000 for charity in the 80s and 90s. Karl Bushby travelled on foot, from the bottom of South America back to the United Kingdom via North America, Siberia, Asia and Europe . The 36,000-mile journey took 15 years.
Visiting every country in the world without flying
The contender Graham Hughes from Liverpool (theodysseyexpedition.com)
Started Uruguay, 1 January 2009
Finished Russia, January 30 2013
The challenge Graham’s self-imposed rules included no flights, no driving, no hitchhiking on public roads, crossing at official border points, using public transport where available, and always setting foot on dry land. After covering 201 countries in 1,426 days, he laid claim to a Guinness World Record, but the judges deemed his crossing into Russia illegal. In early 2013, he returned to the country to get another visa and is currently waiting to see if his record is approved. His trip also raised money for Wateraid.
Highlight “Iran. The friendliest people in the world! It’ll be a top tourist destination one day.”
Future plans Currently competing in the SOS Island competition, which involves undergoing survival challenges on a tropical island.
See also James Asquith, 24, who has just become the youngest person to visit every country in the world .
Taking every bus line in Buenos Aires
The contender Daniel Tunnard, from Sheffield, who has lived in Buenos Aires since 1999 (colectivaizeishon.com)
Started September 2011
Finished April 2012
The challenge Daniel took all 140 bus lines in the City of Buenos Aires, across 202 square kilometres of urban sprawl. He typically travelled three bus routes a day, sometimes sitting for 14 hours at a time, watching the city go by. The whole thing cost him 380 pesos (about £55, at the time). He blogged it all, bilingually, which won him a book contract;Colectivaizeishon was published, in Spanish, by Random House Mondadori in August.
Travel tip “The 46 goes from the Boca Juniors stadium, through two major villas (shanty towns) and leaves you in Liniers. Don’t take a camera and don’t gawp, this isn’t a safari, but it’s well worth the trip for learning that these are not no-go areas, but places where humans live and work.”
Future plans Taking all the trains in Argentina for the next book, out in 2015
Staying on every island in Scotland
The contender Andy Strangeway from Yorkshire (andystrangeway.wordpress.com)
Started September 2003
Finished August 2007
The challenge Andy set out to become the first person not only to land but also sleep on all of Scotland’s 162 islands of 40 hectares or above. After completing the task, he wrote a book about his adventure and has become a campaigner for better access rights around the UK.
Highlight “Soay in the St Kilda archipelago [the UK’s westernmost point]. It had not been landed for five years and there was a 100m landslide at the landing place. It was exciting because it was my final island – and also because it was simply beautiful.”
Future plans In 2012, he slept on the 52 highest points in England and Wales; 49 in his bivy bag. His next project is soon to be revealed.
See also Tracy and Daniel Calder are trying to visit as many British islands as possible.
Climbing every peak in New England
The contender Allison Nadler from Massachusetts, US (4000-footers.blogspot.com)
Started June 2011
Finished October 2013
The challenge In the past two years, Allison has hiked all 67 mountains in New England that are over 4,000 feet. She hiked some of them multiple times and about a third of them solo. She also runs a MeetUp group to encourage others to join her.
Highlight “One of my most challenging hikes was a one-day presidential traverse, which I did alone. It involves hiking seven of the most rugged mountains in New Hampshire including the tallest peak, Mount Washington. It’s 20 miles long, gaining 9,000 feet of elevation.”
Future plans Currently attempting to hike all New Hampshire’s 4,000-footers in winter (not solo); 22 mountains still to go.
Visiting every metro station in Mexico City
The contender Peter Davies from New South Wales, Australia (mexicocitymetro.wordpress.com)
Started January 2012
Finished July 2012
The challenge Peter’s aim was to visit each station and the surroundings, which he then blogged about. At the time, he found 147 stations instead of the said 175, as some stops are counted more than once when the lines cross.
Highlight “Each station was unique and memorable: I visited a museum set inside a model head of former president Benito Juárez, observed a great array of killer street art, followed street dogs into markets to find the best taco stands, reflected in the room of Trotsky’s assassination and got lost countless times.”
Future plans To get back to Mexico City to complete the new Line 12 of the metro.
See also Geoff Marshall and Anthony Smith, who just broke the record for visiting all 270 London Underground stations, in the shortest possible time – 16 hours, 20 minutes and 27 seconds since you ask.
Visiting every Nando’s in the world
The contender Christopher Poole from Greenwich, London (facebook.com/NandosChallenge)
Started February 2013
The challenge Christopher loves the chicken restaurant chain so much that he is on a mission to visit every one in the world. He took up the challenge after reading that the company would give one of the elusiveHigh Five black cards to anyone who completes this feat – meaning unlimited Nando’s for the holder and five friends. He has ticked off 80 so far, but seeing as there are 1,000 outlets in 30 countries on five continents, the rest could take some time. Will he ever finish? Will he still like Nando’s by the end?
Highlight The Nando’s in Ibiza with its unusual sesame buns. “Although, sadly, that branch since closed,” says Christopher. “But the best Nando’s in the world [so far] is the one in Lewisham. I had a whole chicken there and it earned a score of 10 in my write-up.”
Future plans To buy an old car and travel across the world overland, guided by Nando’s locations.
Going “everywhere” in Australia
Started December 2009
Finished September 2011
The challenge Peter took his inspiration from the 1959 Australian song, I’ve Been Everywhere, by Geoff Mack, which lists 94 Australian place names – the only link between them being that they rhyme with each other. He traversed the country to visit them all. There is also a US version of the song and a UK version, which is currently used in the Walkers crisps ad.
Highlight “Venturing into the deep Australian outback to visit Birdsville, Queensland. It’s pretty much as remote a place you can get to. My 86-year old mother travelled all the way from the UK to make the trip with me – over many, many bumps – along with my partner Billy, niece Emily and even the family dog, Amelie.”
Future plans Having caught the travel bug, Peter kept going after he finished his challenge, and still blogs about places in Australia and beyond.
Visiting every Northern Rail station in the UK
The contender Scott Willison, Merseyside (merseytart.com)
Started June 2007
Finished Ongoing, currently half-way through
The challenge Scott started doing all the stations on Merseyside. Once finished, he expanded his odyssey to the whole Northern Rail network, from Newcastle to Crewe. He takes a picture of himself in front of each station sign. His blog was a runner-up in the Blog North Awards 2013.
Highlight “Being alone on a platform at Nethertown station in Cumbria during a storm for three hours, and being perfectly happy. It’s a single platform on a cliff top above the sea, served by only two trains a day. An unused railway station is really sad, and it felt like I was giving it a bit of life by using it.”
Future plans Just to finish it someday – and then go somewhere else!
Visiting all the places in Britain starting with the letter Z
The contender Dixe Wills (dixewills.com)
Started September 2004
Finished April 2005
The challenge Dixe, who is a regular contributor to Guardian Travel, visited all 41 places in Great Britain that begin with the letter Z, from a rock off the Isles of Scilly (Zantman’s Rock) to a farm up in northern Shetland (Zoar). He wrote about them in his first book, The Z-Z of Great Britain. A travel challenge addict, he also went round the entire coast of Britain using only local buses (196 buses in 6½ weeks).
Highlight: “The best find was Zennor, a tiny village in Cornwall. It only has a population of 100, but it is a magnet for history: from its Megalithic burial chamber to the ill-fated commune set up by DH Lawrence, to Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie seeing out some of World War II there, and much more besides.”
Future plans His next book, Tiny Stations, visits the nation’s most interesting railway request stops.