We recently took a list of some of our most frequently asked questions and each took turns answering them. Read more below:
Question: Tell us a little about Trekking the Planet. What will you actually be doing?
Sandy: We are taking a 424-day around-the-world trip to 50 countries on six continents. Approximately once a month we will be trekking (you would call it backpacking in the United States). These treks will be to some of the most remote and unspoiled places in the world. Our goal is to celebrate the cultural and natural significance of these places. Some of the more remote areas include the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil, the Arctic Circle in Sweden and the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia.
Question: How did you come up with the idea to travel around the world?
Darren: Originally, our goal was to visit three of the largest deserts in the world – the Sahara (North Africa), Gobi (China/Mongolia) and Atacama (Chile) deserts – without flying. We pieced together several continent to continent cruises to get us from point A to point B. From there, we decided to expand the itinerary to add other places of significance. We added a few flights because we just couldn’t get everything we wanted to see without them. Unfortunately it is no surprise that there are countries that are not safe to travel to, which means we need to fly around them. But overall we have tried to keep to the ideal of staying “close to the ground” and are minimizing air travel as much as possible.
Question: Is this the first journey you taken on this scale?
Darren: In 2003-2004, we took our kids around the world, traveling significant sections of the journey by land. In all, we visited 13 countries over 4 1/2 months. During the trip we sent home emails and photos to our friends and family and also to our daughters’ teachers at home. Toward the end of this trip we were surprised to start receiving emails from their classrooms with all types of questions about our trip and everyday life on the road. We didn’t know it at the time, but our emails were being read throughout our daughters’ school. So not only did this trip have a big affect on our two daughters, but also on their classmates. We actually did a school-wide presentation when we returned home, which was great.
Question: At what point did Trekking the Planet become a trip to promote geo-literacy?
Sandy: From the beginning, Darren and I wanted to give back on this journey. Like Darren mentioned, we saw the impact of our earlier trip on our kids and their classmates. Darren is also involved in the 100-Mile Club, an organization that has a track record of promoting active exercise in kids and addressing the root causes of childhood obesity. So, it was a natural to start with kids in mind. During some of our initial research, we came across some recent studies about young people’s knowledge of geography. In one survey, 29% of US young adults (ages 18 to 24) could not locate the Pacific Ocean on a map. In addition, less than one-third of young Americans could locate Egypt (26%), Germany (19%) or Israel (21%). Since we planned to visit so many places on this journey, we came up with the idea to focus on improving geography awareness through our trip.
Question: How do you pack for this kind of trip?
Darren: It’s not easy. It will be baking hot in the desert. It will be freezing cold in the Arctic Circle and Himalayas. It will be wet in the Amazon rain forest. We’ll be camping and need to be either totally self-sufficient for up to five consecutive nights of hiking and over 60 nights overall. This means that we will have to carry a tent, a sleeping bag, a stove, water filter and food. Did I mention that we are limited to 44 pounds (20 kilos) or else we will have to pay special luggage fees when we do fly?
Question: Sounds impossible. How do you do it?
Sandy: Immediately, it’s clear that you can’t bring everything that you want. I’m limiting my clothes, for example, to a skirt and two pairs of pants – one of which can be converted into shorts. This is “high performance” or “technical” clothing. It’s all polyester, wears well and is quick drying. For the trekking, we have spent many hours researching what are the lightest items at the best possible price. We have found a very small backpack (rucksack) called the REI Flash 50 that takes up almost no room inside our rolling duffel bag. For our sleeping bag, we have purchased the Marmot Atom – which weighs just 1.3 pounds (595 grams). And finally, we have selected Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Sleeping Pad which weighs only 14 ounces (400 grams). Once it’s deflated, it rolls up into the size of a can of soda.
Question: What materials will you be sharing with educators and students during your journey?
Sandy: Part of our commitment to the schools who subscribe is delivery of 60 weekly education modules. Each module will let them know where we are, cover the human and physical geography of that region or country and detail our plans for the coming week. We are in the process of writing these now. We will be taking a lot of pictures and hopefully provide some video as well. Those teachers who sign up on our website (https://www.trekkingtheplanet.com/Educators) will receive a weekly newsletter with links to the education modules, emails, videos and other materials for that week. They will also be encouraged to ask their students to pose questions to be answered in the following weeks.
Question: How are you going to communicate with the classrooms?
Darren: We plan to bring two digital cameras that are also capable of taking high-definition (1080p) video. In order to write the emails and post-process the photos and video, we have selected a small, but powerful, laptop. Sandy and I both plan to bring our smart phones (on two different networks). And, since we are able to write emails and post-process photos on these smart phones, they can serve as a backup should it be necessary. By encouraging questions and comments from teachers and students about what we are doing and where we plan to go next, our hope is to create an ongoing dialogue throughout our trip. We hope to leverage Skype at some point in the trip. However, because of the time differences (we currently have subscribed schools in 11 countries on six continents), as well as the speed and reliability of the Internet, we will only be able to do this sparingly.
Question: How much does it cost for interested educators to sign up for these materials?
Sandy: All of our materials are totally free. The only thing we hope to get in return is the satisfaction that we are helping to make a difference in the lives of children across the globe by making them more aware of the world around them.
Photo courtesy of www.TayloredPhotoMemories.com