In a span of seven years, he paddled a series of 15-foot kayaks more than 30,000 miles from the Danube River in Europe to the tropical shores of far northern Australia. Even better, when he first set out, he was “merely” planning to paddle to Cyprus for work, with no intention of traveling by kayak to the other side of the world. But the paddling proved irresistible and Speck did not stop once he reached Cyprus.
Speck was 25 years old when he set out on his incredible journey. He was an unemployed electrician living in Hamburg. Work was scarce and prospects were dim after the 1929 stock market crash ripped through Germany, so Speck decided to seek work in the copper mines of Cyprus. With no other means to get there, and as a proud member of a kayaking club since his youth, Speck decided to paddle his way to, hopefully, a job.
In May, 1932, Speck shoved off from banks of the Danube in a collapsible and very much not seaworthy 15-foot kayak, and began paddling south. He arrived in the Balkans several weeks later and, lulled to boredom by the languid waters of the Danube, Speck made for the Vardar River, where soon fierce rapids dashed his boat nearly to splinters. While awaiting repairs, winter set in and the Vardar froze over, locking Speck in place for months.
In 1982, at the age of 23, halfway through her architecture studies, Elspeth Beard left her family and friends in London and set off on a 35,000-mile solo adventure around the world on her 1974 BMW R60/6. She returned 2 years later to become the first British woman to ride around the world.
‘I first rode a motorbike when I was sixteen; a friend was taking his Husqvarna down to Salisbury Plain and asked me along. I can’t say I was instantly hooked but in 1979 I bought a second hand 1974 BMW R60/6 with about 30,000 miles on the clock. It gave me an immense sense of freedom and over the next couple of years I gradually travelled further afield. My first trip was a tour of Scotland, then Ireland, finally progressing to a two-month trip around Europe in the summer of 1980.
‘The following summer I persuaded my brother, who had been picking apples in New Zealand, to meet me in Los Angeles where we bought an old BMW R75/5 and rode together across to Detroit. All these trips gradually built up my confidence, so when I got back, I bought a Haynes manual and set about stripping down parts of the engine to get my bike ready for a bigger trip across the globe. It was already eight years old and had done 45,000 miles so I replaced all the cables, bought a new battery, changed all the oils and put new tires on. I also took the cylinder heads off to fit an extra base gasket in order to lower the compression. I didn’t really know what I was doing but I had been told by a friendly mechanic at the BMW shop that this would be a good idea!
‘Travel helps us to understand other cultures and not just rely on what the media tells us. It’s easy to be afraid of things you don’t understand – that’s why it’s really important that people go and find out for themselves. Those two years on the road completely changed my life and made me the person I am today. They gave me the confidence to take on anything life throws at me without any fear. The truth is, you will always be able to come up with reasons why the time isn’t right. Put aside your fears and just go.’
Nirmal “Nims” Purja, a 36-year-old Nepali, became the fastest climber to summit the world’s 14 highest mountains on Tuesday, scaling all the mountains in just over six months. It’s a feat other climbers have taken several years to complete.
His extraordinary series of ascents makes him one of the most successful climbers at the highest altitudes, joining only a handful of other mountaineers who have climbed all of the 8,000-metre peaks in the Himalayas. Notably he climbed Everest, Lhotse and Makalu (the fourth and fifth highest peaks in the world) consecutively in just 48 hours.
The previous record was held by Kim Chang-ho, of South Korea, who took seven years, 11 months and 14 days.
“I am overwhelmed and incredibly proud to have completed this final summit and achieved my goal of climbing the world’s 14 tallest mountains in record time,” said Purja after his final ascent.
Voyageurs is the French translation for voyager – a person who goes on a long and sometimes dangerous journey. However, in Canadian history, the term has an added significance.
This 1964 National Film Board film tells the story of the men who drove big freighter canoes into the wilderness in the days when the fur trade was Canada’s biggest business. The film recreates scenes of the early 19th century.
If you had asked Neda and Gene when they first set off on June 14th, 2012 where we thought we’d be in seven years time, they doubt their answer would be: “Still riding around the world on motorcycles!”
Updated June 1, 2019 to add link to his latest video.
In May 2014, Iohan Gueorguiev (website – YouTube – Twitter – Instagram) started cycling from the Arctic Ocean at Tuktoyaktuk, in Canada’s Northwest Territories. The plan was to cycle to the tip of South America in a year, maybe a few more months.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety. With that said, the vast majority of people are good. Recognize the fear mongers. Be properly informed. Be aware of your surroundings. Be respectful — you are a guest in their country. Don’t attract unnecessary attention — you probably already stand out enough.
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