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Interview with Michael Hodson: The Ultimate Train Challenge


Michael Hodson left home in 2008 on a mission to circumnavigate the globe, and hasn’t stopped traveling since. He runs the popular travel site Go See Write, where you can follow his adventures around the world. He is also the founder of “The Ultimate Train Challenge” an epic train race across Europe and Asia starting this May.

As he discusses The Ultimate Train Challenge in the interview ask yourself “What am I doing this summer, and why isn’t it this!”

First off, can you explain to us what The Ultimate Train Challenge is? What are the countries it covers and the dates?

The Ultimate Train Challenge came out of me doing pretty much the exact same thing back in 2011 with a couple other bloggers. We did Lisbon to Saigon in 30 days and the response was so great that I decided to open it up to let anyone do it. We are scheduled for it this May (extra bonus is that will give everyone 31 days to make it). They can go either way — Saigon to Lisbon or Lisbon to Saigon. They have from May 1st to May 31st to make it the entire 15,000 miles… all on trains.

Lisbon by ChrisYunker
Lisbon by ChrisYunker

What adventures can someone expect during this epic challenge?

“The first thing that they will experience is something that is very near and dear to my heart; they will have a much better understanding of the immensity of our wonderful planet. Plane travel is an amazing technological advance and modern travel wouldn’t be what it is without it, but experiencing the whole 15,000 miles (25,000 kilometers) between the tip of Europe to the tip of Asia at ground level is an experience of a lifetime.”

Wow! The Ultimate Train Challenge sounds amazing. Can you tell some of your personal highlights?

“Pulling into Beijing and seeing the Great Wall the next day was certainly a highlight. The Trans-Manchurian is a train ride that everyone should do also. I almost got arrested for drinking a beer on the station platform in Vilnius, Lithuania. Taking an overnight train from Barcelona to the area around Paris and pulling into the City of Lights in the morning was amazing. Since everyone is entirely on their own in terms of choosing their route, they can plan to hit whatever highlights they want to.”

How many people participate and what’s the atmosphere like between fellow travelers?

“We are hoping to have about 20 people or so do it this year, likely split pretty equally between going each direction. Everyone will be able to blog about their travels on the www.YourWorldNoRules.com website and we will also have a live-tracking page there so that participants can keep friends and family updated on their location (and compare themselves against each other). Folks are also more than welcome to meet up with each other along the way — in fact, when I did it, all three of us ride the entire Trans-Manchurian rail part of it together. Six days on the train together.”

The Route

It sounds like just the experience makes everyone a winner, but what does the fastest racer get?

“Well, I’m glad you mentioned the prizes. Personally, I think the fastest person each way should get a prize for being the most crazy traveler, but even better, Intrepid Travel donated a 15 day tour to each winner. In addition, the more “normal” travelers can win prizes from Eurail and Hostelworld, including at least 4 Global Eurail passes we will be giving away. We go over all the various goodies on this page — http://yourworldnorules.com/ultimate-train-challenge/info-rules/utc-sign-up-benefits/.”

“I really love the sponsors and truly appreciate their donating some great prizes, but in the end the biggest prize is just the sense of accomplishment you are going to get from doing something difficult, amazing and that very few others have done.”

How much is the entry fee and what does that get you?

“It is $295 until Feb. 15th and $395 thereafter. In addition to being eligible for all the prizes I discussed above, it also lets you blog on our website and use our real-time map tracker, so as to keep family and friends up with your trip. Additionally, we’ll be throwing a pre-launch party in each city and HostelWorld is donating two nights for each participant before departure in Saigon or Lisbon. We are also negotiating with another possible sponsor for an additional train ticket discount that I am hoping on solidifying in the next few weeks.”

Do you need to apply for visa’s, and is there a resource page with helpful information?

“Visas are the biggest pre-planning thing that people will need to get. The Russian visa can be a difficult one and the Chinese just changed their visa policy also. Luckily, most people won’t have any problems in Europe, so in the end most people will be looking at getting Vietnam, China, and Russia (and possibly Mongolia and Belarus, depending on what route they want to take). We go over some of the basics on this page — http://yourworldnorules.com/plan/travel-visas/ — and we also did a page with some of the online resources to plan your route on this page — http://yourworldnorules.com/plan/train-resources/.”

Lastly, point us in the right direction on how to get started on the Ultimate Train Challenge?

“Well, all those links above are going to give you a full impression of what the whole train challenge is all about. People are welcome to email me and my partner at Lori@yourworldnorules.com if they have any other questions and for the adventurous… just sign up using this link (and using Stephen’s affiliate code of VL13UTC to get $30 off their entry fee) right here — http://yourworldnorules.com/ultimate-train-challenge/enter-the-challenge/”

So what do you think? Is this something you would like to participate in? Sign up today, and see where the world takes you!


8 thoughts on “Interview with Michael Hodson: The Ultimate Train Challenge”

    1. I want to do this so bad as well, but I already have my summer plans booked. If I would have known about this sooner I would have totally done it though.

    1. That would be awesome mate. I tried to change my plane ticket so I could do this, but wasn’t able. It looks like so much fun.

  1. This is such a rad concept. Michael and I have been in touch, and while I won’t be doing the full race, I am going to be going from St. Petersburg to Beijing, and I’m looking forward to being able to blog about all that for his site! It’s going to be an awesome trip.

  2. I see this was a few months ago, but I can’t control Stumble lol… Great interview with Michael. I’d love to do his Train Challenge someday. It seems like a fun way to see an enormous swath of countries in a fun, supportive way.

    1. Ha I just glad it is still getting some traffic from Stumble and that it brought you to my site :). Thank you for you compliment! Michael is a great guy. The Ultimate Train Challenge looks like to much fun to pass up, and for a good cause. I going to try and do this next summer if I can.

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