These amazing globetrotters are always on the go, breaking records via bicycle, hot air balloon, and even one strong breast stroke. Even if you're not out to be a record-breaking traveler, the stories of these travelers will inspire you to take advantage of the whole wide world.
Emil and Liliana Schmidt
10. Pedal Power
In February 2010, Vin Cox decided to go for a bicycle ride. So he got on his bike and he began pedaling. And he pedaled. And pedaled. On August 1, 2010, 163 days, six hours, and 58 minutes after leaving, Cox was back in Greenwich, England, having ridden 18,225 miles around the world (the equivalent of eight Tours de France), fast enough to break the previous record by more than a month. Cox covered an average distance of 112 miles each day, but this wasn't a sojourn through the picturesque Alps. On his world ride he covered five continents and seventeen countries, was stricken by a stomach bug in Libya, detained by police in Indonesia, and leapfrogged oceans on a dozen boat and plane transfers. But it wasn't just a record he was pursuing. Cox raised awareness and money for the Geoff Thomas Foundation to help increase access to life-saving treatments for people with blood cancer.
9. A Walk Around the World
The only records that can never be broken are records when somebody did something first. Somebody like Polly Letofsky, who was the first woman to walk around the world. With a mission to raise money and awareness to combat breast cancer, she left Vail, Colorado, on August 1, 1999, and headed west, unaware that she would experience an earthquake, muggings, and religious riots. But by putting one foot in front of the other at a steady three miles per hour, she crossed four continents and 22 countries until she had put more than 14,124 miles under her feet. When she reached home after five years she had a new title, a lifetime of memories, and the satisfaction of raising more than $250,000 to battle breast cancer.
On May 17, 2004, 23-year-old Brazilians Flávio Jardim and Diogo Guerreiro climbed onto their windsurfing boards in Chui on Brazil's southern border, filled their sails, and headed north. More than a demonstration of endurance, the team planned the ongoing Destino Azul (Blue Destination) expedition to visit schools en route and educate kids on the environment and sustainable development. They also taught the kids about determination. Fourteen months and four days later the hip team reached Oiapoque on the northern border of Brazil and French Guiana having covered an astonishing 5,045 miles. Where are they now? Sailing around the world.
Emil and Liliana Schmid at Lake Mangamahoe, New Zealand; Emil and Liliana Schmid
7. Longest Road Trip
If you see an ad for a blue 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60, be sure to check the mileage. It may be the same vehicle that Emil and Liliana Schmid of Switzerland have been using in their around (and around and around)-the-world trip that has racked up more than 400,000 miles and first earned them a spot in the Guinness book for the Longest Driven Journey in 1997. What sparked it? In October 1984, Emil's mid-life decision was taking a road trip to clear his head, so he left his job as a software developer and Liliana said so long to being a secretary. In the 26 years since, they've made friends in 168 countries around the globe and have compiled a world-class photo album that shows the Land Cruiser beside Egyptian pyramids, Indonesian temples, and landmarks such as Australia's Ayers Rock and Alaska's Mount McKinley.
6. First-Class Explorer
In an age before faxes, iPhones, and the Internet, face-to-face business meetings were standard. So Fred Finn, whose job was setting up licenses for multinational companies, was traveling like no man had ever done before. The British businessman's aerial office took him to 139 countries in South America, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. He crossed the Atlantic an estimated 2,000 times (three of his 718 flights on the Concorde were in a single day) and traveled to Africa at least 600 times. Even after he reached the seven-million-mile mark in 1983 and Guinness certified him as the World's Most Traveled Man, Finn wasn't finished. In the more than a quarter century since, he's more than doubled that figure to reach a probably unbreakable frequent flyer total of 15 million miles.
5. Taking to the Skies
Unless someone else can become the first American to reach the edge of space, it's doubtful anyone can rival the travel exploits of Colonel Joe Kittinger. On August 16, 1960, Kittinger helped pave the way for the nation's space program by flying a balloon to 102,800 feet -- and then jumping out. As he dropped nearly 20 miles, his freefall lasted for more than four minutes at speeds as fast as 614 mph. He wasn't done. After serving three combat tours in Vietnam followed by eleven months in solitary at North Vietnam's Hanoi Hilton, in September 1984 Kittinger set another record. After leaving Caribou, Maine, in the hot air balloon Rosie O'Grady's Balloon of Peace, he landed in Italy over 83 hours and 3,543 miles later, setting records for distance and duration and becoming the first person to fly a hot air balloon solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
4. Motorcycle Mania
Motorcycling members of the Iron Butt Association are known for conquering long-distance challenges, but perhaps the most iron-butted rider of all is 60-year-old Vietnam vet and former state senator Dave Zien. He holds nearly 120 records, such as riding 1,616 miles in 24 hours and covering 3,032 miles in 48 hours. At times the Wisconsin native has ridden through sleet and snow and hail as he racked up perhaps the most impressive record of all. As today's college sophomores were just entering the world, Zien was on his brand new '91 Harley-Davidson FXRT. He kept riding it until he became the first person to pass the million-mile mark on a single motorcycle. By the time he reached the record in April 2009 he had gone through 105 rear tires, 65 front tires, nine seats, and thirteen pairs of boots. Is Zien ready for a rest? Hardly. Reportedly he was mapping out a roundtrip ride from Key West, Florida to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska -- 11,000 miles in 11 days.
3. Most Countries Visited
Robert and Dorothy Pine were curious about the world and its people so they decided to venture out and, in Robert's words, "learn about lifestyles, religion, dress, customs, activities, diets, political values, and the unique ways (people) adjust to their environment." As part of their continuing education they experienced three earthquakes, dodged an elephant on an airport runway, dropped into the piranha-infested Amazon River, ate yak burgers and fried pork fat, and flew aboard a number of less-than-dependable aircraft. The result? The Travelers' Century Club (whose members have each visited at least 100 countries) recognized the Pines as the first couple to visit each of the 315 countries on the TCC's monumental list.
2. Racking Up the Mileage
You know you're a heavy-duty driver when a car club runs a website to track your mileage. The Volvo Club of America's Irv-O-Meter helps fans track the overwhelmed odometer of Irv Gordon who, in his $4,150 1966 Volvo P1800, has driven (get ready) more than 2.85 million miles. Unlike the Schmids, who did all their driving in one long trip, Gordon put 1,500 miles on his new car in the first weekend and a daily 125-mile commute helped the NYC science teacher reach the 250,000-mile plateau in the first five years. By 1976 he had crossed 500,000 miles and by 1998, he had reached 1.69 million miles and earned the world record for the most miles ever driven in a non-commercial vehicle. Even though the car's parked outside, gets blasted by salty winds, and is driven through snow, ice, and rain, the Volvo's still miles ahead of the competition. With three million miles on his radar, Gordon's ready to go the distance. "The car does all the work, and I just go along for the ride."
1. One Long Swim
Few people at the beach venture far from shore. Unless they are Benoît Lecomte. On July 16, 1998, after years of endurance training, Lecomte waded into the waters off Hyannis, Massachusetts, and started swimming...to France. With a mask, snorkel, wetsuit and fins, he covered an estimated 3,716 miles and burned an amazing 9,000 calories a day during his adventure. Including a week he spent recovering from exhaustion in the Azores, it took the then-31-year-old 73 days to make the crossing, in which he was accompanied by a support boat and protected from predators through an electromagnetic field. Still, he dealt with dolphins, jellyfish, sea turtles, eight storms and waves as high as two stories, as he stroked his way across the water before coming ashore in France at Quiberon, Brittany. His first words after conquering the Atlantic? "Never again."
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