A Little Advice… Travel Around the World Without Flying

Breaking from tales of my own round the world trip is a traveler to whom I give mad props. Michael Hodson traveled around the world for well over a year without a single flight. He was committed to feeling every footstep of his journey—to taking a journey that harkened back to the era of great explorers exploring every inch of land. His overland by land and sea gives his round the world trip itinerary an intriguing new take and I am pleased he is willing to share his story below.

One of my primary reasons for taking a trip around the world without flying was because I wanted to get a full appreciation of the size of the world. After exactly one year on the road without leaving the ground, and still having not made it all around yet, I can say—it’s big. Really big. And it’s more amazing that I ever would have imagined.

Modern plane travel is one of the miracles of modern convenience. One can get on an airplane in the heart of Middle America one afternoon and wake up the next morning in Italy or China. These days, you can get to about anywhere in the world from a major city in the States in 24 hours—give or take a few. I love the ease of flying, but at least for me, there flying fosters a disconnect there that I wanted to eliminate at least once in my life. I wanted to feel the miles—feel the distance—know that I had actually traveled. In some sense, I wanted to earn my first journey around the world.

chicken buses Central America

Most of the tips I could give you about an around-the-world trip without planes would be the same sort of tips you’d normally read about any long trip—websites with good hostel/hotel reviews, key phrases you should learn in a language before you arrive, safety issues, and so on. Instead, I’ll try to make these tips and thoughts more focused on the uniqueness of a ground level circumnavigation.

Table of Contents

Overland Travel Takes Longer: Plan for Perpetual Movement

You move constantly when you’re traveling overland. Assuming you’re traveling on a budget, whether one of time or money, you can’t really stay anywhere for too long. I originally wanted to finish my circumnavigation inside of a year, but it’s going to take me about sixteen months, as it turns out. The longest I’ve stayed in any one location is roughly a week, and I’ve only pulled that off a few times. My stay at most locations is usually about three or four days. The reason for this is quite simple: ground travel takes a hell of a lot more time than hopping on a plane.

As a recent example, I had to travel from Chiang Mai, Thailand to Hong Kong to catch my freighter to Australia—it took me seven days and I was moving for at least eight hours each and every one of those seven days. The same mileage could have been taken care of by a six-hour plane ride. If you take a trip similar to mine, it’s going to be primarily about traveling; that is it’s very nature.

Hoi An, Veitnam

One’s Not the Loneliest Number: You Learn About Yourself

You’re going to be traveling solo for most of your trip, unless you have a boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse that is as dedicated to your quixotic quest as you. One of the joys of traveling is meeting people on the road that you get along with, and then traveling together for a while. Unfortunately, few people will will be traveling as ‘quickly’ as you, so that backpacker tradition of traveling together for weeks becomes more difficult to manage—not impossible, but difficult. Your route around the world is also going to be pretty linear, and you obviously can’t just hop on a plane and jump over a few countries to hook up with some people you want to see.

For a time on this trip, I really wanted to meet up with a few people in Asia, but my times and locations were pretty set, given my freighter’s departure date and places I wanted to see in my limited time, and they couldn’t get away from their obligations (damn the real world) in the time and location window I had available. The bonus on this front is that you will know yourself better than you have ever imagined—a few hundred hours spent on buses, trains, and boats looking at the sights pass by while in your own company tends one toward self-reflection.

Michael Hodson in the San Blas Islands

It Costs More: How to Book Passage on Freighters & Cargo Ships

Traveling without flying is surprisingly expensive. People’s initial reaction to my journey is usually a combination of “you never get to see enough of a place,” and “well, at least it must be cheap to travel that way.” The former is true (though I am fine with it—this time). The latter is far from true.

The easiest way to do the oceanic crossings is by cargo freighter. To some travelers, booking passage on freighters and cargo ships seems harder than it is—you have so many options. Plus, if you catch the winds right, you might also be able to hitch a ride on a sailboat for a crossing—try Find a Crew to sort out possibilities on that front. Of you can check repositioning cruises too, when the major cruise lines need to move a boat to a different location, you can often book a discounted fare.

Also, few travel agents specialize in booking passages on freighters. I’ve primarily used Hamish Jamison at FreighterTravel.co.nz, but a google search quickly reveals a few others who do the same thing. I understand that you can also book directly with the shipping company, but I haven’t researched the logistics since I had already booked my passages for this trip.

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In any case, expect to pay approximately 100 Euros a day for passage on a freighter. Crossing the Atlantic is about a ten-day trip and crossing the Pacific is about double that. I added Australia and New Zealand to my trip, so there will be four total passages covering about forty days total. Do the math and you quickly realize that you can buy an entire round-the-world airline ticket with a dozen stops for just the freighter expense alone.

You then have to add the expense of traveling overland everywhere verses just hopping on a plane and getting there quickly. I have made plenty of legs on this trip via multiple buses or trains that would have cost a fraction of the price, if I’d flown on one of the many low-cost air carriers out there.

how to travel by cargo ship

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: Skip the Flights

I’ve talked about overland travel sometimes costing more, but that’s not to say that it is all negative—I’m unbelievably happy with my journey. For one thing, air travel is incredibly damaging to the environment. As a general rule, a plane emits about as much CO2 as would every passenger if they drove the same distance in their individual cars.

Additionally, since the airplane emits it’s CO2 (and some other pollutants) into the upper atmosphere, there is an additional negative effect. There is a reward, at least in my eyes, for seeing this much of the world with such a relatively small carbon footprint. I’m not saving the world or anything of the like, but I get some satisfaction from not using the worst environmental mode of travel out there—the jet plane.

overland by boat - ha long bay

Feel Each Footstep Round the World & Soak in the Unique Rewards

This trip has been incredibly rewarding. I’ve enjoyed talking with hundreds of travelers about their own journeys and can only try to explain why my particular route and method satisfies me. I would never claim my trip is any ‘better’ than anyone else’s out there—everyone should plan the trip that is right for them (and there ought to be a lot less judgment on the various forums and blogs out there on others’ choices!).

That being said, for me, the reward for me in my current ground level view is in getting a complete feel for the enormity of our planet. Travel books from decades gone by amaze me—the stories of those who traveled before ATMs, before the internet, before the hostel circuit, before guidebooks, before cell phones and so on and so forth. Reading books about what they experienced on the road has always fascinated me. They were the first westerner sometimes in off-the-beaten-path places. Getting from place to place meant more than just braving the touts and hawkers at a bus station. The obstacles they had to overcome in their journeys inspired me to plan my around the world trip without flying.

Hodson in Ushuaia, at the end of the world

In comparison to those adventurers, my journey has been relatively easy. But at least part of the reward for me has been the challenge—I can’t go back in time to The Great Railway Bazaar, or some of the other great journeys from years ago, but I experienced at least some of those challenges in my own journey.

I’m sure there are many people who can say they experienced every mile around our great planet on the ground in recent times, and I’m simply happy to be a part of the club.

Slow travel is so much better for the environment, and for travelers traveling the world without flights means you feel every footstep of your journey! Michael has shared stories from his journey on his blog, Go See Write.

What is the quickest way to fly from Australia to Europe and the US? [2019]

Sure, life is a journey, not a destination. However, living on an island on the other side of the world means that we often just want to get to where we are going the quickest that we can. And that’s especially when flying at the back of the plane.

You can fly nonstop to all top 10 destinations visited by travellers from Australia

Here were the 10 most-visited countries by travellers from Australia in 2018, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics:

  1. New Zealand
  2. Indonesia
  3. United States
  4. United Kingdom
  5. China
  6. Thailand
  7. Japan
  8. Singapore
  9. India
  10. Fiji

The good news is that you can fly from Australia to all of these countries without having to transit.

Hawa Mahal India | Point Hacks

To get to India, you can fly to Delhi nonstop from Sydney or Melbourne with Air India

The quickest way to travel from Australia to the US

Currently, you can fly nonstop from:

  • Sydney to Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston
  • Melbourne to Honolulu, Los Angeles and San Francisco
  • Brisbane to Honolulu and Los Angeles (and San Francisco and Chicago from February and April 2020, respectively)

However, if you want to get to the East Coast of the US, you’ll need to connect. For those in Sydney, flying through one of the two big Texan airports—Dallas/Fort Worth or Houston—is the quickest way.

For Melburnians and Brisbanites, a West Coast airport—Los Angeles or San Francisco—is the route to take.

Adelaidians will actually get there the quickest by travelling through Auckland and Houston. Western Australians jet to the Big Apple in the least amount of time via Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific.

To New York

Brisbane20h 10mLos AngelesQantas
Sydney20h 19mDallas/Fort WorthQantas & American Airlines
Melbourne21h 3mLos Angeles or San FranciscoUnited
Adelaide23h 25mAuckland & HoustonAir New Zealand & United
Perth25h 15mHong KongCathay Pacific

To Miami

Sydney19h 35mHoustonUnited
Brisbane20h 0mLos AngelesQantas & American Airlines
Melbourne21h 45mSan FranciscoUnited
Adelaide23h 13mSydney & Dallas/Fort WorthQantas & American Airlines
Perth25h 15mSydney & Dallas/Fort WorthQantas & American Airlines

The quickest way to travel from Australia to Europe

Qantas’ Boeing 787 Dreamliner service from Perth to London launched in March 2018. It’s the first nonstop connection between Australia and Europe.

Clocking in at just under 18 hours, it’s a long trek to undertake in Economy Class. As such, I’d only suggest taking this flight in Business or Premium Economy.

Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner Business Class cabin

The 17-hour journey between Perth and London can be a lot to endure, so flying in Business Class (or at least Premium Economy) is recommended

If you want to break up your trip from Perth to Europe and stretch your feet, then you can transit through Singapore, Dubai or Doha, adding 2½-3 hours to your total journey time.

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For travellers from the East Coast of Australia, transiting through Singapore with Singapore Airlines takes advantage of efficient layovers of often less than one hour. (The shared British colonial history of Singapore and Australia could explain the high frequency of flights on this version of the Kangaroo Route.)

Changi Airport | Point Hacks

Transiting through Singapore’s Changi Airport is the quickest way to get to London from the East Coast

Those in South Australia can transit through Perth on their way to London with Qantas, or through Dubai to Paris with Emirates.

To London

Perth17h 45m(nonstop)Qantas
Adelaide22h 20mPerthQantas
Melbourne22h 20mSingaporeSingapore Airlines
Sydney22h 40mSingaporeSingapore Airlines
Brisbane23h 10mSingaporeSingapore Airlines

To Paris

Perth20h 25mSingaporeSingapore Airlines
Melbourne22h 25mSingaporeSingapore Airlines
Sydney23h 05mSingaporeSingapore Airlines
Adelaide23h 20mDubaiEmirates
Brisbane24h 20mSingaporeSingapore Airlines

How to calculate the duration of a flight

If you go to Google Flights and input your origin and destination, the search engine’s first instinct is to give you the itinerary with the lowest price, not the quickest transit time.

Under Sort by, click Duration and the results will be calculated from quickest to longest transit time.

Google Flights Europe screenshot

You can sort your results on Google Flights by total travel time

And remember to install this Chrome extension so that you can see how much legroom you’ll get on your flight/s.

Summing up

If you are flying to Europe, then the quickest way to get there is usually through Singapore or Perth.

For US-bound travellers, nonstop services from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to Hawaii, the West Coast or Texas are the way to go. If your destination is on the East Coast of the US, then it really depends on which Australian airport you’re departing from.

With the delivery of more long-range Boeing 787 Dreamliners over the next few years, Qantas will hopefully continue to reduce travel time with new nonstop flights from Australia to Europe and the US (as well as South Africa and Brazil).

However, there are two downsides to a quicker layover: no time for lounge visit, and an increased risk of missing your connecting flight because of delays.

What’s your favourite way to travel to Europe or the US? Would you prefer a quicker or a more comfortable journey?

Alternatives to Flying: Other Ways to Get From Here to There

Disclaimer: This site contains affiliate links from which we receive a compensation (like Amazon for example). But they do not affect the opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is an independent, award-winning consumer publication established in 2006. Our finance columns have been reprinted on MSN, Yahoo Finance, US News, Business Insider, Money Magazine, and Time Magazine.

Like many news outlets our publication is supported by ad revenue from companies whose products appear on our site. This revenue may affect the location and order in which products appear. But revenue considerations do not impact the objectivity of our content. While our team has dedicated thousands of hours to research, we aren’t able to cover every product in the marketplace.

For example, Wise Bread has partnerships with brands including, but not limited to, American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi, Discover, and Amazon.

With the advent of budget airlines offering unbelievably low airfares and our maniacal desire to get from A to B as quickly as possible, flying is usually the only option we consider when traveling. But there are alternatives to flying — ways to get from here to there that might actually save you time and money.

Flying Myths

Perhaps flying is your go-to travel option because you assume that it’s the best way to travel. Let’s tackle some of these flying myths.

Myth #1: Flying Is Faster

Although your actual flight time might be a few measly hours, how long does it take you to get to and from the airports on either side? How far in advance of your flight do you have to arrive to navigate the long check-in and security lineups? And how long do you wait for your luggage to arrive on the conveyor belt (accompanied by profuse sweating and a series of please lord, let my bags have made it on the plane with me mantras)?

The last time I flew, my three-hour flight was actually a ten-hour exercise from door to door. And everything went smoothly; imagine how much longer it would have been if there were delays or complications (as there so often are).

Myth #2: Flying Is Cheaper

Boy, you can’t beat those budget airline prices. Or can you? Keep clicking through the check-out screens online, and soon enough you’ll have doubled or tripled (or more) the initially quoted price after you add in various airport taxes and fuel surcharges, additional costs to check your luggage, and the price of any food or drinks you purchase on-board (or before). Budget airlines make their money on these incidentals, and — worse yet — catching you with luggage that’s slightly over the weight restrictions then levying steep penalties.

Next, you must factor in the cost of getting to and from the airport which either involves the cost of gas and parking, or the airport bus or train. None of which is cheap.

Myth #3: Flying Is Healthier

Okay, I don’t think anybody could argue that flying is a healthy way to travel. You’re filed into a carpeted tube with dozens (nay, hundreds) of other people breathing recycled air. If one person is ill, chances are you will be subjected to their germs.

Even if you can stave off illness, you’re at risk for cramping and circulation problems from sitting in such a small space for long periods of time, and I don’t believe that transporting between time zones with no way for the body to adjust is particularly healthy. Jet lag is a perfect example of how hard flying can be on our bodies.

Alternatives to Flying

Having said all this, sometimes flying is unavoidable. It’s still the most logical and effective way to navigate really long-haul travel over oceans and between countries over long distances (and if you’re smart and do it with frequent flyer mile strategies, it doesn’t have to break the bank). But if it isn’t entirely necessary for you to fly, check out some of these alternatives.

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An obvious option is to hop in your car or get a rental car, travel at your own pace, and have wheels to get around at your destination. But be aware: in addition to the obvious costs of driving (gas, insurance, and rental charges if applicable), other expenses of taking the car (like wear and tear,repairs, and parking) can throw your travel budget off-line.

Let’s explore some alternatives to flying (and driving) that are a little easier on the wallet – and the environment.

Car Pool

People have been car pooling to work for ages now, so why not expand on the concept? With various car pooling (also known as ride sharing) networks and websites, you can find somebody going your way with whom you share the driving, cost of gas, wear and tear, etc. You even have built-in company for the ride, and possibly a new friend or two out of the deal. You have less freedom in making stops along the way than if you drive yourself, but more freedom than you would with public transportation.

It pays to do a little due diligence in finding a ride, such as planning to meet in a public place before you hop in the car destined for horizons unknown, and letting a friend or family member know where you are headed. As an additional security measure, in using some of the larger car pooling services like eRideShare, you can correspond with your potential ride without giving out your personal information.

Long distance bus travel is far from luxurious, but with more and more bus services providing free wifi on-board and more comfortable seats, it’s not a terrible way to go.

Most bus stations are centrally located in town (hence, no need to hoof it out to a remote airport), and you can arrive half an hour in advance of your departure and still get a good seat. You can pack as much into your luggage as you wish (within reason), and rest assured that it’s along for the ride.

Buses also make regular rest stops for you to stretch your legs and grab a snack if you wish. And if you’re on a budget, you can’t argue the price of taking the bus.

If there’s a big body of water between you and your destination, your only option other than flying is to take a boat. Short hauls (journeys up to about 24 hours) can be easily navigated by ferry, and are often both reasonably priced and comfortable.

Longer journeys such as overseas travel can be accomplished by taking an ocean-liner cruise (which is super expensive, but luxurious), or freighter. Although you might think that hitching a ride on a cargo ship would be inexpensive, it doesn’t measure up in comparison to flying. At $90-130 per day — and most overseas trips lasting between two weeks and two months — it’s not cheap, but the journey is an experience in and of itself, especially if you like being on the high seas.

Here’s a website with a few freighter travel resources to get you started.


Train travel is my favorite way of getting from here to there, hands down. Having grown up taking the train 400 miles from Toronto to Albany NY every summer to visit my grandparents, the long journeys have embedded themselves fondly in my memory.

Similar to bus travel, you’ll find train stations centrally located, and rarely do you encounter luggage restrictions or complications. The price quoted is the price quoted, and depending on the route you can sometimes get wifi access on-board.

Trains have a few additional advantages over buses; more often than not there’s ample leg-room and comfortable seating, you can get up and walk around, and there are usually power-points available to charge and operate any electronics you have with you. These perks create a more luxurious and relaxed pace to the journey, which to me is well worth any extra cost over taking the bus.

Not only that, but because of the relaxed and generally comfortable style of travel that the train offers, you tend to meet and engage with interesting people enroute. Take my recent 11,000km journey across Australia and back as an example.

Your Overland Travel Resource

One of my favourite sites and an excellent resource for overland travel is The Man from Seat 61. In an effort to reduce his own reliance on air travel and illustrate the alternatives, this Londoner created a website demonstrating how to get from London to anywhere and everywhere — overland. His preference is for trains, but wherever there aren’t train routes, he shows how accomplish the travel task via bus and boat.

Since its humble beginnings over 10 years ago, Seat61 has turned into an award-winning worldwide resource with valuable information on trains, buses, and ferries. You can find out exactly what to expect from each “class” of travel, what the prices and schedules are, and how to get a good deal if there’s one to be had.

Whenever I travel (and for me, that’s a lot), Seat61 is my first point of attack in researching my options. Even if I can’t save time on the journey, I’m happy to take the train anyway; as opposed to flying, with the train I arrive relaxed, with a full immune system, and so many stories to tell.

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Alternatives to Flying: Other Ways to Get From Here to There

Disclaimer: This site contains affiliate links from which we receive a compensation (like Amazon for example). But they do not affect the opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is an independent, award-winning consumer publication established in 2006. Our finance columns have been reprinted on MSN, Yahoo Finance, US News, Business Insider, Money Magazine, and Time Magazine.

Like many news outlets our publication is supported by ad revenue from companies whose products appear on our site. This revenue may affect the location and order in which products appear. But revenue considerations do not impact the objectivity of our content. While our team has dedicated thousands of hours to research, we aren’t able to cover every product in the marketplace.

For example, Wise Bread has partnerships with brands including, but not limited to, American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi, Discover, and Amazon.

Source https://alittleadrift.com/travel-the-world-without-flying/

Source https://www.pointhacks.com.au/quickest-transit-time-europe-usa/

Source https://www.wisebread.com/alternatives-to-flying-other-ways-to-get-from-here-to-there

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