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December 10, 2008

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Dr. Hogenauer ...                 Challenges For The Travel Junkie



Systematic travel: Part 4
Challenges for the travel junkie.
By Dr. Alan Hogenauer

Hello again, fellow travelers!

This is the fourth installment in our series on Systematic Travel, the determined pursuit of a specific category of places, either objective or subjective.

The Internet has made it easy to access a growing number of systematic travel websites, providing motivation that might otherwise not have been possible. Here are a few of them; suggestions about others are always welcome. You can email them to

We've already discussed the long-standing Travelers Century Club (TCC) and Charles Veley's (MTP).

Dr. Thomas Muller, based in beautiful Queensland, Australia, has developed a website well worth exploring: The 54 Planetary Prize. His concept varies from those of the TCC and MTP in that Tom focuses on visiting sectors of the earth, bounded by selective meridians and parallels, rather than geographic places (countries, territories, states, provinces, etc.). If you mark off every 10-degree parallel of latitude -- from the North Pole to the South Pole -- you create 18 "bands," or "rings" around the world. Challenge #1 is to reach at least one point in each of the 18, which is not easy, because getting to north and south of 70 degrees requires considerable effort!

If you apply the same concept to the meridians of longitude, again using 10-degree intervals, you have 36 "sectors" around the planet. Reaching each of these requires literally "going around the world," with at least 36 stops, a somewhat easier Challenge #2, even if numerically greater.

So ... 18+36=54, hence the 54 Planetary Prize.

However, anyone who is the least bit "spatially alert" will realize that this 54 potentially double-counts, because any point located in one of the 18 rings must also be in one of the 36 sectors as well. Thus, one could "collect" all 54 by reaching only 36 carefully selected points. Nevertheless, the 18/36 concept is relatively easy to grasp, and -- even with potential overlap -- reflects a superb diversity of travel experience if accomplished. Tom has reached an amazing 53 of the 54, according to his website! (I've reached "only" 50, lacking the extreme polar rings noted above, BUT those 50 are all surface-linked! More on this idea below.)

But let's make the challenge even harder! Instead of 18 plus 36 equals 54, try 18 times 36 equals 648 (!), each of which is a mutually exclusive sector of the globe. Of course, many of these contain only water on the surface, but all are theoretically accessible, even if only with difficulty.

Actually, for years, I've followed this method, albeit using 15 degrees rather than 10, as the interval for both parallels and meridians (Goal #378 on This, of course, reduces the total number of sectors to 288 (24x12), a lot fewer than 648! But it also more closely corresponds to the 24 hours of the day in circling the globe, even if it definitely does NOT match the highly variable world time zones.

Reaching either all or most of the 648 -- or the 288 -- is a major challenge; is anyone out there even close? Please do email us at

Jorge Sanchez, an incredibly well traveled Spaniard, takes a completely different approach. He's created a Traveler's Exploits Club, based on a subjective list of 222 "travel exploits" that certainly evidence broad travel experience. Furthest ahead in this pursuit is the amazing Bill Altaffer, who has completed 159 of them! And yes, Charles Veley, yours truly and others among "the usual suspects" are high up on the list as well!

A less-structured approach is taken by the Adventurers' Club, founded in the early 20th century in New York, and since expanded to several other cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, and Honolulu. Club members (male only!) are in pursuit of incredible travel experiences in general, although many (like Bill Altaffer) are pursuing systematic efforts as well. This club is more social, with periodic speakers and congenial meals.

And finally, there is of course, the venerable Explorers Club of New York, whose members have achieved many firsts in global travel, albeit on a more "scientific" level.

Next time, we'll pursue the concept of spatial systematic travel (Muller et al). But in the meantime, I'll leave you with one other thought.

For years, I considered that there were two categories of places: the ones I'd visited, and the ones I hadn't. But about 10 years ago, I realized there was a third category: those places I'd surface-linked, "from home or anywhere" without using an airplane.

Think about it. How many places have you connected to each other using only ships, trains and other surface methods, including walking? And how much of the earth can you reach these ways without involving "special arrangements," which are almost always possible for the wealthy? More later!

Happy travels, determined or otherwise!

Dr. Alan Hogenauer is Associate Professor in the College of Business Administration at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA, specializing in travel and tourism. He has been traveling "systematically" for more than 50 years. In 1980, he became the first person to reach all the units of America's national park system, which he updated in 1995 and 2006. His multiple travel challenges are listed on his website Dr. Hogenauer's latest and ongoing goal is to link everywhere on earth using surface transport only; to date he has linked 169 countries and territories on all seven continents without using an airplane.

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Dr. Alan Hogenauer


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