Thursday Traveler(s): Trekking the Planet

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Every Thursday, A Dangerous Business will be shining the spotlight on a world nomad, travel blogger, armchair adventurer, or just someone really cool in the travel world. This week, the traveler are Darren and Sandy Van Soye of Trekking the Planet. Former IT professionals Darren and Sandy are on a 14-month global expedition called Trekking the Planet with the goal of improving students’ knowledge of geography. In total, their journey covers 50 countries on six continents and includes treks in 12 distinct cultural and natural locations in the world. So far, more than 850 classrooms, representing 55,000 students from 21 countries, are following their travels via the Internet.

1. How do you define the word “traveler,” and why would you consider yourself one?

We would define a traveler as someone who desires to experience and learn about places other than their own. We consider ourselves to be doing just that on this trip. Our emphasis is on geography awareness and learning more about both the cultural and natural significance of the world through our activities.

2. What has been your favorite travel experience thus far?

Our first trek was on the Overland Track in Tasmania, Australia, and it really blew us away. It is a seven-day bushwalk through all types of terrain, including alpine and rainforest, in just a span of 50 miles!

3. How about your proudest travel moment?

Speaking at schools has been great! To date, we have spoken to schools in American Samoa, Thailand and Laos. In Laos, we were in rural school areas and the buildings were made of thatched bamboo and had dirt floors. To see the kids’ faces as we talked about our journey and geography was great! We have been able to ask these students questions that we received from the classrooms that are following us and learn more about them in the process.

4. Have you had any travel mishaps or bad experiences? If so, have these influenced how you view the place where they happened? Would you go back?

While trekking in Northern Laos we had to change our plans because of heavy rains, making the hiking trail impassible and the leaches numerous (yikes!). We were initially disappointed, but it actually worked out well because we were able to visit six schools instead, which we couldn’t have done if we were solely trekking. We would like to go back someday and trek again.

Teaching in Laos

5. Name one thing you can’t travel without.

Our smart phones! They are great for making emergency calls, reviewing emails, texting, taking notes and doing currency conversions. In some countries, Darren has been able to purchase a local SIM card which has given us the ability to upload photos and even video while we are on the move. In Penang, Malaysia, our train arrived 7 ½ hours late, putting us there in the middle of the night. We amazed the taxi driver when we pulled out our phone and showed him exactly where we were and the location of our hotel on the tiny screen.

6. Name one thing you wish you COULD travel without.

Since we have 12 treks planned during our journey, we have a significant amount of gear – a stove, a water purifier, a cook pot, dishes, mattress pads, sleeping bags… well, you get the picture! This makes our bags rather heavy and at times we wish we could go lighter. We did send our tent ahead from Singapore to Sweden since we won’t need it until July. That helped a little.

7. What do you think has been the biggest thing you’ve learned while traveling (about yourself, a destination, a culture, travel itself)?

It is important to take time to take care of yourself. On a long trip like this we have built in some “down time” to relax and take care of things like blisters and laundry and catch up with our daughters, Lauren (21) and Kristen (18).


8. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

We both really liked Tasmania. It’s a huge island off the coast of Southern Australia. The countryside is just beautiful, the people are friendly, and there is no shortage of trekking opportunities. Hobart (located at the southern tip) is picture perfect with world-class food, arts and festivals.

9. Name one place you’d like to see or one experience you’d like to have before you die.

Antarctica is high on our list. It is the only continent we haven’t been to and we would love to see it. We just couldn’t include it on this trip because of the cost, but we’d really like to visit there someday.

10. If there was one thing you wish somebody would have told you before you started traveling, what would it be?

Don’t try to see everything on your first visit. Hit the highlights. If you like a place, you can always come back. We have learned this lesson the hard way, staying in a different place each night and coming home exhausted.

Visit Darren and Sandy's site: Trekking the Planet
Follow them on Twitter: @trekkingplanet
“Like” them on Facebook: Trekking the Planet


Are you a travel blogger who has something to say on these topics? Do you know of somebody really interesting in the travel universe that you’d like to see interviewed? Speak up! The Thursday Traveler needs some interview subjects.


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