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80 Days Recap


Illustration by Eddie Guy

Welcome readers! 

In March 2007, Conde Nast Traveler sent writer Mark Schatzker around the world. The conditions of the trip were as follows: He could not fly, he could not travel more than 100 miles per hour, and he had to complete the journey in precisely 80 days. The intention was to rediscover "slow travel," seeking out the  corners and in-between places that still exist.

Over the next 80 days, Mark used this blog, 80 Days or Bust, to post daily dispatches on everything from horseback riding in Mongolia to mud-bathing in Napa to a sorry attempt at making fusilli in Italy

You can read Mark's day-by-day accounts here.  Use the navigation at right to follow his journey across the U.S. and the Pacific, over the TransMongolian Railway, along Italy's Amalfi Coast, and beyond. 

And look out for the September issue of Conde Nast Traveler for Mark's feature-length article and a four-page annotated map of his 80 day journey.

 
Gear, STUNTS

Gear Review: Patagonia Freightliner

Freighlinermain_80days Before I thrill you with my review the Patagonia Freightliner (pictured at right), a quick note about bias. You're going to notice that most of these reviews veer towards the positive. This is not because I am taking kickbacks, or because I am generally a very enthusiastic person, or because I fear that by criticizing others, I am opening the door to criticism of myself. The reason is that I put a serious amount of research--days worth, all told--into determining which items would function best on the road. I'm pleased to report that just about everything performed well above expectations, which is either an endorsement of my research skill, or, more likely, a testament to the constantly improving quality of stuff.

Choosing luggage wasn't easy. The major question was: backpack or rolly bag? Then I discovered that there exists luggage that is both. Eagle Creek makes the Switchback, a rolly bag with back-pack straps that tuck away into a zipped compartment. Similarly, the North Face just came out with rolly bag/backpack called the Doubletrack.  This, I thought, was the answer to my dreams.

Continue reading "Gear Review: Patagonia Freightliner" »

Gear, STUNTS

Gear Review: Sony Reader

Sony_reader

When the Sony Reader appeared on store shelves last September, it didn't make the kind of splash a lot of people expected, and in the months since it hasn't sent waves rippling through the industry. Tech reviewers were less than whelmed by the Readers feature set--no backlighting, no search, no annotation, no wireless web streaming--and they considered the price, $350, to be way too high. Literary types, on the other hand, dismissed the Reader in a rather haughtier manner. They saw it not only as a poor substitute for a book, but as a threat to the hallowed tradition of "the book," another broadside from the over-stimulated, attention-deprived, caffeinated present on the deep-thinking and ever-threatened literary tradition.

Continue reading "Gear Review: Sony Reader" »

About the journey, Cruising the Atlantic, STUNTS, United States

Good Morning, Brooklyn!

Memynoseandgreta_80day
Me, my nose, and Greta

Here is my first thought after stepping off the Queen Mary 2 and reuniting, after two long and lonely months, with my family: It is amazing how much weight the human female can gain in a mere 60 days. Especially so if the female in your arms was 5 months old the last time your saw her, and has since aged to the ripe old mark of seven months. Back in Hong Kong, when I bid Greta and her mummy a tearful goodbye, she weighed 14 pounds; she now tips the scales at 18. In the interim, she has mastered several impressive new skills: She can sit on the floor without toppling randomly over; she can stick her tongue out, and at three a.m. she is able to make a compelling and rhetorically sound argument--without uttering a single intelligible phoneme--that a crib is a cruel and unusual place for a baby and that where she truly belongs is in bed between mummy and daddy.

Continue reading "Good Morning, Brooklyn!" »

About the journey, STUNTS

Slideshow: Around the World in 80 Days (and 32 Pictures)

Editor's Note:  No time to read the entire blog?  Click here for a slideshow of blogger Mark Schatzker's 80 day trip around the world—a journey that involved everything from mud-bathing in Napa to hiking the Great Wall and dancing to bawdy Italian folk songs.  What a gig!

Cruising the Atlantic, STUNTS, United States

And On the 80th Day He Slept

In_front_of_ship_80days Editor's Note:  The Queen Mary 2 slipped under the Verrazano bridge at five a.m. this morning depositing Mark in the same location from which he departed 80 days ago.  Awaiting him were his wife, Laura, and daughter, Greta, and a couple staffers from Conde Nast Traveler who came under the false impression that doing so would excuse them from going to the office.

For a man who has spent 80 days on the road writing blog posts, foraging for food, and pestering people with questions, he looked remarkably fresh.  We credit the algae wrap (and the handsome budget).

Initially Mark promised to send a post today highlighting his last night on the QM2, but we insisted that he reserve his writing for tomorrow.   An unlikely request, but we've been as blown away by the blog as anyone.  After time with the family and some shut-eye, Mark will be back online tomorrow (no doubt trying to find out if he can resurrect the budget for a visit to Peter Luger Steakhouse). 

Cruising the Atlantic, STUNTS

Farewell My Budget

Cruise_art_2_80days_2
Cruise art.  Bong and blacklight sold separately

On March 5th, my budget was a strong, vigorous and ready to tackle the world. It had known only good times in its short life, (see here, here, and here; ed.) and in those sweet, carefree days my budget's might was exceeded only by its innocence. Seventy-eight days later, my budget was drawn and gaunt, emaciated, starving, dehydrated and on the verge of expiration. It hadn't had sustenance since Mongolia, when my hotel reimbursed me $10 for an inadvertent overcharge. Since then, nothing. Three days ago, its teeth started falling out. My budget had come down with scurvy.

Yesterday afternoon, I did the humane thing and put my budget out of its misery. With New York little more than a day away, it had begun to lose its sense of purpose. It was confused, frightened even. I stroked its neck, whispering over and over again that everything was going to be okay, and as my budget drifted into sleep, I blew the rest of it on a massage.

Continue reading "Farewell My Budget " »

Food and Drink, STUNTS

KCRW Radio Interview: Mark's Culinary Travels

Editor's Note: "Good Food," a show on Santa Monica's National Public Radio affiliate KCRW, caught up with Mark last weekend to talk about his culinary experiences in northern France and England.

Click here to listen.

About the journey, STUNTS

Don't Touch That Dial!

Editor's Note: Mark's 80-day journey may be coming to an end, but the blog must go on. In the days following Mark's return home, he'll be blogging about his gear, answering readers' questions, and readjusting to normal life (or not, as the case may be). And for those of you who've become addicted to his travel writing, fear not, because Mark will be setting off once again (as soon as his wife lets him, that is--he owes her roughly 482 diaper changes). In PROJECT GUINEA PIG, Mark (and the occasional guest writer) will be put to various travel tests--and will write about it every step of the way. He'll be looking for your help in planning these trips, and he'll appreciate your company when he's on the road.

Cruising the Atlantic, Food and Drink, STUNTS

What Cruise Buffets Can Learn from a Pack of Wolves

Waiter_80days Day 78: A shout out to my man Francis, that rare breed of waiter who knows how to call a spade a spade. Francis demonstrated this exceptional ability last night at dinner. I was flummoxed, unable to decide what to choose as an appetizer, and so I put the following question to Francis: "How about the Atlantic seafood tian? Is it any good?"

His answer: "Not really."

Boom. An honest answer from an honest man.

What good is a waiter if he or she can't give you plainspoken advice about the food? The waiter works at the restaurant, after all. Is it so unreasonable to expect him to know what the food is like? And yet too often--way, way too often--waiters deliver the limpest, most half-hearted recommendations. Ask for guidance between the lamb and the steak and you might hear, "They're both good," or "I guess it depends what you're in the mood for," or, my favorite "I don't know. I'm a vegetarian."

Continue reading "What Cruise Buffets Can Learn from a Pack of Wolves" »

Cruising the Atlantic, STUNTS

Back to the Surreal (Cruise) Life

Funentertainment_80days
Anyone for a game?

Day 77: Over the course of the past 75 days, I have slept on a communal bed in rural China, witnessed the slaughter and butchering of a sheep in Mongolia--a sheep whose liver, kidney, stomach and lungs I helped eat one hour later--and danced with a 76-year-old grandmother in the hills of Cilento, Italy, while her husband serenaded us with bawdy songs on his accordion. These are events we would consider far from the mainstream, and yet, at the time, they didn't feel strange or out of the ordinary. In each case, I was struck by the fact that I had never done any of these things before.

Continue reading "Back to the Surreal (Cruise) Life" »

England, STUNTS

Next Stop...America

Gin_80days

Day 74: One of the many charming character traits of the English is their attitude towards their own weather. If, as a visitor to England, you experience four days of near-incessant downpour and you happen to make a casual reference to the foul nature of the conditions to a local, they will nod in deep agreement, roll their eyes at the darkened heavens and say, "I can't understand where it all came from so suddenly. Last week was beautiful." Rain, amazingly, takes the English by surprise. They see it as a freak occurrence, the kind of thing most people only ever read about in textbooks.

Continue reading "Next Stop...America" »

England, Gear, STUNTS

Soggy Olde England

Countryside_80days
English rain produces some spectacular countryside

At the risk sounding a little too Canadian, I'd like to take a few minutes to talk about one of my favorite subjects: the weather. For more than two months, I had a run of weather that all but defies credibility. It rained once. What I mean to say is that it rained on my head once. It happened in Hawaii, at Hanauma Bay, when a freak tropical spray came down, refreshing, warm and sweet to the taste. I didn't mind it one bit, although it set the locals into a panic. It has rained other times during this trip, but not once while I was outside. It rained while I was driving across I-80, it rained while on board the Crystal Symphony--but only during the night, or very briefly while were cabin-bound with Greta--and it rained in Siberia while I was on the Trans-Mongolian Railway. Every time I stepped outside, however--this is the part that defies credibility--the rain had stopped.

Then I got to England.

Continue reading "Soggy Olde England" »

England, STUNTS

In London: Goodbye Cargo Pants, Hello Savile Row

Bespoke_80days
Now in London, the author says goodbye to cargo pants

The overnight ferry from Guernsey arrives in Portsmouth at 6 a.m. I got up, therefore, at 5:30 a.m., and when I looked in the mirror that morning, I thought of one man: Laurent Derame.

You will not remember Laurent because I never told you about him. He is a French hairdresser who lives in London and I met him in Mongolia, as one does. It was dusk, I had just returned from my excursion into Hustai National Park where I saw rare Mongolian wild horses, and there was Laurent, standing outside his ger and sipping a glass of white wine. "I found a lovely bottle of Bordeaux in the bar," he said by way of introduction. "Would you like a glass?" It was practically a rhetorical question.

Continue reading "In London: Goodbye Cargo Pants, Hello Savile Row" »

England, STUNTS

In the Channel Islands, Feudalism is for the Birds

Horsehavingbreakfast_80da
Plenty of green grass on the Channel Island of Sark

Feudalism is dead and long gone, a hilariously primitive system of law and order that vanished, along with plague and chivalry, with the Middle Ages. This is what most people will tell you, and they are wrong. Feudalism is alive and living in quiet, tax-sheltered comfort on a grass-covered chunk of granite in the middle of the English Channel called Sark, though lately it's been doing a bit of soul searching.

Continue reading "In the Channel Islands, Feudalism is for the Birds " »

Food and Drink, France, STUNTS

Pedalling through Normandy and Brittany

  Cycling

Must... work... off... lunch...: Paying for meals bathed in butter along Normandy's country roads

While the rest of the world has turned its back on clarified butter, Normandy has not, and for this it is deserving of high praise. This means, however, that if you're going to travel along the coast of Normandy, you may wish to consider a high-cardio form of locomotion, especially if you're going to be doing things like eating a sole that took its final swim in sea of clarified butter.

Cross-country skiing would be your best choice, but Normandy has what the French call le climat oceanique, which is just a sophisticated way of saying "British weather." It's prone to cloud cover and rain, and by cloud cover I mean a thick, gooey blanket of light-sucking grey, and by rain I mean an interminable drizzle. There is no snow, but there are roads, and so the logical choice is also a fun one: the bicycle.

Continue reading "Pedalling through Normandy and Brittany" »

Food and Drink, France, STUNTS

Working the Land in Burgundy

Terroir

A handful of Burgundian dirt: Is this the soil that launched a thousand sips?

Bad news was waiting in Burgundy: A wind was blowing. It was a perfect day to send up a kite, and therefore absolutely not perfect for going up in a hot air balloon, which was the reason I had driven all the way from Monaco. I was, in other words, grounded.

If there's a place on this planet to get grounded, however, it's Burgundy, and the reason has to do with the ground. It consists of a layer of clay soil -- from a geological point of view, a thin film -- and beneath it is limestone bedrock. It is the most delicious ground in the world. It is so delicious that buyers from France, the United States, Japan, Great Britain, Russia, and almost every other country are prepared to pay as much as $2,500 for a bottle of that ground. There are no rocks or soil in those slope-shouldered bottles. There is wine: red or white.

Continue reading "Working the Land in Burgundy" »

Europe, STUNTS

Europe: Continent of Excellent Coffee, Cheeses, and Electrical Plugs

Plug
So simple, shiny, and futuristic looking

I never thought I would say this, but I now know what it feels like to be George W. Bush, seeing as I seem to have annoyed, appalled, and enraged half of Europe with a couple of recent postings. In my defense, I will say only that I only ever report what I see and feel.

(And while I'm at it, I will also say that on the nudity front: I'm not a prude -- I skinny dip with considerable regularity on weekends up north in the summer time. I do, however, tend to associate nakedness with free-spiritedness and jollity. So to enter a sauna full of stone-faced naked people who wouldn't acknowledge the presence of a newcomer even with body language struck me as odd. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it -- but I can't pretend I wasn't shocked by it, and the overall experience was, to me, interesting.

As far as Eurotrash go: I truly do not think conspicuous consumption in Monaco has anything to with America's (or my homeland, Canada's) irresponsible emission of greenhouse gases. Justindr660, I might also point out -- as I did in my post -- that there were three Ferraris parked in front of the club called Zebra Square. The slowest among them had 482 horsepower. Not very Kyoto.)

So in the spirit of good relations, allow me to dish out a few deserved compliments to the continent of Europe.

Continue reading "Europe: Continent of Excellent Coffee, Cheeses, and Electrical Plugs" »

Monaco, STUNTS

Walking All Over Monaco

Luxuriant_parkinglotc394c
A parking-garage corridor lined in gleaming marble? We must be in Monaco.

The problem with Monaco is that it's so small. To travel through its three-quarters of a square mile is to be faced with the same dilemma as a drinker who's just been poured a shot of some new and unknown drink: Do you sip it slowly or down it all in one gulp? I opted for the all-in-one-gulp approach. After all, if a single-malt connoisseur catches you throwing back two inches of Dalwhinnie, at least you come across as an enthusiastic imbiber. But if someone catches you thoughtfully sipping a shot of low-end tequila, they'll think you're an idiot.

The plan was to hike across Monaco. All of it. From top, where the fast-rising rocky Monegasque landscape seems to run out of breath and concede all further land to France, right down to the harbor, where captains of $100-million yachts compete for parking spaces.

Continue reading "Walking All Over Monaco" »

Italy, STUNTS

Remembrance of Things Past in Merano, Italy

Cake_and_coffee

Kaffee und Kuchen, just like Baba used to order.

One of the things about traveling is that you can step foot in a town or city you have never been to before and be reminded -- powerfully reminded -- of people and places that have receded far into the past. This is what happened to me at the Vigilius Mountain Resort.

After my brush with German sternness and German nakedness at the spa, I came back to my room and phoned my mother. We talked about the sauna episode, and eventually she asked me, "Are you near Meran?" Meran is the German name for the town Italians call Merano, and to get to Vigilius, you take the first exit for Meran off the highway. "Baba absolutely loved Meran," my mother said.

Continue reading "Remembrance of Things Past in Merano, Italy" »

About the journey, STUNTS

Contest: Guess Mark's Location and Win

Editor's Note:  When Mark started his 80 day journey back in early March, the first question many of you had was "where is he going next?"  Mark never did reveal much about his itinerary during those early days.  In fact, he still keeps that information close.  There are a number of very, very important reasons for his secretiveness, but don't fret, readers, as all will be divulged in the September issue of Conde Nast Traveler.

But one thing we can tell you.  We're having a contest based on Mark's final, final international stop before completing his around the world journey.  One lucky winner will win a trip for two to Palm Springs.  Click here for details.

Italy, Spa Life, STUNTS

The Naked Truth About Spas and Germans

Relaxing_in_the_hot_tub

Getting the feet -- and everything else -- wet at Vigilius Mountian Resort.

Wir sollen Uns unbeschrenkt uber Nacktheit unterhalten.

The above sentence is German for, "It is now time we had a frank and open discussion about nudity." There's a good reason it's in German.

Let me paint you a picture: It is early evening at the Vigilius Mountain Resort, a hotel and spa complex Monte San Vigilio in Italy's South Tyrol. I have just returned from my triumphant via ferrata assault on Mount Fenberg. Though it is not the cheapest hotel I have stayed at on this generously funded circumnavigation, the Vigilius is the one I like best. It is modern, both starkly and warmly. To behold its neat interior vistas is to rinse the mind of clutter.

Continue reading "The Naked Truth About Spas and Germans" »

Italy, STUNTS

Scaling the Via Ferrata in South Tyrol

South_tyrol_80days
Yikes!

Italy isn't a very big country, but a lot changes as you drive north.  The economy picks up, for one thing. Northern Italy, many people say, is the tugboat that pulls Italy along, while southern Italy is the anchor. The Po Valley, which runs from the Italian Alps into the Adriatic near Venice, is one of the most industrialized regions on the planet. If you keep driving north of the Po Valley, people start speaking German, but you're still in Italy. It's fair to say that more changes in one hour of highway driving in Italy than in one day of highway driving in Nebraska.

Continue reading "Scaling the Via Ferrata in South Tyrol" »

Food and Drink, Gear, Italy, STUNTS

Getting Respect From the Florentine Hordes

Segway_florence_2
Ciao, baby!

Things started going wrong for Florence about a thousand years ago, when a very important man named Hugo--a margrave, no less--decided he wanted to live in Florence instead of the then capital, Lucca, a decision which brought on a period known as The Golden Age of Florentine Art. Half a millennium later, A guy named Lorenzo di Medici started running the show and throwing serious money at local artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci (best known for his thrilling novel, "The Da Vinci Code") and Botticelli. Pretty soon, all the talk was about Florence: The architecture! The paintings! The sculptures! The ravioli!

Continue reading "Getting Respect From the Florentine Hordes" »

Food and Drink, Italy, STUNTS

When to Choose Espresso Over Cappuccino (and Other Italian Rituals)

Makethatalarge_80days
Make that a large

Thanks in great part to Starbucks, we have become a culture of Italian-style coffee drinkers. We drink cappuccinos, we pour honey into caffe lattes and sprinkle cinnamon on top, and a few of us even know the words "espresso macchiato," which is a quarter of an inch of mud-like coffee topped with a little milk and a tiny dollop of foam. Or at least that's the definition I'm going with. The very concept of macchiato is troubled by controversy.

Continue reading "When to Choose Espresso Over Cappuccino (and Other Italian Rituals)" »

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