Posted by: kshayes513 | May 22, 2010

What’s a Quest journey really like?

Questing heroes tend to go from adventure to adventure, naturally enough, since readers and gamers want the story to roll right along. So what happens during all the long days of travel in between, when our heroes don’t encounter orcs, bandits, dragons, stalk-eyed aliens or voracious giant crustaceans?

Two fascinating adventure blogs detail the day-to-day realities of a really long overland journey without motorized means of travel.

Ed Stafford in deep water. Photo: walkingtheamazon.com

Walking the Amazon English adventurer Ed Stafford started walking from the source of the Amazon in Peru, in April 2008. After 2 years, he and his comrade, Peruvian Cho Sanchez, are only 700 miles from the mouth of the great river. If they finish the journey, Ed will be the first person known to have walked the whole length of the world’s biggest river. He updates the blog weekly; and after 2 years there’s quite an archive of entries, photos, videos and Tweets as well as a GoogleEarth map of the route. If you want to know what rain forest travel is like, this may be the ultimate resource.

Riding along the ancient Silk Road, Western China. Photo: thelonghorseride.com

The Long Horse Ride English horsewoman Megan Lewis is riding across Eurasia from Beijing to London, with a varying team of Chinese and European companions.  After almost 2 years, the team is still in Western China, crossing the Gobi Desert. China is so big, though, that this puts them in the center of Asia and probably almost a third of the way along (and they’ve had to take breaks for winter and for medical reasons).  Her blog posts cover all kinds of problems, adventures and encounters both modern and ancient (like the day they were welcomed into a village as harbingers of a horse-ancestor god!) Lots of pictures, too. This is a great source for the practical details of horse travel, especially if you’re not too familiar with horses.

If your heroes are traveling oceans instead of continents, some good references might include Thor Heyerdahl’s classic Kon-Tiki, about crossing the Pacific on a reed raft, plus any number of accounts by solo sailors, including the blog of Australia’s current heroine, Jessica Watson, who just became the youngest person to sail around the world alone.

All these adventurers are traveling in the days of high tech communications. That makes it possible for them to document their journey for us; it also means they have good support systems and the ability to call in help and to raise funds for their journey. Depending on the technology available in your world, your heroes may be completely on their own except for whatever local resources they can muster.

If you want more information for pre-technological quests, try looking up Lewis and Clark, Roald Amundsen, Stanley and Livingstone, Ernest Shackleton, and two very different medieval adventurers who may be the greatest travelers of all: Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta. (Note that a disproportionate number of these adventurers come from England, including the two stars of this post. I wonder, does the travel yen have something to do with living in a small island country?)

If you have a favorite account of adventure travel, please share it in a comment.

For first-hand accounts of interplanetary or interstellar adventures, you’re on your own!

Update, August 9, 2010: Ed Stafford reached the mouth of the Amazon earlier today, after 28 months on the road. See my post made today, or just link to his blog above or to Ed Stafford.org

Update, May 17, 2015: Megan Lewis completed her transcontinental ride on September 17, 2012, arriving on the coast of Wales. You can still find the whole adventure on her blog, which has an easy to use archive tool for finding posts and dates. She is still long riding, and currently is crossing Canada on the Trans-Canada Trail. One continent and one country should be a snap after getting through all the hazards and dubious border crossings of Asia and Eastern Europe!

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