One of the first and most classic early adventure round-the-world travel novels was Around the World in Eighty Days. The book is actually French and was first published in French in 1872. Around the World in 80 Days tells the story of one, Phileas Fogg of London, and his wager. The wager was a bet of £20,000 (half of his fortune) with his friends at the Reform Club that he could circumnavigate the world in 80 days.
The story follows Fogg and his newly employed French valet Passepartout as they set out to accomplish what no one had ever accomplished before. Fogg is a very particular character of keen mathematical planning who maps out all the latest train and steamer schedules. So is it possible to follow his route today more or less the same as he did in 1872?
The Exciting Time Of Making The World A Smaller Place
When the French writer Jules Verne first published his adventure novel in 1872, the world was in a state of change. For the first time in history, the world was truly opening up and the last corners of the world were being explored. For better or for worse the Industrial Revolution and the European Empires were bringing the world closer together like never before.
- Published: 1872
- Language: French - Translated Into English
At this time steamer ships were coming into service making sailing so much faster and the Suez Canal was built (by the French) - which cut off the need to sail all the way around Africa. At the same time, train tracks were being laid at a blistering pace all around the world opening up the interiors of countries like never before.
Against this backdrop, Jules Verne wrote Around the World in Eighty Days. But it is still defeasible to more or less travel this route? Today the political map has massively changed, gone are the European Empires and there are failed states and closed borders where there weren't any in 1872.
The Original Itinerary of Fogg In The Book
- London To Suez, Egypt: 7 Days - They Take the Rail To Italy And then A Steamer Across The Mediterranean Sea
- Suez to Bombay, India: 13 Days - Today Called Mumbai, The Steamer (Called The Mongolia) Crosses the Indian Ocean to Bombay
- Bombay to Calcutta: 3 Days - A New Rail (that Turns Out Wasn't Fully Completed
- Calcutta to Hong Kong: 13 Days - Another Steamer (the Rangoon) Around Singapore
- Hong Kong To Japan: 6 Days - Another Steamer (the Carnatic) From Hong Kong to Japan
- Japan to San Francisco: 22 Days - The Steamer (the General Grant) Across the Mighty Pacific Ocean
- San Francisco to New York: 7 Days - By Rail
- New York to London: 9 Days - By Steamer (the China) Across the Atlantic To Liverpool and then to London By Rail
Is The Route Feasible?
It turns out that one could more or less follow this same itinerary today with very little alteration (without regard to the actual schedule). The good news is that the route doesn't cross any closed borders or failed states - or states with very difficult visas.
There are no issues with taking the train from London to Italy - trains are superb in Europe and today one could even take the Chunnel under the English Channel.
If one doesn't have a private boat, then there are a few options for the voyages. The days of steamships are long over but it is possible to take cargo ships as a passenger to almost anywhere in the world. Fortunately, the ports mentioned in the book are some of the world's largest and busiest ports in the world today.
It may also be possible to take a cruise to and from some of these points, but in the absence of cruises (which are really voyages to nowhere), cargo vessels are likely to be a better bet.
While India was partitioned into Pakistan and the Republic of India, both Bombay and Calcutta remain in India and their train network is vital to the functioning of the nation today (just don't expect it to run on time).
From Japan to San Fransico, one would likely be able to find an Arctic / Alaska cruise that calls in at different attractions and fiords along the Alaskan coast. The railway is very much working across the United States.
Perhaps the most exciting part is that one times it right, one can take the world's last operational Oceanliner - the Queen Mary 2 across the Atlantic from New York to Southhampton in England.