Because survival is insufficient.
Station Eleven, a best-selling novel by Emily St John Mandel, features a travelling symphony preserving art after the apocalypse. Their motto? Survival is insufficient.
Mandel explains where it came from:
It struck me for a different reason.
I’m Alistair Todd. I’m from England. I’m a computer geek, a biker, a cyclist, and a petrolhead. I’ve been travelling with a goal to visit every country in the world for over 10 years.
In 2004 I read a book which started a genre and is still widely regarded as the very best of its kind. Jupiter’s Travels is Ted Simon’s masterpiece about travelling the world by motorcycle for 4 years in the 1970s, an age long before instagram and the go pro. Over 60,000 miles through war and revolution, through prisons and hippy communes, Ted Simon took a journey that showed him the way the world is but also the way he was.
Not just the best motorcycle book ever written, to many people it’s the best travel book ever written.
I couldn’t stop reading it. When I got to the end, I exhaled, grinned, and started reading it again.
It lit a fire that didn’t go out for the next 5 years as I set about becoming one of the people who don’t just dream about a journey they never make, but actually make the journey they’ve been dreaming of. For 5 years I researched and planned and learned. I took motorcycle lessons. That’s right – when I first thought “I want to ride around the world on a motorcycle”, I’d never even ridden one. I passed my test, got my licence, and bought a bike.
I rode it everywhere. I went on bigger trips, longer trips. I kept planning, and researching, and dreaming. I quit my job and got another one to try to earn more money. It didn’t work out so I quit again, moved to the other end of the country, and set up my own business. I sold everything I owned. I would stay in the office after work, poring over maps and guide books until so late at night I often didn’t bother going home.
I dismantled my Yamaha and rebuilt it, just to learn how motorbikes work. I uncovered a secret trick for obtaining a second passport, and I obtained visas for 16 countries.
On the 23rd May 2009, we hit the road.
Passing through Georgia just after there’d been a small Russian invasion, crazy people in cars tried to ram us off the road.
In Tajikistan, along the border with Afghanistan, we were robbed by soldiers carrying automatic weapons. Three times.
In Kazakhstan, a drug dealer took us into the woods with a chainsaw and a blowtorch.
In Mongolia, I crashed, hard, but by the evening of that day I was drinking and laughing with two young Mongolian cowboys who tried to teach us how to lassoo cows.
In Russia, when my bike failed at the roadside in a lightning storm, some passers-by took me into their home and treated me like family.
Crossing Siberia alone, my bike broke so badly I thought my trip was over. 1500 miles away from civilisation, I was convinced I wouldn’t make it more than 10, but I kept trying, kept fixing and mending and solving every problem that came up, and eventually reached Vladivostok where the Iron Tigers motorcycle club came to my rescue and kept alive my dream of riding around the world.
After 20,000 miles and 21 countries. I reached home knowing that life would never be the same again.
On the 1st of August 2010, life was changed again, by something quite different.
Hit by a car while cycling, I suffered what’s called a severe “traumatic brain injury”, or TBI. I nearly lost my leg, I nearly lost my sight, and I thought I’d lost any chance of ever travelling again.
I thought I would never go cycling, never be able to ride a motorbike. I definitely wouldn’t ever be able to have the kind of adventures I’d had in Mongolia or Turkmenistan.
As I regained fitness, the dreams of adventure returned. Once you’ve done a trip like that, nothing else compares. There’s an irresistible urge to plan the next journey, the next destination, the next challenge. The determination to do something new came back. The fire was lit again.
And so I vowed to keep going. I decided that my goal would be to visit every country in the world. That became this website. To See The World. It was then, and has been ever since, the one thing that motivates me in everything I do.
I bought a new motorbike and took off with hardly any plan at all to ride through Scandinavia, all the way to the arctic circle and Nordkapp (North Cape), mainland Europe’s most northerly point. Terrified at the thought of ever riding a bicycle again, I booked a flight to Vietnam to force myself past a point of no return and cycled from Saigon to Hanoi. I’m never back from a trip for more than a day or two before I start planning the next one.
When I read that line, “survival is insufficient”, it struck me straight away as the perfect explanation of my desire to keep travelling.
I’d come through a period when just surviving had sometimes seemed out of reach. Now I was getting back on with life, I knew that just surviving wasn’t enough. There had to be a purpose, a reason to keep trying. My purpose, the thing that was driving me to pick up my life again, was to visit every country, and to have more adventures along the way.
To See The World.
Because survival is insufficient.
This website brought another dimension to that goal. To share my love of travel, and all the things I’ve learned along the way about how to have more adventure, more often.
Everything that goes into this website goes through that lens. If it doesn’t help you to have more adventure, more often, it doesn’t get in. I want you to read about things that make you think “oh man I’d love to do that”, followed by “oh wow I really could do that”, and then I want you to do it.
Editor, To See The World
I’ve travelled through more than 100 countries, including every country in Europe, in all sorts of ways. Here are just a few of the adventures I’ve had:
- Ridden around the world on an old Yamaha motorcycle
- Cycled the length of Vietnam
- Been escorted by armed police through Etosha National Park
- Backpacked through Cambodia and Laos
- Driven a 4×4 up the Sani Pass in Lesotho and spent a night at the highest pub in Africa
- Learned to scuba dive in Thailand
- Climbed an active volcano in Vanuatu in the South Pacific
- Floated in a hot air balloon over the temples at Bagan in Myanmar
- Cycled through Cuba
- Camped in the desert at the gates of Hell in Turkmenistan
- Lapped the famous Nurburgring over 1000 times
- Seen lions, cheetahs and leopards on Safari in Namibia and Botswana
- Cruised along the Mekong river in Thailand and Laos
- Taken a road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way
- Spent a month mountain biking at Whistler in Canada
- Camped wild across Mongolia
- Visited Iceland in winter to see the northern lights
- Explored Kosovo, Bosnia, and Monte Negro on a motorbike
- Taken a self-drive safari camper to explore Namibia
- Visited Chernobyl while touring Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova
- Taken the world’s best train ride from Kandy to Ella in Sri Lanka
- Visited Victoria Falls and the Zambezi
- Stayed in £1500 per night overwater villas in the south Pacific
- Experienced some of the world’s best first class lounges and flown some of the world’s best first class cabins
- Taken a swim in Halong Bay, Vietnam
- Come face to face with the Moai at Easter Island
- Road-tripped all around New Zealand
- Visited the southernmost point of Africa and the northernmost point of Europe
- Cycled through Jordan and Petra
Here are the trips that are in the pipeline. Subscribe to the mailing list to make sure you don’t miss out.
- Island hopping through the Caribbean
- A road trip along the North Coast 500
- Motorcycling India and the Himalaya
- Hiking Greenland
- A luxury points & miles trip through the Vanilla Islands
- Driving the Pan-American Highway
- Exploring Tunisia and Algeria
I’ve been blogging about my travels since 2009. I’ve been published in Bike Magazine and Adventure Bike Rider.