For years I had fantasized about visiting all seven continents on a once-in-a-lifetime-trip, but until recently it remained an elusive journey. Then the stars aligned and I was able to patch together a wild adventure from the USA to Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, South America and Antarctica in just seven days.
The prospect of all those hours sitting upright was daunting. The price almost killed the plan. But say the stops aloud: Athens, Moscow, Singapore, Melbourne, Johannesburg, Santiago and . . . ANTARCTICA! The excitement and exhilaration would definitely overwhelm the expense and exhaustion.
Most destinations – despite the long hours to get to each – would be little more than a bar hop or a dinner stop. Still, I was going to do something not one of the other 7,894,326,184 residents of planet Earth had done before: barnstorm to all seven continents in seven days.
Seat belt on, phone off, music set and off to Athens I go. It was a little bumpier ride than I had hoped with pretty mediocre food en route. Still, my mouth watered most of the trip thinking ahead about the authentic Greek cuisine I would find in Athens.
The Acropolis. The Parthenon. The Temple of Zeus. I would see none of these must-see sights. But what hungry guy wouldn’t prioritize food first? And what a meal it was from the moment the flaming fried cheese known as Saganaki arrived on the sizzling pan to an encore of baklava served with strong, rich Greek coffee. In between delectable tomatokeftedes (tomato fritters), and Moussaka. No time for the landmarks but no regrets – off to Moscow with a full belly.
Red Square. The Kremlin. St. Basil’s Cathedral. Nope. Not even time for a meal in Moscow, just a drink. I found a bar and ordered the quintessential Moscow beverage, a Mule. “Ha,” the English-speaking bartender spouted with a smirk. “You know the Moscow Mule was not invented in Moscow, it is an American drink, I am pretty sure”, he exclaimed. And soon we both learned how a clear liquor that wasn’t very popular in the States, a surplus of ginger beer, a bartender’s girlfriend who owned a cooper products company and some good old American marketing genius created the famous “Russian” drink.
First stop, the Singapore Yacht Club, where I witnessed a sunset that made the sky look like a bowl of summer fruit. The horizon filled with shades of mango, papaya, tangerine and blood orange. And for the first time since the trip began I got to sleep horizontally, in a real bed, with a view of the water. Well rested, with time still on my side, I spent the next morning exploring forested trails and the afternoon loitering in art galleries before hustling on to the next exotic locale.
I enjoyed a decent meal en route so I didn’t need any calories, but I was craving a unique experience. So I typed Famous People from Melbourne into a search and decided my limited time there would be finding out what I could about Melbourne’s own George “Kid” Lavigne, the world’s first lightweight boxing champion. The historical society offered a wonderful exhibit on this colorful, talented character along with a plethora of intriguing historic Melbourne photos and stories.
Sticking with the theme of “famous people from” and needing a little outdoor activity after the long haul to Johannesburg, my goal became to find a great golf course in honor of South Africa’s three-time Masters champion, Gary Player. I found a very challenging course just outside of Jburg and joined three others for 18 holes. Each player had a great Gary Player story to share, and one of them had actually met Player at The Masters.
Alright – I admit it – en route to Santiago I began asking myself WHY did I spend my last week of vacation and X thousand dollars to do this? I was exhausted and tired of sitting. It seemed like I would just go and go and go and then when I arrive somewhere it is time to go again. And the stop in Santiago was to be the shortest of all! But, when I arrived there I felt a REVIVAL . . . for it was then time to transit to Terra Incognita, the uninhabited kingdom of icebergs, penguins and part-time scientists.
Watching massive icebergs calving while getting hit by polar blasts and sea mist was powerful, but it didn’t compare to the thrill of going nose to beak with king penguins. The world’s second largest penguin species is colorful, charismatic, curious and quite athletic. They have been known to dive down nearly 1,000 feet and stay underwater up to ten minutes. They dive to feed and since half the penguins that zipped and zoomed by me had fish or squid in their beaks they were quite content and a pleasure to watch.
The Turning Point
I visited each place mentioned in this story, in the order written. I ate, drank, and enjoyed every activity described. Every picture was taken on this trip. But what neglected to tell you is this entire trip was done in the state of Michigan.
Athens, Moscow and Johannesburg are small communities you will find on a map. Singapore and Melbourne were alive and well 100 or so years ago but are now ghost towns. There really is a Singapore Yacht Club on Lake Michigan today near the spot Singapore, Michigan thrived more than a century ago. Kid Lavagne was the legitimate world lightweight boxing champion from the former mid-Michigan sawmill town of Melbourne. Santiago is a rural crossroads with a small street sign between crop farms.
As for those Antarctic king penguins, they’re alive and well in a world-class exhibit at the Detroit Zoo. And you can put your nose right to the to the glass and watch them zoom through acrylic tunnels inside a million-liter aquatic zone.
Alright, so I went around the world in Michigan, not exactly around the world, but if you’ve read this far you probably enjoyed the ride. It just goes to show you can probably find a whole world right in your backyard, too.