October 6 – Anniversary of a Human-Powered (mostly feet!) Feat

Posted October 6, 2016

On this date in 2007, adventurer Jason Lewis finished an expedition that took a looooooong time.

It took him 13 years, but he circled the entire world entirely through human powered means. He is the first to have done so...and he might be the only to ever do so!

Along the way to this accomplishment, Lewis also became one of two first people to cross the Atlantic Ocean by pedal power, the first person to cross North America on inline skates, and the first person to cross the Pacific Ocean by pedal power.

Here is how it went:

On July 12, 1994, Jason Lewis and his friend Stevie Smith left London on what they called Expedition 360. I see no record of how they crossed the English Channel – likely they pedaled a boat? – but they mountain-biked 1,700 miles through France, Spain, and Portugal. They crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Lagos, Portugal, ot Miami, Florida, pedaling a wooden pedal-powered boat for 111 consecutive days to cross 4,500 miles of ocean!

When they landed, on October 14, 1994, Smith seems to disappear from the account of crossing North America. But Lewis kept on.

Lewis roller bladed thousands of miles across the U.S. His accomplishment was very nearly wiped out by a drunk driver in Pueblo, Colorado, and he spent nine months recovering from two broken legs. But Lewis kept on. And he finished his North America journey in 1996.
Then there is a two year break. The route map (shown below) shows a jaunt down to Mexico, and I know that Lewis took odd jobs to fund his adventure. I read that he did cattle driving in Colorado and worked in a funeral parlor in Australia...but that was before and after this California sojourn.

Smith rejoins the story in San Francisco, California, in 1998. Smith and Lewis reunited with their old pedal-powered boat and spent 53 days getting from California to Hilo, Hawaii. Smith took off again, this time for good.

Lewis and a group of supporters hiked across the Big Island of Hawaii. Another 80 miles checked off the list.

For the first time, Lewis started to pedal across the ocean alone. Traveling from Hawaii to Tarawa took 72 days of solo pedaling. I am assuming there was a bit more of a break at that point; in 2000, the pedal-boat's builder, Chris Tipper, joined Lewis to help pedal a 1,300-mile stretch from Tarawa to the Solomon Islands. At that point another supporter stepped in to help with then next 1,450 miles, crossing the Coral Sea from the Solomon Islands to Australia. That took about a month; Lewis arrived in Australia during what I always think of as summer (June or July of 2000), but what is winter “down under.”

Another pause to regroup and perhaps earn money. In 2001, Lewis crossed Australia by bike. He traveled 3,500 miles in 88 days, traveling with a group of supporters.

Another pause. Fundraising! Finally Expedition 360 was relaunched with ye olde pedal-powered boat in 2005. This time Lewis pedaled with Lourdes Arango, traveling 450 miles from Darwin, Australia, to Dili, East Timor. At some point near Australia, they were attacked by a crocodile, but of course they survived! Once in East Timor, Lewis switched to a kayak and traveled thousands of miles from island to island, traveling through the Indonesian archipelago and to Singapore.

In 2006 Lewis biked from Singapore to the Himalaya Mountains, and then he hiked and biked through the Himalayas to Mumbai, India. It took him 46 days of pedaling with another friend to travel 2,000 miles from Mumbai to Djibouti.

The next part of the planned route would have taken Lewis through Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, and the Middle East, back into Europe. Actually, this part didn't go too smoothly. Authorities wouldn't let him kayak here or mountain-bike there. He was arrested on suspicion of spying. He completed this section by illegally traveling, partly at night. By the way, during his time in Sudan, Lewis came across actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, who were doing the Long Way Down motorbike trip.

In July 2007, Lewis reached Syria; he bicycled across Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Austria, Germany, and Belgium. And then finally back to the United Kingdom and London.

Goal achieved! Lewis had traveled 360 degrees, more than 46 thousand miles, and survived multiple adversities -- attacks and accidents and an arrest -- and several illnesses.

Jason Lewis has written several books and has visited more than 900 schools in 37 countries, giving talks to students about world citizenship and zero carbon emission travel. He also works to get students involved in programs connected to global sustainability.

By the way, it's interesting to note that before Expedition 360, Lewis had never crossed an ocean before and had never roller bladed, kayaked, or rode a bike for more than a few miles!


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