It's not enough for some people to just see the world. Certain individuals feel compelled to see the world in faster, longer, tougher, crazier ways. As I write this, two English guys are puttering across five continents in their attempt to break the world's record for longest tuk-tuk ride. Austrian Felix Baumgartner broke three world records in his recent skydive from 24 miles above Earth.
Not to brag, but I personally hold a rather bad-ass (but sadly unrecognized) world record for 'Most countries visited without vomiting', which currently stands at 47 over an uninterrupted 19 year period. (It would be 48 countries if not for an extravagant case of food poisoning in Essaouira, Morocco in 1993.)
All this liveliness and debatable sanity isn't really a surprise given that the urge to break world records transcends all activities and disciplines - so why not travel? With unlimited time and money, one could conceivably break just about any travel world record, but what about the rest of us? Here are a few well-documented travel world records that anyone with the proper resolve and/or high-functioning psychoses could break.
All one really needs here is obsessive organizational abilities, above average running stamina and some luck. The goal of the Tube Challenge is simple: visit all 270 stations in the London Underground network in the shortest amount of time. Key to this, and why running stamina is important, is that one is only allowed to connect between stations on foot and/or other forms of public transport (no bikes or private cars). The current record stands at 16 hours, 29 minutes and 13 seconds set on 27 May 2011 by Andi James and Steve Wilson of the United Kingdom.
No sweat. Rent a scooter, pack a bag of Mars bars and Red Bull, ride to the top of the tallest mountain on the continent, turn around and start the timer. For the moment, this record is held by siblings Jason Chalmers and Tamlyn Locke who each rode stock PGO X-Hot 125cc scooters from Johannesburg, South Africa to Majtiesfontein in the Western Cape, a distance of 1176.9 kms (735.5 miles). They were plagued by technical problems and road construction slow downs, so this record is definitely in jeopardy with some careful planning.
If the tedium of keeping a scooter upright at slow speeds for 24 hours seems too ambitious, this low-impact record is probably yours for the taking. The record is currently held by Brian Stine who rode 2969.5 kms (1,845.16 miles) using a series of regular trains and bullet trains between Teshio-Nakagawa and Kagoshima-Chuo, Japan. The main caveat for this one is that you're not allowed to duplicate any part of the journey, so finding a large country with high-speed rail is key.
The best part about this one is that all you have to do is show up and have a good time. The current record was set on Jan 1, 2008 on and around Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Officials calculated that more than four million people attended these festivities, which included a fireworks display that lasted nearly 20 minutes. Let us know if you decide to actually plan the world's biggest party. We'll bring dip.
For some very small and/or flexible people, the tired joke of asking others to bring them on their trips in their suitcase is not entirely farfetched. Acrobatic contortionist Leslie Tipton not only fits into a suitcase, but she's a quick packer – of herself. She holds the world record for fastest time to climb into a suitcase and zip it shut, which she did in a nimble 5.43 seconds.
A lot of endurance records require independent wealth, years of planning and/or demoralizing corporate sponsorship, but this particular record should be breakable for anyone with a superior level of fitness, some banked vacation time and maniacal amounts of determination. Also, what a pretty ride! Cornel Dobrin holds the current record, biking the roughly 7,200 kms (4,473 miles) from English Bay, Vancouver to St. John's, Newfoundland in 24 days. That's an average of about 290 kms (180 miles) per day. According to Dobrin, the loneliness and weather were the worst parts, so bring friends and be ready to get wet.
And because reasonably attainable Guinness-recognized world records are so few in number, I've added a few of my own:
Longest check-in at airport counter with 70 people waiting behind you
The current record is 23 minutes, held by an anonymous Egyptian woman that was right in front of me when I flew Minneapolis to Paris last year. She was travelling with her infirm mother and they had seven suitcases between the two of them, several of which were over-weight, an issue she attended to by unpacking and repacking her bags right there at the check-in counter while we all waited. Assuming you're comfortable with the possibility of being lynched in an airport, this an easily breakable world record.
Most consecutive hours sleeping on a public bus
This record must be unaided by alcohol or pharmaceuticals of any kind, of course. One would be allowed grace periods of consciousness after hard stops, really loud noises and whatnot, but they must fall back to sleep within five minutes or they're done. Not only would this be an admirable world record, I think this qualifies as a superpower.
What travel world records would you like to break?
Leif Pettersen is a Lonely Planet author, freelance travel writer and polyglot. He’s visited 48 countries (so far) and can be found @leifpettersen.