We take global travel for granted in the 21st Century. These days you can buy a round the world ticket from an airline with very little fuss, but in Victorian times the very notion of such a voyage – even on land and sea – would have been quite a feat. And talk of double decker aircraft and multi currency travel cards would have been laughed at in the 1800s.
When Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days was published in 1873 it was a source of wonder for many readers who could only dream of the lands encountered by the protagonist Phileas Fogg. Even today it remains one of literature’s most enduring classics – combining period writing with a wider world outlook has made it a favourite across the globe and of course the source of many onscreen adaptations.
The beauty of the increased travel flexibility afforded to us by modern society is that we can – in the main – follow in Fogg’s footsteps, and in less than 80 days at that. So where would Phileas’ trail take us in the modern world?
In the book the first main leg is from London to Suez in Egypt – reached by train from London to the English coast, a boat across the channel, more trains over the continent and then a steamer across the Mediterranean. These days Eurostar will get you from London to Paris nonstop, and if you want to cut out the European sector you can hop on a plane from Heathrow to Cairo and be in Egypt within a few hours.
Bombay and Calcutta in India were the next key locations in the story. Verne would be amazed at the huge centres of population that they have grown into. Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in particular would startle the writer, with unimaginable poverty sitting alongside the glitz and glamour of what is fast becoming an economic powerhouse.
Hong Kong – then part of the British Empire – was next and the vibrant Chinese city still retains some Olde English flavours, while the Japanese metropolis of Yokohama marked the final point in Asia.
Yokohama was the starting point for the longest travel leg of Fogg’s journey – a whopping 22 days across the Pacific to San Francisco. But what a welcome sight that iconic Californian port would have been. From San Francisco it was railroad to New York – another city that continues to proudly preserve old landmarks among the bright lights and glass towers of the 21st Century. A nine day steamer crossing from New York to the UK followed by a train journey into London marked the final leg of the tour. Today a quick flight from JFK to London City and a quick DLR/Underground trip would have Phileas back at the Reform Club in plenty of time.
Should such an epic journey take your fancy make sure you travel prepared – plan your itinerary ahead and make sure you have all the right travel aids with you. A prepaid currency card is a great way to avoid carrying and exchanging various bank notes on a round the world trip.