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Interview with a Mobile Lawyer on the Ultimate Train Challenge

Michael Hodson, known online as the Mobile Lawyer, decided to leave his job as an attorney in 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. For 16 months, over 6 continents and through 44 countries, he did just just that. For his next project he will be racing 7 travel bloggers as they attempt to travel from Lisbon to Ho Chi Minh by rail alone. We got to ask him how the challenge came about and what he rates his chances of winning as!

Ultimate Train Challenge – who, what, where & why?

The Ultimate Train Challenge was a concept that I developed a few months ago. I have been a huge train fan for quite some time and was looking for a new sort of travel challenge after I got back from my round-the-world trip without ever flying in 2008-10. My mind wandered to the question: “What is the world record for longest continuous train journey?” And so, the Ultimate Train Challenge was born.

I have invited a number of great travel bloggers to join me in Lisbon, Portugal for a 1 month train journey that starts on September 1st and ends at the end of the month in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Everyone is free to take whatever route they want to get to the finish line. The person or team that ends up in Ho Chi Minh with the most miles traveled by rail will be deemed “the winner,” although it is meant to be more fun than deadly serious. We'll add some fun side competitions like a huge month long scavenger hunt and other competitions and hopefully people will love following along.

Lisbon to Ho Chi Minh – why these destinations?

Well, part of the annoying thing about having a love for train travel is that it seems there is less and less train track to choose from as each year goes by. Eyeballing it, Lisbon to Ho Chi Minh is about as far as you can go on a train only trip, so that was the reason we chose that route, since we are trying to set the informal and fun record for longest continuous train journey.

Have you had any previous experience with train adventures?

My RTW trip without flying was my first real oddball adventure trip and this one will be my second (more to come in 2012). I've got a reasonable amount of train experience, since it is my favorite mode of transport, but nothing wacky like this in my past. I can't wait for all the things that are destined to go wrong and provide great stories!

How do you rate your chances of beating the others? Any tactics or dirty tricks up your sleeve?

Well, I am a lawyer and previously had a career in politics, so I could reach into my very full bag of dirty tricks and pull something out, but I think I'll likely refrain. I am actually more excited about trying to win the scavenger hunt and be the person that collects up the most of the really unique things that we've got to pick up. Speaking of which, we are looking for more ideas on our forum.

Your twitter handle is @mobilelawyer – do you miss the law? Does it come in handy whilst on the road?

This will surprise people, but I actually do. I was a litigation attorney (things like criminal defense, personal injury and employment discrimination) and I absolutely loved getting up in front of a judge or jury and arguing. The problem was that almost everything settles, so those opportunities are few and far between. Then again, I should be grateful that is the case, because if I was somehow able to do a jury trial a month, I'd be still doing that and not traveling.

You’ve been to 44 countries  - could you pick your top 5?

Ahhhhh, "Top" lists. One of the banes of my existence, but I like you so here goes. There are so many ways to do "Top Countries," so mine will be top countries to visit for a couple weeks as a tourist.

Colombia - This is going to be the "It" country in Latin America soon, so go hit it now. Incredible people and a wide variety of things to do and see.

Namibia - The wildlife parks are great and the Namib Desert with its sand dunes are amazing sights.

Turkey - Istanbul is one of my favorite big cities and then you can add the coastal towns, history sites and Cappadocia.

Cambodia - Angkor Wat is spectacular and the beaches are what Thailand used to be like, before mass tourism.

New Zealand - Colombia has the friendliest people in the world, except for the Kiwis. I have never been killed with so much kindness, and there is an endless variety of outdoor activities in this tiny country.

If you could only live in 1 place for the rest of your life where would it be and why?

New Zealand, because it is heaven. Every single person I know that has gone there puts it at the top of their list and I am one of the herd on that one. But, no one else should think about relocating there, so they don't run out of resident visas before I get there.

Ultimate travelling accessory?

I am tempted to say my computer, because it is a necessity while I try to make a living traveling, but for me it is my iPod. Since I normally travel almost exclusively overland, I end up on some incredibly long bus rides and such and having the ability to pop in those headphones and listen to my music or podcasts is vital for me.

Dream train journey?

Well, the Ultimate Train Journey is pretty dreamy, isn't it??!! But aside from that one, I want to take the iron ore train in western Africa, then head up to Morocco and cross the Sahara on camelback. Wait... I think I just gave up one of my secret 2012 travel adventures...

.. and then Michael stops speaking before we can squeeze anymore secrets out of him! If you want to see how heavenly New Zealand is for yourself or for more information on any of the other destinations Michael mentions we can help you with that! The number to call is 0208 045 4186.

Written by Jayne Gorman

Jayne is a latte-loving travel and lifestyle blogger who has travelled to more than 60 countries and spent the last 10 years writing about it.  She’s called London, Sydney, Melbourne and (very briefly) New York home – but don’t ask her to rank them. Often found brunching or scoping out boutique hotels – now with a mini explorer in tow.

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