One way to travel the world is to take part in endurance events. Some of you already do this and some of you will be doing this on some level. If you're anything like me, you want to go where most tourist don't go, want to explore new places, want the next cool place or distance to race, and want to travel.
So here are some endurance events beyond the standard marathon that will inspire the adventurer in you! As you know, my lists never contain all the greats, so let me know what some of your favorites are that I missed in the comments!
The Barkley Marathons is a a near mystical race. You have to figure out how to apply to get in, and when and if you do, you will not pay an entry fee, but you may be asked to bring the race director a new flannel shirt, some jeans, or whatever he made need more of that year. If you're a newb, you will also be required to bring a license plate of your home state. Throughout the race, you will run loops where you have to switch directions, find your own way, and bring a page of books hidden along the course to prove you didn't cheat. Only 14 runners have ever finished with a total of 17 total finishes since its inception. Good luck.
The Arctic Ultra Follows the Yukon Quest trail, which is considered the hardest dog sled trail in the world. You won't be dog-sledding. You can choose between the marathon, 100-miler, 300-miler, and the 430-miler, and if you choose the longer races, you can bike, ski, and run. Temperatures are extreme (oftentimes down to -50C), and the wind and fresh snow can howl across the course, adding an extra challenge even though the trails are well-marked. It's beautiful, it's tough, and you have to have some survival skills and know how to prevent or treat frostbite before you race. There are checkpoints and people on snowmobiles and you can rent gear so you don't have to worry about hauling a bike or skis up there. The tradeoff? It's really pretty!
Looking for something a little...warmer? How about humidity up to 100% in the Peruvian Jungle? This 230k ultra marathon will test you in the opposite way. You are expected to bring your own tent and hammock as reprieve from the intense terrain as you drop down over 10,500 feet. Look out for jaguars, monkeys, and a menagerie of other exotic and beautiful animals over the five stages of your race. You'll be glad when you get that celebratory drink as you cross the finish line.
This Costa Rican mountain bike race is like doing the Leadville 100 three days in a row. Many consider it to be the toughest mountain bike race in the world. You will ride from coast to coast, testing you in three ways: distance, geography, climate. National geographic also considers this one of the bio-diverse routes/regions on the planet, so you can expect to see some pretty spectacular wildlife. This is not geared towards beginner riders. Experienced cyclists from all over the world come to try and conquer the Ruta. Bridges, river gorges, volcanoes, jungle...all will guide challenge and tempt you to the finish line!
This is a series of races that vary in distance, but the race is roughly the same. Done primarily in teams, the mother-load of all races in the Swimrun series where teams of two swim and run between 26 different islands in Sweden. You have to be fast in the water to finish between the allotted time: Dawn to dusk. The total distance is only 75k, but don't be fooled. It's far from easy. Put together a team that can conquer trail running and open-water swimming whilst transitioning 52 times. CNN ranked this as on eof the toughest endurance races in the world, but if you think you got what it takes to swim, run, swim, run, swim, run...in one of the most beautiful places, this might just be for you.
Other Notable Mentions NOT to be missed:
Marathon des Sables (http://marathondessables.co.uk/)
Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (http://utmbmontblanc.com/en/)
6633 Ultra (http://www.6633ultra.com/)
Alaskaman Extreme Triathlon (http://www.akxtri.com/)
Patagonian Expedition Race (http://www.patagonianexpeditionrace.com/)
So I am DYING to know which of these you have done! Which ones do you want to do? What did I miss? Weigh in in the comments below and if you want in on a few other endurance expeditions, I do and will be having some spots open up for some tough-to-get-into expeditions JUST FOR YOU! So join the expedition team (totally free and no spam or anything) below for those entries and deals!