California Couple Completes Ultimate Around the World Journey using Princess Cruises

The Trekking the Planet expedition uses travel as a way to get kids excited about geography. Eight hundred fifty classrooms in 20 countries have subscribed to their educational materials.
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Darren and Sandy at Mt. Fitz Roy, Argentina
Darren and Sandy at Mt. Fitz Roy, Argentina
ANAHEIM, Calif. - April 4, 2013 - PRLog -- Fourteen months ago, Darren and Sandy Van Soye, residents of Orange County, CA, embarked on a 424-day expedition to explore the people, customs, history, economics, topography, animals and nature of 53 countries on six continents. The couple’s goal was to get students excited about geography by exposing them to interactive and highly-visual educational materials. Eight hundred fifty classrooms in 20 countries, representing 55,000 students, followed their journey over the Internet. “We decided that we would stay as close to the ground as we could,” says Darren Van Soye, co-founder of Trekking the Planet. In total, the Van Soyes traveled 77,000 miles or the equivalent of three times around the earth at its equator.

The couple left San Diego, California, on January 28, 2012 aboard the Pacific Princess. “We used cruise ships to get us between continents so that we could see more of the world,” says Sandy Van Soye. Indeed, the couple spent 97 days at sea, visiting 35 ports along the way in 18 countries -- all on Princess Cruises. From San Diego, it took 29 days to reach Sydney Australia. Along the way, they visited Hawaii, American Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand. After a seven-day trek in Tasmania, the team boarded the Ocean Princess (another one of Princess’ small ships) and traveled along Australia’s eastern coast. En route, Darren and Sandy visited the Great Barrier Reef, the city of Darwin, the island of Bali, Indonesia, and Ko Samui, Thailand, before arriving in Singapore.

The couple traveled another eight months visiting 27 more countries in Asia, Europe and Africa before boarding the Pacific Princess in Rome. From there, they journeyed through the Mediterranean and crossed the Atlantic Ocean, sailing up the Amazon River all the way to Manaus, Brazil. “The Amazon was definitely on our bucket list,” says Darren. “We made it a point to travel another 285 miles up a tributary of the Amazon to a place called Xixuau.” After two months and another 4,600 miles on dry land through South America, Darren and Sandy boarded the Star Princess in Valparaíso, Chile, for their fifth and final cruise home.

At the heart of Trekking the Planet are a series of multiple day hikes, or treks. The team selected treks that would allow them to show students the natural beauty or unique people of a given area. Over the entire journey, the Van Soyes trekked 470 miles to some of the most remote places on the planet. Some of their most-memorable treks were in the Mustang Region of Nepal, above the Arctic Circle on the Kungsleden trail in Northern Sweden and the “W” in Torres del Paine, Chile. “Of all of our hikes, my favorite was the four-day trek we took in Petra with an outfit called Adventure Jordan,” says Darren. “Most people see the iconic Treasury first as they enter the site from the main east entrance. But, because we entered it from the west, we reached The Treasury late in afternoon, after the crowds had left. It was spectacular!”

The couple agrees that their favorite country was Kenya because of its rich cultural and natural sights. “It is a place that kids of heard of, so it was a pleasure to go there and talk more about it,” says Sandy. The husband and wife team were also able to visit three schools there – one in the Maasai Mara and two more in the Samburu region. In total, Darren and Sandy spoke at 16 schools in eight countries during their 14-month journey. Of the 97 cities and towns they visited, the biggest surprise was Riga, Latvia. “There was just so much to see and do here and, though it is a capital city, it was relatively inexpensive,” says Sandy.

Now that the expedition is complete, teachers have open access to a library of 60 four-page education modules available as supplements to existing classroom materials. In addition, the Trekking the Planet website contains articles, quizzes and over 70 documentary videos -- all free of charge. The team continues to use Twitter and Facebook to publicize their upcoming speaking engagements, as well as information about their future projects to bring geography to life.

Studies show that American knowledge of geography is one of the worst in the world. In one study, U.S. young adults finished eighth out of nine countries, and, in another study, 29% could not locate the Pacific Ocean on a map. Trekking the Planet hopes to help educators change these statistics for future generations.


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