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What Is An Expedition?

… and what isn’t.

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“It’s not a tour, it’s an expedition.”

That’s what the tour operator kept telling me over and over again.

I was in San Pedro de Atacama in the north of Chile inquiring about a tour to the salt flats in Bolivia. Basically, you go out on a set route in a Jeep with a bunch of other backpackers for a specified amount of days.

“It’s not a tour, it’s an expedition.”

She said it again.

But it wasn’t an expedition, it was a tour.

I joined The New Silk Road Project — a trip by Jeep along the New Silk Road from London to Yiwu for the purpose of finding out what’s going on. I call it an expedition, but I really had to think about the definition of the word first.

What is an expedition?

[ek-spi-dish-uh n]
an excursion, journey, or voyage made for some specific purpose, as of war or exploration.

An expedition is a form of self-powered travel that is for the purpose of accomplishing a defined objective to discover something, understand something, or accomplish something. Typically, an expedition will be an undertaken that has either not been done before or is not routinely attempted — trail blazing is a necessary ingredient — and will seek to in some way push the bounds of human understanding or knowledge.

So is the New Silk Road Project an expedition?

You tell me.

Project update

Charles and Tom are now two weeks into their two month journey across Eurasia. So far they’ve visited and conducted interviews in Rotterdam, Duisburg, Berlin, Warsaw, Mala, Budapest, Belgrade, Athens, Piraeus, and are now in Istanbul. In other words, they’re doing it.

I plan on meeting up with them in Baku and taking the ferry across the Caspian Sea with them to Kazakhstan.


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Filed under: New Silk Road, Travel Philosophy

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3717 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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