Behold Steve Hely, who with (sort of) his friend Vali Chandresekaran circled the world. Their book The Ridiculous Race is subtitled, 26,000 miles. 2 guys. 1 globe. No airplanes. It didn't quite work out that way, and you'll find out why as you read the book.
Steve and Vali are writers for TV shows. So they write really well. They are single guys in their late 20s who dreamed up (they say, literally) the idea of racing one another around the world while using all forms of transportation other than airplanes. Ships, trains, autos, rickshaws, whatever, but no airplanes. They decided to race in opposite directions: Steve went West and Vali went East.
There are regular cruises that cross the Atlantic. Not so the Pacific. You just about have to go by container ship, unless you're going to drive to, like Attu, and wait for ice that you can walk or dogsled the 20 miles to Siberia upon. That has been done only once, so far as I've read. Fortunately, container ships will take passengers, so neither of our heroes took that long, icy walk.
Along the way, they also competed in an Awesomeness Contest, to gather memories and stories that would top the other. Both had visions of picking up a cosmopolitan collection of women. It didn't quite work out that way.
What they did pick up was an impressive array of means of transportation. In addition to container ship and cruise liner, they include various trains, jitneys, taxis in various states of repair, motorcycle-shaws (rickshaws with motor power), Segway (one way to see Paris). They also sampled a very impressive array of beverages. They seem to both belong to the "If I don't recall it, I must have had a good time" club.
Halfway through the roughly seven weeks they spent, they met in Moscow for a Truce Day, to see a few sights together. Most of the sights they saw together were the insides of a few bars and restaurants. They did better solo.
Both found they benefited from the kindness of strangers. There are lots of places where being foreign and ignorant of the local language can get you into lots of trouble. Being quite unlike the typical "ugly American" stereotype helped both of them. People everywhere were mostly kind, sometimes heroically kind.
Much of the funding for their trip was paid by the book publisher, Henry Holt, whose editors they sold on the idea before they left Los Angeles. After seeing a lot of the world from train windows and such, both were glad to return to American soil. Steve, in particular, thought about just how different the US is, and summed it up this way:
I got to thinking that America isn't like a bully, or a jock, or a cool kid. In the high school of the world, America is like one of those girls that's just effortlessly beautiful. So beautiful you can't even have a crush on her. A girl like that isn't deliberately mean, it's just that she can't possibly understand how lucky she is. And people always do what she wants, without her even realizing it, so she never bothers becoming smart, or savvy about the other kids in school. Just with her airhead remarks, she's always accidentally screwing up the whole order of things. She doesn't even realize it.I may just posterize that for my office door.
Now, when you have a girl like that, the other kinda-pretty girls sort of like her but sort of hate her. That's maybe Germany, or France. And the ugly girls talk about her in the locker room, but are still totally afraid of her. That's Venezuela and Iran. The regular-looking dudes can't help but be awed by her. Maybe they try to woo her with poems. That's Great Britain. And the real twisted kids develop unhealthy obsessions about destroying her, just because they're so infuriated at how unfair things are.