Bolivian Aymara shaman blesses offerings at Lake Titicaca
Your adventure travel guide for getting to know your Earth

What is the Know Your Earth Travel Challenge ?
Sunset in the Rub-al-Khali (Empty Quarter),
Saudi Arabia-United Arab Emirates border.
Barren-looking landscape is home to desert
foxes, lizards, snakes, flowering plants.Launch yourself on a supreme travel adventure.
Experience the Planet as few others have done:
get to know all its physical facets, cultural
dimensions and natural challenges, for this is not
a journey for the faint hearted.

The Know Your Earth Travel Challenge is a way
of getting to know Planet Earth first hand. It's a
means of encouraging a fuller geographic coverage
of the Earth, as you travel far and wide. And it should
stir and embolden the traveler to experience all the
Earth's physical aspects, as well as its cultural and
human dimensions.
Adventure travelers hike across
a ridge in Nunavut, CanadaThe Know Your Earth Travel Challenge for planetary coverage. . .

. . .goes beyond experiencing an Earth that's divided into politically separate entities and destinations (countries, states, provinces, territories, possessions, dependencies, enclaves, etc.). Man-made borders are not Earth's borders.

Earth has different boundaries to reveal herself to you. These boundaries are based on latitudes and longitudes. Adventure travelers who adopt as their goal the Know Your Earth systematic guide for navigating the Home Planet will come to appreciate and comprehend the full extent of Earth's physical, natural and cultural diversity. Here's a way for you to really get to know your Earth.

I have envisioned two kinds of systematic travel goals---the Know Your Earth Travel Challenge, and the 18-Latitude Travel Challenge (see the web page with this latter title).
The Know Your Earth Travel Challenge: Experience Earth's 54 slices
Off Graham Coast, Antarctica. Wind,
rain and differential melting rates
give icebergs surreal forms and colorsHere's how the method works:

Get a good world map (or globe) which has lines running north-south, marking every tenth meridian (every 10 degrees of longitude). The map should also have lines running east-west, marking every tenth parallel (every 10 degrees of latitude). Since the longitude lines are spaced 10 degrees apart, they divide the Earth into 36 equal "slices," each slice 10 degrees wide. Similarly, the latitude lines, spaced 10 degrees apart, divide the Planet into 18 bands, each band also 10 degrees wide.

These ten-degree-wide "slices" are a geographic guide toward the goal of visiting the entire Planet---i.e. visiting and experiencing all 54 distinctive slices (36 longitude + 18 latitude).
A 10-degree-wide longitude slice;
there are 36 such slices, as you
circle the globe 360 degreesI call the 10-degree-wide longitudinal divisions of our planet slices because they resemble slices of a watermelon (or cheese wedges, if you like). The globe at right shows one such slice of longitude, 10 degrees wide. It happens to be the slice sandwiched between 40 deg. West and 50 deg. West (Slice 40-50W, for short, always putting the lower number first). If you visit the South Orkney Islands; or Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia or Belem; or Qaqortoq in southern Greenland, you will have experienced this slice. But what a huge variation in culture, climate and landscape exists within this single slice! That's where latitude slices can enrich a traveler's appreciation of Earth (see the next globe, below).

The slice immediately west of the example shown, is the slice 50-60W. And, to the east of the example, the adjacent slice is 30-40W. So, as you circle the globe (360 degrees), you will have 36 of these back-to-back longitudinal slices. Note that all longitude slices are widest at the equator and converge to a single point at the North and South Poles. Every one of these 36 slices contains land with a human population. Visiting all of the slices is a way of sampling at least 36 different human settlements and cultures, although each of the 36 slices has more than one distinct society, way of life, and culture to be appreciated, studied and enjoyed.
A 10-degree-wide latitude slice;
there are 18 such slices between
the two PolesNow, let's deal with the 18 latitude bands (to be consistent, I'll stay with the term "slices"). As you go from South Pole (90S) to North Pole (90N), you cover 180 degrees of latitude, so there are 18 of these 10-degree-wide latitude slices on our planet's surface: 80-90S, 70-80S, 60-70S---and so forth, past the equator (0 degrees latitude)---until you reach 60-70N, 70-80N and 80-90N.

The globe at left shows one such slice of latitude. It is the slice sandwiched between 10 deg. South and 20 deg. South (Slice 10-20S, for short). Visit anywhere around the world, within this slice, and you could find yourself in Bom Jesus da Lapa, Poopo, Pisco, Fakarava, Anaa, Erromango, Borroloola, Baa, Analalava, Moroni, Zomba, Xangongo, or St. Helena. Are many of these towns or populated places included in your priority destination plans? No? Then, you will need to travel more!

Lying within this 10-20S latitude slice, the societies and cultures of the places I mentioned, above, are shaped by their natural environment---predominantly the tropical-humid climate type, with rainforest or savanna, or humid subtropical lands and vegetation. And they offer the visitor a diversity of cultural development and ways of living, given the environment within this 10-degree-wide latitude band. The wildlife and vegetation, too, will be those best adapted to such an environment.
Antarctica stages spectacular ice showsContrast this slice with Slice 60-70S. Here, the Planet can show you a different face: no political borders; no local currency; no native people; no cultural heritage; no hotels, casinos, shopping malls or night clubs; no commercial airports; no public transport; no cities, towns or villages; not even a single permanent human settlement. In a landscape where trees do not exist, this slice has nice ice! Magnificent ice, in astonishing shapes, sizes, and tints of blue. And thrown in with the ice, are glaciers spilling from snow-capped mountains, exposed rock towering to the sky, and wildlife species which have made this land of ice a kingdom of their very own. You, the visitor, are clearly the intruder in their realm.

Experiencing the 18 latitude slices gives you a deeper appreciation of the only planet you will ever explore. By sampling these slices, you expose yourself and your camera's image sensor to the Earth's variations in climate, geology, landscape, and wildlife---independent of any human presence and history.
Imagine commuting to work at 14,200 feet
(4,335 meters) above sea level. These women
do it daily, setting up their clothing market at
Peru's Abra La Raya mountain pass.So, get to know at least one location within each of the 36 longitudinal slices. Stay a little while; experience some of the daily life there; interact with the people who live there; savor the nature, landscape, climate, culture, and language at that location. To me, each longitudinal slice represents a different sampling of the Planet's human civilization and culture. This is the cultural aspect experienced by Phileas Fogg and Passepartout, as they went around the world in 80 days, in Jules Verne's classic novel.

As for the 18 latitude slices, remember that each 10-degree slice offers the traveler a unique aspect of the physical Earth---geologically, climatically, and in its distinct flora and fauna. This is something Phileas Fogg and Passepartout largely missed in their 80-day journey around the world. But you have no 80-day deadline. Go when you can; Earth will wait for you.
This fishmonger in Sandakan, Malaysian
Borneo had his forehead cosmetically
scarred, giving him a permanently
fearsome look.If you visit and (better still) stay a little while somewhere within each latitude slice, Earth will get really physical and show you everything it has:

From bitter cold, to sweltering heat; withering dryness, to oppressive humidity. From utter silence, to the deafening loudness of waterfalls, waves, wind, and calving glaciers; from the gentlest of breezes, to the shredding fury of a blizzard; from barren landscapes resembling the surface of Mars---and Dry Valleys that have seen no rain for at least two million years, to mountain forests so dense you cannot see the sky; from islands permanently clad in snow and ice, to islands permanently verdant with lush, tropical vegetation.

And, naturally, in each of these environments, Earth will offer you its denizens---the wildlife and plant life which make that latitude their home.
Female gentoo penguin with chick
and unhatched egg, Ronge Island,
Antarctic PeninsulaBy experiencing each of the 36 longitude and 18 latitude
slices, you can develop lasting impressions of a planet,
unmatched throughout the solar system in its astonishing
diversity---physical, biological, political, and cultural.

I write these lines with the hindsight granted by experience.
I have cut up the Planet into 54 slices but, long before
I devised the Know Your Earth Travel Challenge idea, I had
already made first-time visits to many of these slices. It has
taken a lifetime to cover 53 of them and “The Challenge”
continues to entice me. It will take some persistence to
achieve my adventure travel goal and finally experience the
54th (80-90S). It is, in my view, the most difficult slice of all.
This slice is Amundsen, Scott, and Shackleton territory.

Accepting the Know Your Earth Travel Challenge forced
me to see travel differently and to understand what it meant
to know the Earth. I did this by pushing my travel boundaries
well beyond the popular (and heavily populated), "must-see"
Tree lizard, Sarawak jungle, BorneoAm I Within the Slice
Where I Want to Be?

As long as adventure travel remains fun for you, you can get to experience all 54 slices and realize a remarkable lifetime achievement: knowing Planet Earth intimately. That's a goal for your travels and a legacy for you to leave behind.

In all likelihood, you have already visited many of the 54 slices. The order in which you tackle the remaining ones should be decided by your travel interests and priorities.

Do remember that Earth has a lot to offer the visitor beneath the waves. If a specific slice can be visited within diving or snorkelling depth---a coral reef, an underwater park, a marine reserve, a submerged geologic feature---enjoy the spectacle, wildlife, and experience of that submerged slice.
GPS says you are at
71deg 31.6' NORTH
52deg 53.1' WESTToday's hand-held GPS receivers make it ridiculously easy
to tell where you are and whether, or not, you are standing
where you want to be. At the highest latitudes, where there
is no civilization---no road signs, or markers, or natives to
give you directions---it is comforting to know that satellites
are watching, above, to locate you precisely. I consider the
GPS receiver, and the satellite system it relies on, to be
one of mankind's great inventions. It ranks alongside the
electric light bulb, the wrist watch, and the radio telephone.
They solve admirably four eternal human problems:
I need to see. What time is it? Where am I? How do I let
others know?