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Nov. 14, 1889: Nellie Bly begins first round-the-world trip in fewer than 80 days

Kelly O'Mara
November 14, 2013
on this date
New York World, public domain - Wikimedia Commons

On Nov. 14, 1889 at 9:40 a.m., Nellie Bly began an around-the-world trip designed to beat Jules Verne’s fictional Around the World in 80 Days.

Bly, who was born Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, was a journalist who also faked her own insanity to write an expose on mental hospitals. Her around-the-world trip was sponsored by her paper, The New York World. The rival New York paper Cosmopolitan sponsored their own writer to attempt to beat both the fictional account and Bly’s effort. Readers were asked to predict her arrival for a chance to win their own trip to Europe.

Traveling unchaperoned and with just a small travel bag and a little over $300, Bly went through England, France, the Suez Canal, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and Japan and arrived back in New York on Jan. 25, 1890 – 72 days, six hours and eleven minutes after she left.

Her trip was a world record only briefly, beaten a few months later by George Francis Train, who did it in 67 days. In 1913, the record was dropped to just 36 days.

Today, it would take far less time. Travelers can simply purchase an around-the-world ticket for $3,000 to $10,000 typically. Star Alliance and One World offer the most popular versions, which allow a user to customize an itinerary by segments and stops. And, you don’t have to do it in 80 days. Tickets, generally, are good for a year.