November 14, 1889: Nellie Bly Begins her Trip Around the World

“Why not?” the thought came: “I need a vacation; why not take a trip around the world?”

It is easy to see how one thought followed another. The idea of a trip around the world pleased me and I added: “If I could do it as quickly as Phileas Fogg did, I should go.”

Then I wondered if it were possible to do the trip in eighty days and afterwards I went easily off to sleep with the determination to know before I saw my bed again if Phileas Fogg’s record could be broken.
I went to a steamship company’s office that day and made a selection of time tables. Anxiously I sat down and went over them and if I had found the elixir of life I should not have felt better than I did when I conceived a hope that a tour of the world might be made in even less than eighty days.

I approached my editor rather timidly on the subject. I was afraid that he would think the idea too wild and visionary.

“Have you any ideas?” he asked, as I sat down by his desk.

“One,” I answered quietly.

He sat toying with his pens, waiting for me to continue, so I blurted out:

“I want to go around the world!”


And so she went. Nelly Bly brought one dress, a sturdy overcoat, several changes of underwear, a small travel bag, and £200 in bank notes. As all of America followed her cables home to the New York World, she raced around the globe on ship, train, rickshaw, sampan, horse and donkey.

“I went up to London on the morning of my arrival at Southampton, and in the evening, instead of going to bed, as I ought to have done, I took the train and went to Amiens to see Jules Verne. I took the club train, went through Calais and there caught the Indian Express to Brindisi. I did not sleep at all from Wednesday till Saturday morning. I spent about half a day at Jules Verne’s house, which was one of the most enjoyable portions of my long journey. I arrived at Brindisi on the 24th. I next touched at Port Said and Aden, and reached Colombo on December 8th, where I lost five days in waiting for the steamer. From thence I proceeded to Penang and Singapore, and arrived in Hong Kong three days ahead of time.

“I spent Christmas day in Canton, and it was a Christmas to be long remembered. We visited the great Temple of the Dead and heard the weird chanting and masses. We saw the people with the dead in the little rooms, with their offerings of fruit, tea and chow. In Hong Kong I rode about the city in a sedan chair with four coolies carrying it and a Chinese guide. I was particularly struck with the courthouse and jail of the city. In front of the jail there was a big tan game running, and inside was an opium-smoking place. The peculiarity of the jail is that they don’t close the doors.”

Nelly arrived in San Francisco with a pet monkey in tow, and was hustled through customs to a special train chartered for her by Joseph Pulitzer, waiting “with steam up” to whirl her across the continent at lightning speed.

72 days, 6 hours and 11 minutes after she set out, she arrived back in New York. Almost eight days faster than Phileas Fogg, Nelly Bly completed her record journey around the world.

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