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The World's Wackiest Ways to Get Around

IN THE AIR

clown balloon Hot-Air Balloon Animals
Whimsical, sure, but there's nothing particularly odd about traveling by hot-air balloon -- except perhaps when the balloon is Van Gogh's painted head in all its homeliness, his wavy wrinkled face seeming to scowl at the other balloons sailing by. Sad clowns, laughing dragons, winking fish and other oddly shaped balloons make their way around the festival circuit, making major stops at events such as the Discovery Channel's annual festival in Bristol, England, or the Balloon Fiesta in Leipzig.

Into (Sub)Orbit
On a more cosmic scale, the idea of civilians travelling via spaceship was until recently seen as improbable, impractical and absurdly dangerous. While practicality and safety are still being debated, very wealthy people are now traveling to space. Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic has opened up the queue to fly into the stratosphere with Virgin Galactic. Virgin's tickets cost $200,000 at the moment, with a minimum deposit of $20,000.

The rub is that Virgin Galactic's (over 300,000 feet) flights are sub-orbital in nature. That means you ascend to a certain altitude, experience weightlessness for a few moments and return to earth. Space Adventures, on the other hand, currently offers the only legitimate space vacation (flight, room and board rather than just flight) for orbital flights to the International Space Station, where you can stay for about 16 days.

BY SEA

RMS St Helena
A combination passenger vessel/working cargo ship, the RMS St. Helena (RMS stands for Royal Mail Ship) services several British overseas territories in the South Atlantic, most notably the island of St. Helena (population: 4,000). In fact, it's the only commercial ship making stops at the incredibly remote island, which lies some 1,200 miles from the west coast of Africa and 1,800 miles east of Brazil. Apart from transporting everything from goats and sheep to furniture and auto parts, the ship has 128 berths, accommodating both adventurous world travelers and homecoming residents returning to their birthplace following years spent abroad. There's no theater or casino onboard, and time is typically spent chatting during the daily high tea, reading on the top deck, engaging in silly deck games or gazing ponderously out to sea.

Visiting the island itself is of course part and parcel of the journey. Discovered by the Portuguese, annexed by the Dutch, colonized by the English East India Company, and chosen as the location of Napolean's exile and death, St. Helena has a surprisingly rich history for such a completely out-of-the-way place.

alaska ferry Alaska Marine Highway System
Alaska's Marine Highway is the Last Frontier's year-round ferry system, with about 10 ships (200 - 750 passengers) covering a route that connects 33 ports -- from Bellingham in Washington State all the way up to Skagway and the Aleutians -- over thousands of nautical miles. Established over 40 years ago, the "Blue Canoes" have cafeterias and cabins, but little else.

Many passengers -- both locals and tourists -- choose to bring their own food, and rough it in sleeping bags in the heated solariums or camp out on deck in the tent cities that appear nightly. Pets are also welcome.

No other Alaska option really allows for the opportunity of year-round travel. Winter sailings -- where the temperatures may average in the teens or low 20's -- provide the opportunity to witness the spectacular aurora borealis.

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    --written by Dan Askin

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