40K Far Away: Who went farthest?

Frequent Miler's 2019 40K to Far Away Challenge is done! Greg, Nick, and Stephen competed to see who could go farthest with 40,000 points and $400! Click here for contest results and next steps.

a man lying on a bed with a child on his back
Nick traveled the farthest and made a play for reader’s votes with this unforgettable photo of his son meeting him at the finish line.

While Stephen finishes up the last couple of days of his trip, we’re each working on wrapping up our 40K to Far Away posts.  In addition to detailed trip reports, each of us will present an accounting: exactly how much did we spend in points and cash for everything (this includes food, tipping, subways, etc.)?

In the meantime, we’re ready to present the total distance traveled by each of us (in Stephen’s case, it assumes that he’ll finish his plans).  These distances do not include “around town” travel.  For example, the numbers below do not include Nick’s 30 mile bike ride to nowhere.  They don’t include Stephen’s many 10 mile treks around town.  They don’t include my driving tours of Johannesburg and Cape Town.  And, in at least one case, we substituted a nearby airport for the actual city visited (we replaced Boom Belgium with Antwerp) in order to estimate distances using Great Circle Mapper.

And the distance-winner is… Nick!

We each traveled at least this far:

  • Nick: 19,619 miles
  • Greg: 18,037 miles
  • Stephen: 12,584 miles (expected)

Don’t forget: Distance isn’t everything!  We will be holding a reader poll later this week so that readers can decide who really won overall.  Considerations should include not just distance, but also quality of travel, activities & experiences, and how well we ate and slept.

Nick’s Travel: 19,619 miles

a map of the world with red lines

Nick flew from DC to Chicago to Honolulu, then to Tokyo Narita, then to Bangkok to Brisbane Australia, then to Christchurch to Nelson, to Auckland New Zealand, and finally to Alofi Niue.

I’m looking forward to Nick’s accounting post that will show how he used his points and cash to go so far!

Greg’s Travel: 18,037 miles

a map of the world with red lines

I flew to West Virginia, then back to DC, then took a bus to NYC, then flew to Madrid. From Madrid, I flew to Dakar Senegal, then to Bamako to Addis Ababa to Johannesburg. From Johannesburg I took a train (and, inadvertently a bus too) to Cape Town. Finally I flew to Johannesburg to Addis Ababa to Mahe’ Seychelles.

It’s worth noting that I still have two “throw-away” flights waiting for me in February.  If I fly Chicago to Houston, and then Houston to Chicago with those tickets, then that will add 1,889 miles to my total.  That would push my grand total up to 19,926 miles which would edge out Nick’s total by about 300 miles.  All that said, I haven’t flown those legs and probably won’t so it’s not fair to count them in my total.

Full accounting details can be found here: How Greg toured Madrid & Africa for 40K points and $400.

Stephen’s Travel: 12,584 miles

a map of the earth with red lines

The reported mileage (12,584 miles) includes a couple of destinations not yet reached.  To-date, Stephen has traveled: DC to Newark by bus, then flew to Toronto to Madrid.  He then flew to Brussels then took a bus to Boom, Belgium (shown as Antwerp above), then returned to Brussels by bus.  He then rode another bus to Paris, then yet another bus to London (this one was transported partially by ferry).  He then took a bus to Guildford (near his home-town) and then was dropped off by car at London Gatwick airport.  From there he flew to Copenhagen, then flew to Madrid to Zurich to Newark, finally he took a bus to Atlantic City.  Of course, he’s still not done, so stay tuned for his final adventures…

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I really enjoyed Nick’s itinerary. I learned alot of about points and miles, especially the Turkish airlines sweet-spot. Greg’s was an awesome trip too, and the Seychelles all for 40K is a steal. I’m thinking about all the redemptions I squandered before I became more experienced. I really didn’t enjoy Stephen’s at all. I was trying to figure his plan and it just seemed so weird. I was hoping he’d get to Greenland or Svalbard to save the trip, but for me it was a bust. I think I did the same trip on my high school Europe trip.


Since it’s impossible to use one set of measures to judge this competition, I think it comes down to who’s got the most bragging rights. If memory serves me right…

+1 longest total distance
+1 not relying on people to provide free lodging
-1 being over budget

+1 routing through a region least familiar to North Americans (most “adventure”)
+1 demo of the excursion perk’s extreme value

+1 round trip itinerary
+1 longest duration
+1 most themed trip (staple food items & trolls)

On the last note, all three of you did a LOT more sightseeing than I originally expected this competition to involve. The amount of biking and hiking is quite impressive, and I almost wish Greg bought a Fitbit for everyone and included its stats in the final score. But while Greg and Nick appeared to be just checking out whatever they could conveniently tackle at each place, Stephen actually had a goal in the first place and (somewhat) made it a trip that a normal person would take.

Anyhow… good job to you all (and good luck, still, to Stephen). Aside from all the free money over the years, this coverage has been the best thing that’s ever come out of Boarding Area.


I’d have to say that the rules weren’t exactly clear. If there are no restrictions, then Greg wins because Nick went over budget. I think Stephen deserves credit for actually coming back to the U.S. I find the roundtrip aspect more interesting. But well done gentlemen!


“winner” for this challenge is in the eye of the beholder. as for me, I think each deserves a superlative in their own ways.

the real winner is whoever came up with this challenge! excellent idea and loved following this series.


But Greg still has an additional ORD-IAH roundtrip that came with his other flights. If he actually flies it, that’s 1,850 miles which would push him above Nick…


Nevermind. I missed that it was included in the article.

T. Jones

I’m not sure I would count the ORD-IAH roundtrip for Greg.
While it’s true that he came by the miles honestly, he ended his trip in the Seychelles. Afterwards, he enjoyed nice accommodations and flights back home that, in my mind at least, would need to be included if he was to claim the ORD-IAH flight because otherwise he would have had no access to it.
Please don’t get me wrong. I think Greg planned and executed a wonderful journey on a tight budget, but I just wouldn’t include something to which he wouldn’t have had access without the additional travel outside of said budget.


I must admit that Nick’s picture with little Reyes added some bonus points, even thought it should not.


Little Reyes a.k.a Conrad ……. Conrad the fine hotel…..:)


Stephen wins on distance. Nick and Greg are stuck at the end of the road and can’t return. (I understand the rules…..) I think not making it round trip makes the exercise odd in some ways. Kudos to all…..


So Bamako to Addis Ababa was the 2nd “1st leg of a throwaway” trip? I don’t think you ever mentioned it.


Chicago to Houston, and then Houston to Chicago are the potential throwaway trip. Bamako to Addis Ababa is part of the actual itinerary for Greg to get to Johannesburg.


Nick is the winner. Traveled the farthest and did it the most comfortably.

Stephen seems to be really slugging it. And you were in between.