Incredible Time Lapse Video: “Speeding Around the World in Under 5 Mins”

In this fantastic time lapse video by Kien Lam, the photographer moves through incredibly diverse landscapes across 17 countries in just 343  days, in order to create a hauntingly beautiful tribute to the constant ebbs and flows of movement that governs both time and space.

According to Lam, who spent most of 2011 exploring, spontaneity was key to planning his epic adventures across four continents: “After I quit my job last year, I packed a bag, grabbed my camera and bought a one way ticket to London. 17 countries later, I compiled this time lapse of the many amazing places I came across.”

Below, you’ll find some frequently asked questions regarding travel from Lam’s website. A mutual friend has revealed that Lam’s been to Nepal and India recently, for the next installment of his cool videos. For all those of you who are wondering where the homage to BRIC and to Aussie parts, as well as most African nations has gone, patience, my friends! 🙂

How much did it cost to travel? To be honest, I didn’t keep close track of how much I spent, but contrary to what many people may think, the trip I did was done very economically. To give a sense of how much to budget for a similar trip, I’ll break down some basic costs. BEAR IN MIND, your cost may be different from my own. It will depend on where you want to go, how long you want to travel, and what you want to do. The largest cost is generally your transportation cost. I tried to minimize this by traveling in one direction. My initial flight from SF to London ran me around $500. After that, I found cheap flights ranging from $50-$200 between countries for the rest of the trip until I flew from Indonesia back to LA. I took buses and trains whenever possible that cost anywhere from $5 to $50 throughout most of my trip. The next two things are food and accommodations. I generally stayed in hostels or local hotels that cost between $3 – $15 a night in most locations, major metropolitan cities withstanding. An alternative is couchsurfing, where you stay with locals who like to hosts travelers. Not only do you get a free place to sleep, you get to meet someone who knows the place. As for food, I ate where the locals ate a lot of the times and on most days, spent between $6 – 20. And I eat a lot. Was this it? No. I drank. I took tours. I rented motorbikes. I scuba dived. I bought a few souvenirs. These things vary way too much to be able to summarize here. Again, it all depends on what YOU choose to do. My general budgetary guideline was taking the cost of living in San Francisco each month, which included my rent, phone bill, food, motorcycle insurance, and general experiences and tried to spend around the same or less while I was on the road. If that number came out to $1000, it’d around $33/day. $1500 and you can spend $50/day. You can do the math from here on out. I found that it ended up costing me a little less to travel around the world than to just stay put in SF.

What did you do before you quit your job? I worked as a strategist at a financial firm.

Were you sponsored to travel? No.

How did you pay for this? I saved up.

Where is ____________ [Fill in your favorite country]? This video was a collection of scenes from my travels in 2010 and 2011. As much as I wish I could have traveled to an additional 100 countries, time and budget constraints meant I had to choose between one country versus another and believe me when I say that the decision wasn’t always easy. I wish I had the foresight to start doing this with the very first country I visited. I would have been able to, at the very least, add Australia, Vietnam, Italy, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Hong Kong, and a couple others to the mix.

Where did you sleep? Hostels. Beneath the stars. On camel blankets. Under mosquito nets. In bamboo huts. On beach front bungalows. In 16 bed dorm rooms. On a felucca. Next to a stranger on the bus. In fetal position on a train. In an old palace. And sometimes not at all.

How did you get around? I always chose a balance between the most efficient and cost-effective way. You can always get advice from other travelers who have come from the city you are heading to as well as the hostels or hotels where you are staying. In South America, I traveled via overnight buses between most cities. In Europe, I took a lot of morning buses and budget airline flights. In Asia, it depended on the distance and whether the road conditions permitted night travel. In total, I took 58 buses, 19 planes, 18 boats, and 8 trains. I also hitched a ride from Portugal to Spain.

How did you plan your trip? I didn’t. I had a direction I wanted to head and a goal of following the sun to get in as many warm days as possible. 2010 was a particularly cold year in San Francisco and I just wanted to wear shorts and flip-flops as many days a possible to make up for that. I would usually figure out my next destination when I was ready to leave my current one. Sometimes it was a particular dish, sight or story that brought to the next city and sometimes it was the company I kept and our desire to travel together for just a bit longer.

Did you buy a round-the-world ticket? No. RTW tickets can be cost effective if you know the cities you’ll be heading to. Most of the time, you can change the dates, but not always the route. I didn’t have an exact plan in mind and knew I’d probably be traveling overland a lot of the time, so I tried to book locally as I went and in advance whenever possible. It came out to about the same as I would have spent on a pre-purchased RTW ticket, but your mileage may vary.

What was your favorite place? This is probably any traveler’s least favorite question. It’s like asking what’s your favorite thing to eat. I love a spit-roasted lamb, but I also love sushi, and how can we forget fresh-baked cookies and a cup of milk and tacos at 2 am on the street. Maybe not at the same time. Every country honestly had a compelling case as to why it could be my favorite country, but you can’t really compare the relaxing island life on the Gili Islands to the first sight of the rising sun from the top of Mt. Sinai.

Did you travel alone? Yes, but I met great people along the way and often we’d traveled together for a bit. Sometimes we’d meet up again in other cities, countries and sometimes even continents.

Is it safe to travel to ________? Generally speaking, yes, and even more so if you are mindful of where you are and how you may appear to those around you. I felt really safe in Argentina and most locals would tell you it’s perfectly safe, just as I would tell you SF is pretty safe and locals in Fes would tell you it’s safe walking around. Does this mean, it’s safe to stumble about loud and drunk near the Retiro bus station at night or walk around with a camera hanging from your shoulder and a wad of cash in your hands gushing at all the souvenirs you can buy in the souks. Probably not. Be mindful of travel advisories, keep up with the news wherever you are, and heed the advice of your fellow travelers.

Did you get sick on your travels? I woke up one morning and just could hardly move for the entire day. I caught the cold somewhere. And I had to get an anti-histamine shot on my butt from some random allergic reaction. I’d say that’s pretty good given that I ate anything and everything I saw. I drank bottled water most of the time, but I’m sure that there was tap water in my delicious fruit smoothies and the preparations of some my favorite dishes may not pass certain health inspection standards. Before leaving, you should somewhat know what your body can handle and edge to that limit.

How long did you stay in each location? I tried to stay at least a few days to a week in a city. Longer if I’m either stuck there or love it too much I don’t want to move on to the next spot. Sometimes, it’s both — like my 12 days on the Gili Islands in Indonesia.

Did you have any problems with language? Fortunately, English is a widely-used language and mastering the art of broken English is a very useful skill when trying to communicate. Hand gestures work, but you should read up on basic gestures from the country. A thumbs-up may not mean the same thing in certain parts of the world. Slang can be confusing. If you’re driving with a South African and they tell you to make a right at the next robot, they mean the stoplight. In Thailand, the phrase “same same but different” goes a long way. Worst case scenario, make friends with another traveler who speaks the local language. My rudimentary French and Spanish was quite helpful, but convincing a French-Canadian guy to travel with me to French-speaking Morocco made getting around the first few days there a whole lot easier. If you have taken a foreign language in high school or college and want to properly utilize what is subconsciously hidden away in your brain, just have a few drinks and everything will come rushing back, sometimes even better than when you learned it the first time.

What equipment did you use? I shot with a Panasonic Lumix GF-1 and the 20mm f/1.7 and 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lenses. I used a no-brand flimsy but tiny tripod that extends to a respectable height.

How much time elapsed in each scene? I manually click the shutter anywhere between a few seconds to a minute in between shots. This meant I might have captured 3 minutes of time flow and sometimes up to an hour.

How many photographs did you take? I used 6237 in “Time Is Nothing”, but I took over 10,000 time lapse shots and another 15,000 photographs and videos during my trip.

What is the name of the song? “Places and Faces” by William Lam.

Where can I download song from “Time is Nothing”? The song is available for sale on iTunes @ Support the artist and buy it if you like the music.

How did you put the video together? I used Lightroom to edit all the photographs. I then sequenced each set of photographs together in After Effects. The captions and title sequence was done in Final Cut Pro along with the final placement of the clips. My brother and I worked on the music in Logic Pro and eventually finished the product in Final Cut Pro.

Did you use a dolly/slider? No. Even a make-shift rig would have been too much extra equipment for me to carry around everywhere. If my main purpose was to shoot time lapse sequences on my travel, I would consider using it next time.

What’s next? As many people have pointed out, I still have many beautiful countries to visit. Obviously there’s no excuse for not visiting Canada. I’m working on my next project right now and it involves elevators and escalators. That’s all I’m going to say for now. I am all for making a Part II to “Time is Nothing”, so if any one out there knows a company that wants to sponsor or commission a project, please send them my way.


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