Around the World in 30 Days: The Wonder of Water

Today I begin a journey around the Earth.

It’s quite amazing when one puts it like that.

Imagine what it would’ve taken to embark on a month-long trip around the world just a hundred years ago; a true expedition across the sea and land. A hundred and fifty years ago, it would not have been thought possible to make this expedition in just 30 days.

Yet here I am with an airplane ticket in hand; a pass to travel some 25,000 miles, over 3 oceans, to 4 continents, all in the space of a month. Of course, people travel around the world all the time these days (International Space Station astronauts orbit every 92 minutes), but it’s still pretty amazing when you think about it, and even more amazing to be at the start of it.

Image by Paul Steyn

Personal excitement aside, perhaps you are wondering why am taking this global journey.

The short answer: I’m doing it for the love of water.

As you probably know, water covers more than two-thirds of Earth in the form of the sea, which is pretty much responsible for keeping our atmosphere balmy and livable. If that’s not enough reason to love water, consider that it makes up 60 percent of who you are; your first nine months as a human is spent in a salty watery sack that is 99 percent similar to seawater; and when you are born you have the strange ability to swim and hold your breath for over 40 seconds, which is longer than most adults. From that moment on, you need to drink water every single day of your life in order to live.

Survival aside, water is aesthetically pretty wonderful. One of my favourite places in the world is under water. I love freediving, to swim deep below the water and hold my breath and hang on the bottom until I rise weightless-like towards the surface. It’s one of the most liberating feelings in the world.

Image by Paul Steyn

In short, water is pretty amazing. If you can’t love it, at the very least, you should appreciate it for keeping you alive. And if you feel yourself starting to appreciate water, then you will certainly enjoy following this trip.

As I travel around our big blue orb, I’ll be stopping at various places that store natural water, on land and in the ocean: The highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca, in Bolivia; a mangrove rainforest on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, the bustling populous coastal bay in Hong Kong, and maybe I’ll stop at an island or two in the Sychelles, in the middle of the Indian Ocean, while on my way home to Cape Town.

Each wetland site is special in some way; not only because of its beauty and location, but because every site is crucial in some way to the people and wildlife that live around it. Each wetland has its own story of survival, from the people who depend on it for food and water, to the plants and birds and fish that are part of the wetland ecosystem.

On a more formal level, each site is a Wetland of International Importance according to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, a global treaty that guides countries on the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands was originally founded in 1971 to make sure that migrating water birds had a safe place to stay on their global sojourns across the world, and now has over 2,000 sites under its treaty.

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Photo by Lara Thomas (

By following this story, my hope is that it inspires you to think a little deeper about water and the wetlands that store our water. Perhaps next time you flip your faucet, you will think of the story at the other end of the pipeline. Or the wetland in the park down the road. And if my round-the-world trip inspires you to travel and learn more about water in other corners of the world, that’s cool too.

Either way, please join me on a trip is to see water in action; from the mountains, to the city, to the sea, and the 25,000 miles inbetween; to look at how H20 links us all together.

Join me as I travel around our green and blue globe.

For the love of water.

Join here:

Instagram: @steynless

Twitter: @paulsteynless

Weekly blog updates on this: National Geographic Water Currents

Or keep up with: #aroundtheworldin30days #wetlands #ramsarsites

Changing Planet


Meet the Author
Paul Steyn is a widely-published multi-media content producer from South Africa, and regular contributor to National Geographic News and blogs. Having guided throughout Africa for some years, he went on to edit a prominent travel and wildlife magazine, and now focuses on nature storytelling in all its forms. In 2013, he joined a team of researchers and Bayei on a 250km transect of the Okavango Delta on traditional mokoros. In 2016, he accompanied the Great Elephant Census team in Tanzania and broke the groundbreaking results on National Geographic News . Contact: Follow Paul on Twitter or Instagram