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Vladimir Yarets is a native of Belarus who’s ridden his motorcycle through over 120 countries and 300,000 miles. To make his achievement all the more remarkable he is deaf and mute. Did we mention that he’s also 71 years old and looking for new lands to conquer? We met Vladimir in Berlin, where he makes our journey look like a stroll in the park.

Vladimir Yarets motorcycle ride world map of tour

This map shows where Vladimir has been so far along with clippings from newspapers in Brazil and Taiwan.

We ran into Vladimir near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin where he was raising funds for the next leg of his travel. When he shook my hand I felt like I was in a gravel crusher. His strong grip no doubt a result of all those hours holding on tight to the motorcycle handlebars.

Communication was difficult at first so we chatted by writing notes. He lit up when we were able to convey that part of Larissa’s family also comes from Vladimir’s hometown of Minsk. He pulled out several binders that showed pictures of him at landmarks all over the world along with an impressive display of press clippings, including a few from Japan.

Vladimir Yarets motorcycle around the world Larissa Milne

Two Belorussians meet up in Berlin.

Vladimir started touring around the Soviet Union in 1967, when that type of independent travel was frowned upon by the authorities. Having conquered his own country he set out for new lands and hasn’t stopped since. (Except for a one year stay in Peoria, Illinois while he recuperated from a run-in with a truck.)

Vladimir Yarets motorcycle around the world

Vladimir points out where he’s been to a curious onlooker. 

The easiest way to show what we’ve been up to was to share pictures from our camera as we explained our own year-long global odyssey. While ours paled in comparison, meeting Vladimir was encouraging as he showed that you are really never too old to grab life and pursue your dreams. We hope his fundraising in Berlin was successful as he pushes off for further frontiers.

Vladimir yarets motorcycle tour Taiwan

In 2007, Vladimir was greeted like a rock star in Taiwan.

Vladimir’s enthusiasm and zest for life are quite contagious. At age 71 he’s not slowing down but accelerating.

What do you see yourself doing when you’re 71?

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As the most historic city in America, Philadelphia has nurtured accomplished citizens in all walks of life. But its most famous resident is a fictional movie character: boxer Rocky Balboa.

Rocky represents the city’s hardscrabble image. In the first Rocky movie, despite the backing of the lovely Adrian, he didn’t win. (Sorry if we ruined the ending for the three people who still haven’t seen it.) But he went the distance against a much stronger foe–for him that was a victory.

He has become an inspiration to millions of people around the globe who can identify with his underdog tale. The most famous scene in Rocky occurs after he has transformed himself from an out-of-shape pug to a lean mean fighting machine. Rocky runs through the streets of Philadelphia and eventually winds up at the base of the imposing steps leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Earlier in the film he could barely make it to the top. But now he goes bounding up the steps with the unbridled energy of a child tearing through presents on Christmas morning.  The Rocky Steps, as they are now known, have become a worldwide symbol of triumph over adversity.

A few years ago, Philadelphia Inquirer journalist Michael Vitez and photographer Tom Gralish wrote a book titled Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope, and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps. They spent a year atop these steps, interviewing some of the people who ran up them in a virtual round-the-clock operation. He met people from cancer survivors to wedding parties to celebrities. They all wanted to come to Philadelphia to experience a bit of the Rocky magic.

Rocky steps PhiladelphiaThe entire world comes to the Rocky Steps. We are going to reverse that trend by starting this journey at the base of the steps and from there we will travel around the world for a year. There will be many obstacles in our path from language barriers, events out of our control and the occasional gastrointestinal hijinks.

Our goal isn’t to  win over every obstacle we face. Sometimes we will just have to grit our teeth and endure it. But like Rocky, we want to go the distance. We will travel an estimated 75,000 miles during the year and return to Philadelphia to run to the top of the steps.

Appropriately enough the music that is played while Rocky makes his triumphant sprint is “Gonna Fly Now.” We can’t think of a better song to be humming in our heads as we board the plane to Beijing.

As a source of inspiration for those times when we wonder what we were thinking by going on this journey, we’ve brought a bit of Philadelphia with us (no, not Cheese Whiz). We have a miniature Rocky statue that will motivate us along the way for when the going gets a little tougher than we had planned. We’ll document Little Rocky’s trip around the world as he spurs us on to ever greater heights.

Here’s a video of where Little Rocky had been to halfway through the trip:

To view a photo album of where Little Rocky has been, including meeting actor Danny DeVito in London  and former president Jimmy Carter check out Little Rocky’s photo album on Flickr.

We said we’d run up the Rocky Steps when we returned and we did. See A Sort of Homecoming.

In August 2011 we started out from the Rocky Steps in Philadelphia to begin our journey around the world, along with a statue of Rocky Balboa to encourage us to “go the distance.” So far “Little Rocky” has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. After 2+ years on the road we’ve put together an album of some of our favorite Little Rocky moments on Flickr. Here are a few highlights:

rocky statue malaysia

Little Rocky at a Hindu shrine, Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur.

So far we’ve traveled over 100,000 miles and Little Rocky has made new friends around the world. (Although in Asia a few people confused him with someone named Rambo.) He’s been great at getting conversations started and makes people smile wherever we go. A restaurant in Cambodia even whipped up a cheesesteak for him because he was missing his favorite food from Philly.

Rocky Buddhist nuns (640x621)

We were a bit surprised that these Buddhist nuns in Saigon were big Rocky fans.

rocky colosseum rome

Rocky returned to his roots in Rome where perhaps his ancestors were gladiators at the Colosseum.

jimmy carter rocky statue

With former President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Miss Rosalynn in Plains, Georgia.

rocky statue petra

Little Rocky made like Indiana Jones at Petra in Jordan.

Rocky San People Namibia

With the San people in Namibia.

After two years on the road check out our photo album of “The Rocky Statue Travels Around the World” where he was hoisted by such luminaries as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter; actors Danny DeVito and Andrew McCarthy; and Steve McCurry, the photographer of the iconic “Afghan Girl” cover for National Geographic.

Special Announcement

Rocky Eiffel Tower (514x700)If all these photos are making you hanker for your very own Rocky statue you’re in luck. Due to popular demand the statues are back. You can now purchase the official 12″ ROCKY Statues. Schomberg Studios, the original creator of the Rocky sculpture for the Rocky movies, is selling a limited edition of this fine statue that is recognized around the world.

We know from personal experience that these statues are very hard to find so this is a remarkable opportunity. For information on buying a Rocky statue go to the Official Rocky Sculpture Store. Yo!

Big Rocky has made six movies, so Little Rocky thought it was time for his own debut. Here (on the small screen, naturally) is a video compilation of some of the places the Rocky statue has been and the cool new people he’s met so far. We’ll be updating this as we visit more places and make even more new friends.

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