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On Bravado and a Few Bucks, Londoner Richard Wrigley Goes Around the World—twice

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Phileas Fogg made it in 80 days, but Richard Wrigley traveled around the world twice in that time—and still had 20 days to spare. Last week the globetrotting Englishman was back home, seven pounds heavier, after hitching a free ride as a courier of costumes (to be used in a sales campaign) on the last, New York-to-London, lap of his second trip. Wrigley, 31, proprietor of a London sports center, made it in much the same way Jules Verne’s fictional Fogg did—by wile and scrounging.

A blond bachelor, Wrigley began his journeys last November. He was one of 11 entries in a contest staged by the Daily Mail and the distillers of Pipers Scotch, with a prize of £500—about $1,000—to the person who could circle the globe in the fastest time, earning his own way. The enterprising Wrigley covered his expenses even before he left. A group of his friends put up the money so he could bet his barber that he would return in time for a haircut appointment two days after takeoff. Wrigley won both the contest and the bet in a breathless 45 hours, 47 seconds, by way of Moscow, Tokyo, San Francisco and Los Angeles. “I spent 36 hours in the air and never slept,” he recalls.

His speed astonished—and dismayed—his sponsors, who had expected days, even weeks, of publicity. They challenged Wrigley a second time—to go around the world again, using only his prize money and his wits. Within six days he was off, accompanied by Angus Robertson, 29, who wanted to film the trip for a possible TV show. The manufacturer of Wrangler denims in London offered some modest help—a pair of jeans for all those hours of sitting and, in frigid New York, a winter jacket.

The second trip was more leisurely than the first, but Wrigley’s impressions are like snapshots. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, he unexpectedly ran into former British Prime Minister Edward Heath. Wrigley pulled into Singapore after a romantic night-long railway ride through flooded jungles. In a Tokyo bus station, where he was set to spend the night, he met a businessman who gave him a free flop at his home in exchange for English lessons. Stymied by strict no-discount regulations on trans-Pacific flights, Wrigley made a deal with Continental Airlines to pay for his ticket to L.A. In return Angus shot a TV commercial advertising Saipan, Truk and Ponape as honeymoon paradises. The high point of their island-hopping was a feast at the opening of Ponape’s first concrete bridge.

In Los Angeles Wrigley and Robertson landed a job delivering a Volkswagen to a naval officer in Rhode Island, which Robertson thought was a suburb of Manhattan. The two spent Christmas in the Arizona desert and New Year’s Eve sleeping in the car on a Brooklyn street.

Long before he took up circumnavigation, Wrigley was footloose—he held 12 jobs in one year when he was 17. By 19 he had paid long visits to the Continent, Africa and the U.S. But haven’t his latest trips made him a trifle world-weary? Not a bit, he says: “I will do it again—only next time I’ll take more money.”