Peter-Joey Pham had a plan.
After reading that Nick Johnson, America’s first Pokémon Go master, was leaving for a worldwide trip to catch the three monsters that are only available internationally, Pham decided to book his own global Pokémon adventure.
He shared his story with Business Insider, and it’s a doozy.
Last week, he booked a last-minute flight from Manhattan, where he works in finance, to Sydney, Australia, to catch the regionally exclusive Kangaskhan.
Then, he talked himself out of it.
But his coworkers wouldn’t let him stop before he even began. So on Friday, July 29th, Pham ended up at New York’s Kennedy airport, waiting for his flight to Sydney, at the same time Johnson was at the same airport waiting for a flight to Paris in his quest for Mr. Mime.
Pham’s plan was both simple and a little insane: He couldn’t take a lot of time off from work. So he planned an itinerary that would leave him 14 hours to catch Kangaskhan in Sydney, 10 hours to catch Farfetch’d in Tokyo, and 12 hours to get Mr. Mime in London.
“I had a high degree of confidence that I could do it at the time I booked based on my research regarding nests (typical MIT grad),” Pham writes in an email to Business Insider. “Roughly 10 hours to catch one Pokémon at a given nest, sounds reasonable right?”
He wasn’t expecting to beat Johnson to total Pokémon mastery, but thought it might be fun to spark a good-natured rivalry.
It didn’t work out that way. At all.
Australian Pokémon adventure
The problems began at the airport: At the terminal he realised that he wasn’t sure if his phone would work in Australia, which would make playing Pokémon Go impossible. So he tried to cancel his tickets. They told him he couldn’t cancel after he checked in, so he decided that he had to get on the flight, or sacrifice the $1,000 or so he spent on last-minute tickets to Sydney.
It was only then, as he was about to get on the plane, that he told his long-distance girlfriend for the first time that he was going on a worldwide Pokémon adventure with only a 30-pound backpack for company.
“[She] is in denial that I am actually travelling. After I send her my itinerary, after the shock settles, a quick fight ensues but the argument is cut off thanks to lift off,” Pham writes.
He got off the plane at 8AM Sydney time to find that he had 2G internet service, which isn’t fast, but fast enough for the game. He rented a bike and went cruising for Kangaskhan over and around Sydney’s many hills and through a beachside cemetary, only to find…nothing. By this time, his long-distance girlfriend had come around and was cheering him on.
Exhausted, and realising his bike wasn’t worth much against Sydney’s hills as he shuffled between Pokémon hotspots like Burrows Park and Bonte Park, he returned the bike.
Then he got hit by a car.
“The accident is serious enough that I can barely move for several minutes and pain pierces through my arm and shoulder every time I try move my right arm (still hurts as I type this),” Pham says. “I think to myself, I could have died searching for Pokemon…what has my life arrived to.”
In pain, but not willing to give up just yet, Pham dragged himself to Sydney’s Crystal Street, where he ran into a gaggle of fellow trainers also looking for the elusive Kangaskhan.
Those players informed him that Niantic, the developers of Pokémon Go, had reshuffled the areas where Pokémon appear, all over the world. Which means that they literally couldn’t tell him where Kangaskhan might be. It was the same story over by the Sydney Opera House.
Wait. WHAT. I had spent thousands of dollars, travelled thousands of miles to catch these imaginary electronic monsters that no longer were in the places I had researched. I am in an unknown city, have bruises and cuts all over my body, can barely move my right arm and am struggling to carry my ever growing heavy pack. And I had less than 5 hours before my flight to Tokyo.
Totally revulsed at the idea of repeating this process all over again, Pham decided to cancel his flight to Tokyo, book a hotel in Sydney, and be a tourist, rather than spend all that money to repeat this physically gruelling process.
“How different Sydney was without a 30lb pack and you aren’t interviewing randos about a kangaroo,” Pham jokes.
And then, on his way back to the Sydney airport, he found and caught a Kangaskhan — right at the last possible minute. It was only a CP125, which is pretty weak, but he didn’t care.
“I let out a roar and a guy across the street laughs and tells me he got him too. I run over to him and tell him my story and he stares at me in disbelief,” Pham writes.
So Pham is going to spend a little time in Honolulu before he heads back to New York City.
Still, with 143 Pokémon caught, he’s currently tied with Johnson, who caught Mr. Mime in Paris over the weekend. So it wasn’t a total loss, by his reckoning, and he says he has no regrets.
“As I am making my way through customs, I can’t help but smile. I am exhausted, dirty, with possible broken bones, pain shooting everywhere and thousands of dollars on my credit card bill to account for…but I did it, I got my fake, electronic, armoured kangaroo,” Pham says.
He says he wishes Johnson well as he continues his international journey. Johnson is en route to Hong Kong for his own Farfetch’d, after which he’ll head to Sydney, which delivered such a beat-down to Pham.
Still, Pham has two final thoughts on Pokémon Go and the urge to travel around the world to catch ’em all.
First: “I would advise anyone thinking of doing this to contact me immediately. Me and your significant others will proceed to destroy your passport and hide your credit cards.”
And second: “I have no intention of resuming this or touching this god forsaken app for a VERY long time.”