Traveling to the End of the World

This is not my computer’s IP address. It is actually today’s date.

Your phone might tell you that today is February 9th 2012. But it is also baktun twelve, katun nineteen, tun nineteen, uinal two and kin four . . . according to the Mayan long form calendar.

Excuse me while I pull out a napkin and do the math (Do you have a pen?). That’s (12 X 144,000 days) + (19 X 7,200 days) + (19 X 360 days) + (2 X 20 days) + (4 X 1 day), which comes to a total of (carry the one, divide by 365 days a year) . . . 5,124 years one month and fourteen days.

5,124 years, one month and fourteen days since what?

Since the beginning of time and the creation of mankind, the universe and everything in it, that’s what. According to the ancient Maya, that all took place on August 13, 3114. B.C.—and according to the ancient Maya, all of it will end on December 21, 2012.

Wait, isn’t that, like, this year? Why yes it is. If the Mayan long count system was a giant wall calendar, there would only be 315 pages of kittens or shirtless firefighters or Far Side jokes left to tear through. And then, on the very last page, in some small gray font, it would simply read, “The End of the World”—as if it was Arbor Day.

Except that the ancient Maya did not merely imply the world would come to an end just because their calendar did. They laid out a pretty spectacular doomsday prophecy and quite literally carved it out in stone.

I am not afraid of the world ending. Rather, I am afraid of the world ending before I get to see it all. If the whole Mayan doomsday prophecy comes to pass, then it seriously complicates my long-term travel goals. While the apocalyptic-minded might stockpile weapons or move themselves to higher ground, those of us with wanderlust should be busily ripping through our bucket list.

Because the world is about to kick the bucket. At least that’s what everyone keeps saying the ancient Maya said. The problem is, the ancient Maya are not around to defend their claim, leaving their prophecy in the hands of millions of internet soothsayers who are whipping up a fancy New Age feast of doom, gloom and hogwash.

By John Lloyd Stephens, "Incidents of Travel in Central America"; London, 1841


This is why I have come to Mexico: to find out the truth. In lieu of time travel, real travel can take us back into the past and help us understand a lost world. Travel teaches us by touching all of our senses. This is how I want to learn about the Maya—by surrounding myself in their world.

I have traveled to southern Mexico to discover the Maya, their country, and their calendar. Five states in particular (Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche,  Yucatán, and Quintana Roo) comprise El Mundo Maya or World of the Maya, a place where even today, so many only speak their indigenous languages—a place where hundreds of temples and ruins lie buried under volcanic ash or jungle overgrowth.

My past travels have already taken me to the grand ruins of Copán in Honduras; I have also climbed the temples of Tikal in Guatemala. Now, at a time when the world (and the internet) is so focused on the darker predictions of an ancient civilization, I intend to seek out my own answers to the mysteries of the Maya. Not only because I am a highly curious person, but because chasing a mystery is probably the greatest reason ever to travel.

I travel alone and carry no guidebooks. Instead, I am traveling with the CNG (Complete National Geographic)—a portable hard drive the size of a deck of cards, filled with every issue of National Geographic since its initial publication in 1888. I have learned more about the Maya (both ancient and present-day) from reading National Geographic than anything I’ve ever read online. Thus I approach the 65-million-year Mayan calendar with 124 years of Nat Geo knowledge.

I intend to visit as many ancient sites as possible and to visit the modern-day Maya as well. I hope to find answers throughout my journey, but I also realize that I am in a race against time. Many lifetimes have already been spent studying the Maya and their civilization. And now (allegedly), only 315 days remain until earth reboots and assigns herself a new IP address.

They say tomorrow is another day but maybe not. Maybe tomorrow is the last tick in a ticking time bomb, or else maybe tomorrow is merely

There’s only one way to find out, and that is why I am in Mexico.

Track my travels with this interactive map of Mexico’s World of the Maya.


  1. […] background-color:#222222; background-repeat : no-repeat; } – Today, 4:18 […]

  2. Janice
    February 9, 2012, 12:12 pm

    I am firmly in the non-doomsday camp on this one. As far as I can tell, the Mayan calendar is simply based on a different counting system. The so-called prediction of the end of times is based on what is very likely erroneous modern interpretation of their calendar. I think it’s just a system that will ‘roll over’ to the next iteration – much like our millenia and centuries do. But – good luck in your travels, Andrew!

  3. […] This is not my computer’s IP address. It is actually today’s date. Your phone might tell you that today is February 9th 2012. But it is also baktun twelve, katun nineteen, tun nineteen, uinal two and kin four . . . according to the Mayan long form calendar.… […]

  4. Kevin
    St. Peters, MO
    February 9, 2012, 12:56 pm

    I am not a dooms-day type, either. I think that an apocalypse would be a rather exciting adventure!

  5. Kelly
    February 9, 2012, 3:17 pm

    The Mayan’s had a different concept of time than we do today. They believed that time was cyclical, not linear. Their calendar doesn’t end, it starts over. December 21, 2012 was not their prediction of the end of the world, it’s just the date that the next baktun starts.

  6. Point of View – Digital Nomad
    February 10, 2012, 9:09 am

    […] directly connected to Izapa. And December 21st—the winter solstice—marks the end of the Haab. Remember—both these dates coincide with the beginning and end of the longer 5,124-year period that falls […]

  7. Lorenzo @belizepost
    February 10, 2012, 1:06 pm

    There is no factual proof the Maya ever intended to say the world would end in December 21, 2012. It’s actually the end of one cycle and of course the beginning of another.

  8. Cecille
    February 12, 2012, 2:22 am

    Well,if the world will end this coming December,we have nothing to do about it,….the end of the world you are talking about is like a Doomsday:Prophesy Movie…

  9. Mike
    February 14, 2012, 5:39 pm

    I kinda hope it does. Man and women have been here for thousands of years yet have accomplished very little in that time. Yet we have poluted the earth beneath our feet, the very water we drink, as well as the air we breath. The people in the U.S. have more, but waste more as well. We have never gotton along with each other thus the inexcusable reason for so many wars. Our own government; as well as others: does nothing but mismanage our money, screw up our lives and is the primary reason wars are started in the first place. They also exempt themselves from the very laws they expect us to live by.We have children starving all over, but we have lotteries in the hundreds of millions going to one person. Now I don’t know if this is the beginning of the end or what, but what would you do if you were a higher power? Enjoy your trip Andrew, but I would rather hear more facts than humor.

  10. L.Jo Shugars
    Pittsburgh, PA, USA
    February 14, 2012, 6:01 pm

    Our Mayan guide to Chichen Itza said not to worry. I’m not! This was at the end of November 2011.

  11. The Doomsday Prophecy – Digital Nomad
    February 15, 2012, 8:45 am

    […] It is the final passage of Monument 6 that draws so much interest, specifically an exacted countdown from Lord Jaguar’s life to the “final date” of the 13th baktun, or According to the Maya long count calendar, that date is December 21st, 2012. […]

  12. Comalcalco: Cosmovision – Digital Nomad
    February 16, 2012, 11:26 am

    […] What that means is that culture is important–very important. The ancient Mayan civilization faded away nearly 1,100 years ago, but this year, in 2012, so many of us have become entirely intrigued by this lost society: their lives, thoughts, religion, knowledge, and above all, their amazingly brilliant calendar. […]

  13. myintthuhtun
    February 22, 2012, 12:46 am

    i like it. thanks

  14. myintthuhtun
    February 22, 2012, 12:47 am


  15. Edzna: Sun God – Digital Nomad
    February 22, 2012, 10:11 am

    […] do not know, but it was at the ruins Ednza that I learned of this very specific prediction for the end of the world. Genocide by jaguar is rather terrifying, and I’m sure it was extremely terrifying for the […]

  16. vanessa vargas
    February 26, 2012, 12:39 am

    wat i think is that the world is not GONNA END!The ppl that say that r CRAZY does god come to them and tell them “Oh look the world is gonna end in 2012” duh ppl dont know!!!!ONLY GOD KNOWS!!!!!

  17. Chichen Itza: Venus Cycle – Digital Nomad
    February 27, 2012, 8:34 am

    […] fall of Venus in the night sky lasts 263 days. As you recall from our earlier visit to Izapa, the Maya sacred calendar (Tzolk’in) was 260 days long, which is also the length of human gestation. The Maya saw a great […]

  18. Ttalor072
    Bradenton, Florida
    May 12, 2012, 6:44 pm

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  19. isaiah
    September 21, 2013, 2:47 am

    I am a christian and I know that know one will find out when the world ends. people have tried but there prophecy never came true. Well so long.

    I am 11 years old