After 1,426 days, four full passports, one failed relationship and countless buses, trains and boats, Graham Hughes has become the first person to travel to all 201 ‘countries’ in the world without flying.
It took him indeed quite a bit longer than the kiwi world record holders of ‘ALL NATIONS QUEST’ who visited every country in 150 days. But they used planes. A lot in fact. Maybe even too many.
On the 26th of November 2012 Graham Hughes was stamped into South Sudan, his last country, and the world’s newest, which did not even exist when he started out on New Year’s Day 2009.
Since then Graham visited all 193 United Nations member states plus Taiwan, Vatican City, the Palestinian territory, Kosovo, Western Sahara and the four home nations of the United Kingdom.
The entire journey cost him an average of £10 a day in which he only traveld by train, bus, taxi or ship and at no point did he travel by air giving him the Guinness World Record for “the fastest time to visit all countries in the world by public surface transport”
Graham’s main reason for undertaking the challenge was to “prove it was possible” and that “with a fistful of dollars and the right amount of tenacity, grit and patience you can – if you really want to – go anywhere”, as he recently wrote in Telegraph Travel.
Hughes, who presents the TV show Graham’s World for the National Geographic channel and charts his progress on his website The Odyssey Expedition, refused, even after completing his goal, to fly back home. Instead he continued his journey through Africa and across Europe by bus and boat to return home.
“The main feeling today is just one of intense gratitude to every person around the world who helped me get here, by giving me a lift, letting me stay on their couch or pointing me in the right direction,” Mr Hughes told The Daily Telegraph from Juba, South Sudan’s capital.
“There were times, sitting in a bus station in Cambodia at one in the morning, riding some awful truck over bad roads, when I thought, why am I doing this? But there was always a reason to keep going.”
Highlights were swimming in a lake of jellyfish in the Pacific archipelago of Palau, watching one of the last Space Shuttle launches from Cape Canaveral, and dancing with the jungle tribes of Papua New Guinea.
“People asked me how I was going to get to Afghanistan or Iraq or North Korea, but they were the easy ones, you don’t even need a visa for Iraq, you just walk across from the border in Turkey,” he said.
“The really tough ones were places like Nauru, and the Maldives and the Seychelles, island countries where there were also pirates.”
To cross oceans, Mr Hughes hitched lifts with cargo ships. He spent four days in an open fishing canoe from Senegal to Cape Verde, and was then arrested when he arrived.
Later, officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo jailed him for six days believing he was a spy.
The British traveller’s epic trip visiting the world’s 201 countries in four years and 31 days has been officially accepted as “the fastest time to visit all countries by public surface transport” by Guinness World Records. The five-month long verification process, which normally takes about eight weeks, was prolonged due to the vast amount of data that needed evaluating before confirming the record.
The documentation of Hughes’s travels included 193 pages of passport stamps, more than 10,000 photographs and more than a million individual GPS data points as well as 400 hours of video footage.
Graham Hughes put together a kickass compilation video tracing his epic ‘Odyssey Expedition’, taking viewers around the world in four minutes and one second.