Graham Hughes from Liverpool is an adventurer who broke the record by visiting 201 countries around the world without the use of a plane. Dubbed the ‘Odyssey Expedition‘, he used buses, trains, taxis and his feet to travel a total of 16,000 miles. He began his expedition on 1st January 2009 and ended it on 26th November 2012. He did this in exactly 1426 days and spent just $100 every week. Mr. Hughes presents Graham’s World, a TV show on the National Geographic channel. You can find his expeditions on his website The Odyssey Expedition.
Some of his interesting moments were crossing the open ocean using a leaky boat for four days while on his way to Cape Verde, being jailed for a week while in Congo because they thought he was a spy, being arrested while he tried ‘sneaking into’ Russia and when Jenn, a Filipino lady boy, rescued him from Muslim fundamentalists.
His journey was complete when he got to Juba, the now capital of South Sudan. “I love travel, and I guess my reason for doing it was I wanted to see if this could be done, by one person traveling on a shoestring,” he told the Christian Science Monitor. “I think I also wanted to show that the world is not some big, scary place, but in fact is full of people who want to help you even if you are a stranger.”
Hughes has transversed borders of all the 193 United Nation members plus Vatican City, Western Sahara, Taiwan, Kosovo, Palestine and the four UK home nations. He did this without flying while at the same time filmed his expedition for a documentary and helped raise money for Charity WaterAid. Having done this, he became the first person to achieve the world record from Guinness for the “Most countries visited in one year by scheduled ground transport”.
“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,” he added.
Other highlights of his expedition include: making Orangutan friends in Borneo, dancing with Highlanders in Papua New Guinea, a ride through Kenya’s badlands aboard an 18-wheel truck, a meeting with Tuvalu’s Prime Minister and “warning schoolchildren in Afghanistan about the dangers of men with beards”.
Despite people’s fear of further out countries like Iraq, North Korea and Afghanistan, they were in fact the easy ones for him to get into. However negotiating routes to some tiny islands like Nauru, the Maldives, the middle of the Pacific Ocean and the Seychelles was tough due to pirate threats.
The lowest point in his journey was when Nicole, his sister, died of cancer at the age of 39. Graham broke his expedition to hurry home and see her. “She told me not to stop the trip, but I was at a real low point. I’d done 184 countries and had only 17 to go and I thought why not leave it there?” he added.
Even after finishing his journey, he did not have the intention of boarding a plane. In the spirit of adventure, he traveled by bus and boat through Africa then by ferry back to Liverpool, England in time for Christmas. A travel map of all the countries he visited is also available on TravBuddy.