Graham Hughes, a 33-year-old adventurer from Liverpool, England, has become the first person to visit all 201 countries in the world – WITHOUT using a plane.
Hughes used buses, taxis, trains and his own two feet to travel 160,000 miles in exactly 1,426 days – all on a shoestring of just $100 a week. And it was no easy task.
He spent four days “crossing open ocean in a leaky boat” to reach Cape Verde. He was jailed for a week in the Congo for being a “spy.” He was arrested trying to “sneak into” Russia and had to be ”rescued from Muslim fundamentalists by a Filipino transsexual named Jenn.” He has traversed the borders of all 193 members of the United Nations plus Taiwan, Vatican City, Palestine, Kosovo, Western Sahara and the four home nations of The United Kingdom – all without flying.
Guinness World Records has now confirmed that Hughes, who filmed the expedition for a documentary and raised money for charity WaterAid, has achieved the world record for the “Most countries visited in one year by scheduled ground transport”.
While all land transport had to have either wheels, hooves or sturdy rubber soles, he made the longer-haul voyages mostly by hitching lifts on cargo ships. He even managed to get a lift on a friendly cruise ship to the Dominican Republic.
“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.”
Other highlights include dancing with the Highlanders of Papua New Guinea, befriending orangutans in Borneo, riding through the badlands of Kenya on an 18-wheel truck, meeting the Prime Minister of Tuvalu – and “warning schoolchildren in Afghanistan about the dangers of men with beards”.
He says people tend to wonder how he got into the further-out countries like North Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan, but he says they were the easy ones.
Far tougher was negotiating routes into tiny island nations like Nauru, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Maldives and the Seychelles “where there were sometimes pirate threats”.
He says there were low points on the trip such as “sitting in a bus station in Cambodia at one in the morning or riding some awful truck over bad roads” when he thought: “Why am I doing this?”
The lowest point came when his sister, Nicole, died of cancer at just 39 years old. He broke the trip to hurry home to see her.
“I’d done 184 countries and had only 17 to go and I thought why not leave it there? (…but) she told me not to stop,” he added.
Now having finished his journey, he has no intention of buying a plane ticket any time soon and says he plans to “keep in the spirit of the adventure.”