The Odyssey Expedition: One Man. Every Country. No Flights.

It’s probably safe to say that there isn’t any substantial corner of the earth left unexplored.  This lack of new frontiers has meant that an increasingly greater number of adventurous travellers are turning to more imaginative challenges to pass their time (and raise a lot of money for charity while they’re at it).

One such man is Graham Hughes, 33, who recorded an elated video from South Sudan on Monday 26th November, waving a bottle of champagne and proudly exclaiming “I’ve been travelling now for 1,426 days – that’s 203 weeks, almost four years”.   According to the biography on his website, Hughes “has always had a plan to make his mark and has always has a madcap scheme or three in the offing”.

He continued: “I started in Uruguay on 1st January 2009.  I’ve been travelling pretty much non-stop since then to try and be the first person to visit every country in the world without flying, and today I just have!”

South Sudan was the 201st nation that Hughes visited as part of his Odyssey Expedition, the first Guiness World Record attempt to reach every country in the world (in the UN’s member states) without flying.  And not just that – he was not allowed to drive himself or take private transport over long distances, as this would break the Guiness World Record’s rule against supporting road races.

The journey, covering 160,000 miles, took just under four years to complete, with Hughes leaving Liverpool on New Year’s Day 2009.  His budget was around $100 per week.

As for his reasons in making the trip, in a time when flying makes reaching any far-flung destination simple, it is easy to guess the appeal of a challenge that outlaws the use of planes.  In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, Hughes revealed his motivation for taking up the challenge: “I love travel, and I guess my reason for doing it was I wanted to see if this could be done, by one person travelling on a shoestring.”

His trip was also encouraged by a faith in humanity and the belief that he would be supported wherever he ended up: “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 claims on the Odyssey Expedition’s website that the journey did not in fact take much planning (there’s only so much you can plan in advance), and that he prefers to travel light, fast and cheap.  The seasoned traveller made use of the website CouchSurfing to save money on accommodation, ‘roughed-it’ on public transport and ate for very little money, which he claims is simple “if you know where to look”.  His trip was funded by donations from family and friends, while he raised money for WaterAid, the British charity aiming to provide clean water to those in need.

Things didn’t always go quite so smoothly, however.  “There were times”, he says, “when I thought ‘why am I doing this?’”  During the course of the trip, in which he apparently even ‘tip-toed into North Korea’, he put himself at threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean and was arrested after travelling between Senegal and Cape Verde in a canoe.  He was then jailed in the DRC for six days, on suspicion of being a spy.  Never put off by such minor setbacks, Hughes still says that “the main highlight has been the reaffirmation of my faith in humanity and the fact that people I’ve met on the road have been so friendly”.

So what now for Hughes, after the official confirmation of his success by Guiness World Records?  Renouncing plane tickets, he is currently prolonging the adventure by travelling home to Liverpool through Africa, to arrive just in time for a Christmas spent with friends and family.  While more travel will undoubtedly be on the cards, a career in film-making seems to be the next goal, with Hughes having recorded video for Lonely Planet in the preparation stages of his trip and having kept up a YouTube Channel throughout.  His JustGiving profile shows him describing himself as “adventurer, filmmaker, travel blogger and TV presenter”.  So it looks like we could be hearing a lot more of Graham Hughes and his adventures in the future.

Lucy Merchant

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia


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One Comment
  • dan
    21 December 2012 at 15:30
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    I have seen guys like this before. My guess is his GF/wife left him so he left to get over it and found some redemption.

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