Been there... epic journey takes in all 201 countries, and a lot of sofas

Graham Hughes has visited every country in the world – without flying

One final journey is required for a British adventurer to complete his “around the world without flying” record, after 1,426 days surfing sofas in every country on earth.

In November Graham Hughes, from Liverpool, became the first person to travel to all 201 “countries” in the world without travelling by plane. But his Guinness World Record was deemed invalid because he entered Russia illegally and without a visa, wading across the River Narva from Estonia.

Tomorrow, with a visa in his passport, the 33-year-old returns to Russia to complete his three-year mission.

Since New Year’s Day 2009 he has visited all 193 nations recognised by the United Nations and entered every sovereign nation in the world, including Vatican City, Palestine, Taiwan, Western Sahara and Kosovo, which do not have seats at the UN.

Speaking to The Independent yesterday ahead of a 25-hour train journey from London Victoria to Gdansk, Poland, and on to Russia, Mr Hughes, who cited Michael Palin and his father Graham as his inspirations, said he would encourage anyone to emulate his journey.

He said: “It is not the lonely experience that you might think. You’re forced to make conversation with people. When you’re on your own you talk to more people. Very often it is money that seems to stop people travelling. They think it will be really expensive. But it is cheaper to go and travel than to go to university. It’s cheaper than having a flat in London.”

The three-year trip was conducted on a meagre budget of about £10 a day. Mr Hughes said he spent less than £7,000 a year in the first two years and only about £3,000 after that. Costs were kept down by sleeping on sofas across the world.

The Guinness rules for the record attempt included not using private transport over large distances or hitchhiking. Mr Hughes said he used a combination of trains, taxis and cargo ships to travel around the world.

He was arrested twice, in the Congo and Cape Verde. Congolese police held him for six days in solitary confinement without giving any cause, after he was arrested at a checkpoint.

“I was too angry to be scared. I had done nothing wrong and had all the correct paperwork in place but they thought I was some sort of spy,” he said. “I was shouting at the guards and beating on the cell door. Eventually I was told that I would be taken outside and shot in the head if I didn’t stop.”

Mr Hughes, who filmed his trip for National Geographic Adventure and raised money for the Water Aid charity, said the longest leg was a 32-day trip from Australia to the Pacific island nation of Nauru, the world’s smallest republic. He also spent four days in a leaky wooden canoe crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Cape Verde.

He said he “blagged” his way into Eritrea, met the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, “ran around” Iraq with an  AK-47 assault rifle and “tip-toed” into communist North Korea.

Among other highlights were swimming in a lake full of jellyfish in the Pacific archipelago of Palau and watching one of the last Space Shuttle launches from Cape Canaveral in  Florida.

He also cited dancing with the highland jungle tribes of Papua New Guinea in September 2011 as a “defining moment” of his journey.

“The more you travel, the smaller the world seems,” he said today as he contemplated putting down roots in London.

For him, as he prepares to set out on one last journey tomorrow, it must seem positively minuscule.

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Voices
A Siberian Tiger
voices
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Senior SAP MM Consultant, £50,000 - £60,000, Birmingham

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP MM C...

SAP BW BO

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW BO - 6 MONTHS - LONDON London (Gr...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried