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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living