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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
fashion
News
news
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

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Chemistry Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: [ Megan Smith 22/09/2014 17:00:...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments