This Is The First Person To Visit Every Country In The World Without An Airplane!

This Is The First Person To Visit Every Country In The World Without An Airplane!

Meet Graham Hughes, an adventurer from Liverpool, whose remarkable journey around the globe is nothing short of legendary. In 2009, he embarked on an unprecedented quest, The Odyssey Expedition. He aimed to travel to every country in the world without flying! He restricted himself from certain modes of travel including air travel and stuck to ships, buses, and his feet!

It took him 4 years and 31 days to complete the journey and Guinness World Records officially recognized his feat. He stepped foot in 193 UN member states and several other territories. Graham did all of it while raising awareness and funds for WaterAid. During the expedition, he shared many adventures. Graham shares, “I wanted travel to be part of the adventure, not just a means to an end.” Let’s dive in to learn the details of his journey. 

How Did He Prepare?

Graham’s incredible journey was inspired by Michael Palin’s “Around the World in 80 Days.” He explains, “It instilled in me a love of the great age of travel.” His strict travel rules prohibited him from flying, hitchhiking, long-distance private taxis, driving, or riding motorcycles. Instead, he relied on cargo ships, local buses, and his feet. 

Surprisingly, Graham’s preparation was more about mental readiness and logistical planning than physical training. “It wasn’t that physically demanding,” he admits. He has spent many hours simply traveling by bus or boat. 

Graham’s decade of backpacking and attending music festivals like Glastonbury, where conditions can be tough, also served as good experiences. Graham was thoroughly vaccinated, which helped him stay healthy throughout his travels.

This Is The First Person To Visit Every Country In The World Without An Airplane
Image source: The Odyssey Expeditions

Strategies and Logistics

Navigating the globe without flying posed considerable logistical challenges. Graham planned things carefully. He planned his travel across the vast distances of the Pacific and into isolated countries like the Seychelles. He reached Seychelles on his third attempt via a cruise ship navigating pirate-infested waters. Graham managed visas and border controls with careful research and sometimes, sheer persistence.

This Is The First Person To Visit Every Country In The World Without An Airplane
Image source: Hostelworld / (Previously known as Twitter)

Graham Hughes’s Weirdest Encounters

Graham points to Saudi Arabia as the scariest country due to its strict rules, creating an atmosphere where he felt he couldn’t relax. As for his worst sleeping experience, it was in Cape Verde, where he was mistakenly jailed. “I was in a room meant for one, but there were 11 of us,” he recalls.

Among the bizarre culinary experiences, Graham mentioned trying ‘Dancing Octopus’ in South Korea — while octopus tentacles still move on your plate! Yet, nothing topped the ‘Balut’ in the Philippines, a fertilized duck egg with a partially developed embryo inside. He describes it as “It was the worst thing I’ve ever put in my mouth.”

Arrested A Few Times

Graham’s journey did not go all smooth till the end. He was arrested a few times. He spent jail time in Cape Verde. Where they “thought [he] was a people smuggler.” In Congo, they “just didn’t like the look of [him]”.

Cultural Encounters and Human Stories

Graham’s journey was rich with cultural encounters. In Iran, an elderly lady worried he wouldn’t have breakfast. He then shared a memorable meal with her family. 

In Papua New Guinea, he danced with the Highlanders, immersing himself in their culture. Graham also swam with Jellyfish in the Jellyfish Lake in Palau. Each country offered a new perspective, with Iran’s warm hospitality standing out against the tougher environments of places like Saudi Arabia.

It wasn’t just an adventure. It was a profound engagement with the world that also highlighted the work of WaterAid. The journey helped to raise global awareness about the necessity of clean water. Graham’s advice to aspiring adventurers emphasizes sustainable and respectful travel: “It’s about the journey, not just the destination.”


Graham Hughes’ record-setting journey is a testament to human resilience and curiosity. Officially recognized in February 2014, his story continues to inspire adventurers and environmental advocates alike. Today, Graham remains a vocal proponent of sustainable travel, encouraging others to explore the world thoughtfully and conscientiously. His odyssey is not just a record in a book; it’s a call to all of us to consider our footprint as we tread across this magnificent planet.

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