News / Africa

After 201 Countries, Man Ends World Tour in South Sudan

Graham Hughes brandishing his latest visa outside South Sudan's Ministry of Roads in Juba. The 33-year-old broke a world record when he reached South Sudan, the last on his list of 201 sovereign states to visit without flying.Graham Hughes brandishing his latest visa outside South Sudan's Ministry of Roads in Juba. The 33-year-old broke a world record when he reached South Sudan, the last on his list of 201 sovereign states to visit without flying.
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Graham Hughes brandishing his latest visa outside South Sudan's Ministry of Roads in Juba. The 33-year-old broke a world record when he reached South Sudan, the last on his list of 201 sovereign states to visit without flying.
Graham Hughes brandishing his latest visa outside South Sudan's Ministry of Roads in Juba. The 33-year-old broke a world record when he reached South Sudan, the last on his list of 201 sovereign states to visit without flying.
Hannah McNeish
A British man, Graham Hughes, says he has broken a world record by traveling to every sovereign state in the world without flying.  VOA’s Hannah McNeish caught up with him as he entered South Sudan; the world’s newest country and the last on the list for Hughes.
 
Brandishing an overstuffed passport from all the visas he collected while making what he calls his “Odyssey", Graham Hughes celebrated his self-proclaimed record for being the first person to travel to 201 sovereign states.
 
The 33-year-old Briton, who hails from Liverpool, has been on the road for almost four years. Remarkably, he made the journey strictly by land transportation and by sea.
 
“Today is the 1,426th day of the Odyssey expedition, which is my world-record-breaking attempt, which is to be the first person to visit every country in the world without flying," he said. 
 
On a shoestring budget funded by donations from family and friends, he says he hitchhiked, stayed on people’s couches, and only ate local food on his journey.
 
Wearing a cowboy hat and saddled with three small bags in tatters, Hughes said when he first announced his plans, no one was convinced he would make it this far.
 
“Most people thought that I was a bit mad, a lot of people thought it was impossible, a lot of people thought it could not be done.  Most of the questions involved how are you going to get to Iraq, how are you going to get to Afghanistan and Somalia, to be honest those were the easy countries to get to," he said. 
 
He said officials on the Turkish border waived a visa requirement and let him in to Iraq for 10 days.
 
It was getting to Pacific islands like Sao Tome and Nauru that were often served by only one monthly cargo ship that proved the most difficult.  But Hughes had imposed rules on himself that he had to set foot on dry land in each country to complete his task.
 
Highlights included watching the last space shuttle launch in the United States and traveling around Africa.  The lowlights included his detention for six days in the Democratic Republic of Congo on suspicion of being a spy.  He was also detained in Cape Verde.
 
But Hughes says it was the people, not places that topped the list.
 
“The main highlight I have to say in this trip, has just been for me, has been the reaffirmation of my faith in humanity and the fact that people I have met on the road have been so friendly and hospitable," he said. 
 
His low points were flying home last year after finding out his sister had a terminal illness and carrying on after she died, then breaking up with his girlfriend of 10 years in the final months.
 
Hughes broke a world record the first year of his trip by visiting 133 countries.  He then knocked off all 193 U.N. member states, as well as places like Palestine, Kosovo and Taiwan that are widely considered if not officially recognized as sovereign.
 
Hughes said his early inspiration came from British comic Michael Palin of Monty Python fame, who presented an '80 Days Around the World' TV show in the 1980s.
 
But Hughes says he always wanted Palin to live up to the show’s title.
 
“I wanted him to go everywhere, and as I grew up the more I traveled myself independently the more I realized that it was a feasible thing to do.  I thought with the right determination you could do it, and I have proved it right.  I have managed to do it," he said. 
 
One day, Hughes would like to settle in Liverpool.  But for now, he is not ready to hang up his travel hat in what he says has become the best job in the world.

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by: alfred from: S'pore
November 29, 2012 7:22 PM
Wow, it's an awesome journey so fraught with uncertainty and yet you decided to go ahead not knowing much of what lies ahead. With such a travelling spirit, a desk bound job is not for you. Hope you can now get sponsors from banks, businesses, etc, so that you can go on a lecture tour starting in UK to tell & inspire & motivate all the youths about your great trip and how you surmounted all odds and pain to fulfil your dream.......
Sorry to hear about your sister's ill health and good riddance to your ex-girlfriend for abandoning you in time of need.. yuks!!


by: Adam Again from: New York
November 27, 2012 10:56 PM
Great story though!!!


by: Adam from: New York City
November 27, 2012 10:54 PM
BTW, Sao Tome is not in the Pacific, it is in the Atlantic off the coast of Africa.


by: Kashi Samaddar from: India
November 27, 2012 1:05 PM
Congratulation. I had been to South Sudan on its first birthday the 09th July 2011. There are no new country or State since then- so it is still 195- Kashi Samaddar, First person visited all 195 countries of the World.


by: Abraham from: guinea
November 27, 2012 11:02 AM
My congratelation to Mr Graham Hughes for his trip. which date and year he started his trip? and which date his end?
Thank.


by: jerime.bellbell from: Philippines
November 27, 2012 8:09 AM
Kudos to Mr.Hughes! I just hope you will have a T.V. show that will provide us viewers a glimpse of the countries all over the world..I just wanna see the culture of different people,political economy if possible and everything that is significant in the countries you visited..For sure we will be able to learn a lot and get to appreciate our uniqueness...


by: Mungai mselle from: Arusha Tanzania
November 27, 2012 6:26 AM
it is good to see peoples make more effort in their life


by: Robert George from: Dubai
November 26, 2012 11:52 PM
Hats off to Graham Hughes for achieving a seemingly herculean task. What's next Mr. Hughes?

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