With his entrance into South Sudan on Monday, Graham Hughes claimed to be the first person to visit every nation on the planet without flying.
Hughes, 33, hails from Liverpool, England and worked in partnership with Lonely Planet for four years to visit all 201 countries, including disputed-status entities such as Kosovo, Palestine, Taiwan and the Western Sahara. South Sudan, the youngest country in the world, was the last spot Hughes crossed off his list and was not even a country when he began his trip.
"I started in Uruguay on January 1, 2009, and I've been travelling pretty much non-stop since then to try and be the first person to visit every country in the world without flying, and today, I just have,” Hughes told The Age.
Hughes mission to see the world included four key rules: He could not fly or drive himself anywhere, could only use “scheduled ground transport,” (including boats) and had to step foot on dry land for the visit to count.
According to Hughes, the most difficult nations to visit were not war-torn countries such as Afghanistan (“those were the easy countries to get to,” he said, noting the lack of border controls), but the remote island nations where perhaps only one boat arrives each month.
Hughes also faced several notable difficulties on the trip, including a four-day crossing to Cape Verde in a leaky wooden boat, a week of imprisonment in the Congo, and arrest when he tried to sneak into Russia. Luckily, he didn’t have an issue when he “tip-toed into North Korea.”
The main highlight of the journey, Hughes told The Age, was “the reaffirmation of my faith in humanity and the fact that people I've met on the road have been so friendly.”