Traveller becomes the first man to visit every country in the world

Graham Hughes visits all 201 countries, all without flying

In the world of backpacking and travelling, every now and then someone comes along and leaps into the record books, changing out perceptions of what is possible while on the road. It may have been nearly four years in the making, but Graham Hughes has become the first man ever to have visited all 201 countries in the world, and he's done it all without flying.

Graham, 33, took almost four years to tick 201 countries off his list, including all 193 members of the United Nations, as well as destinations that include Kosovo, Palestine, Taiwan, Vatican City and Western Sahara. He finished off his world tour in South Sudan, the world's newest and youngest country.

"I've been travelling now for 1,426 days, that's 203 weeks, almost four years," said the intrepid traveller soon after crossing the border from Uganda on Monday.

"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."

Graham based his journey on four key rules: he could not fly, must not drive his own transport, must take "scheduled ground transport" and to qualify as a visit to a country he "must step foot on dry land".

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In the end, Graham travelled 160,000 miles overland and by sea and he did it all on a shoestring budget of about $100 per week funded by donations from family and friends. He says he hitchhiked, stayed on people's couches, and only ate local food on his journey.

"The main highlight has been the reaffirmation of my faith in humanity and the fact that people I've met on the road have been so friendly," he said.

However, it wasn't all plain sailing. He spent four days "crossing open ocean in a leaky boat" to reach Cape Verde, was jailed for a week in the Congo for being a "spy", was arrested trying to "sneak into Russia" and had to be "rescued from Muslim fundamentalists by a Filipino ladyboy called "Jenn".

He also reports to have "tip-toed into North Korea", and in 2009 visited 133 nations, setting the Guinness World Record for the most nations visited in one year by scheduled ground transport.

And what were his reasons to travel? "I love travel, and I guess my reason for doing it was I wanted to see if this could be done, by one person traveling on a shoestring,' he told the Christian Science Monitor. 'I think I also wanted to show that the world is not some big, scary place, but in fact is full of people who want to help you even if you are a stranger."

Graham also raised money for WaterAid while travelling, a British charity that works to provide clean water.

Graham, from all of us at gapyear.com, you are a hero sir.

If you want to do something similar to Graham then get chatting to your fellow gappers on the message boards.