A Briton on Monday claimed to be the first person to have visited every sovereign nation on the globe without flying, after he crossed into the world’s youngest country, South Sudan.
Graham Hughes, 33, took almost four years to tick 201 countries off his list, including all 193 members of the UN, as well as destinations including Taiwan, Kosovo, Palestine, Vatican City and Western Sahara.
“I’ve been traveling now for 1,426 days, that’s 203 weeks, almost four years,” the cowboy-hat-wearing globetrotter said as he quaffed warm fizzy wine in the tropical heat, soon after crossing the border from Uganda.
“I started in Uruguay on January 1, 2009, and I’ve been traveling 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,” he said.
Hughes 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.”
“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.
Hughes, who comes originally from Liverpool and who also raised money for WaterAid, a British charity that works to provide clean water, had already visited northern Sudan.
South Sudan, which won independence from Sudan in July last year, was not a country when he started his travels.
“Most people thought that I was a bit mad, a lot of people thought it was impossible,” he said in Juba.
Many were concerned as to how he would visit conflict-wracked nations such as Afghanistan, Iraq or Somalia, although few border controls meant that “those were the easy countries to get to,” he said.
Instead, the real challenge proved to be “those tiny island nations out in the world ... the guys that turn up to the Olympics with a flag and two athletes,” and where perhaps only one supply ship visits each month, Hughes said.