Graham Hughes took up the challenge of visiting 200 countries relying on buses, trains and ships alone to take his message of environmental awareness far. Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma /Gulf News

Dubai: Spending two years travelling around the world visiting every country on the planet might be the stuff of dreams.

But could you do it without catching a flight?

You would be making your journey purely by land and sea by any means possible, never once brandishing an aircraft boarding pass or being offered chicken or fish courtesy of airline catering.

Eighteen months ago Graham Hughes, 31, from the UK, took up the challenge. As a hardened backpacker who already had 70 countries under his belt, he decided to cover a bit more ground using just public transport, to keep his carbon footprint low.

Audio: Radio 2's Accalia Hipwood speaks to Graham Hughes


The challenge was to visit 200 countries in as much time as it takes, using buses, trains and ships, often on routes better accustomed to transporting cargo or livestock.

Hughes said his trip, The Odyssey Expedition, would be the first official attempt to visit every country in the world in one epic journey, without flying.

Check out the expedition website

"I've been to 161 countries so far, 39 to go," said Hughes on Sunday on the tail-end of his stay in the UAE.

A month ago he took a bus from Riyadh, and several hours later he arrived in Dubai, where he has been exploring the city's transport options. "The Dubai Metro is good," he said.

"I haven't been on the buses but the taxis are cheap. Any transit system is the lifeblood of a city. There are many economic problems in some countries because people don't have any transport to go to work."

He is now trying to organise transport to his next destination, India, by boat or cargo ship — whichever is available first. "I could never have done this 10 years ago," he said.

"The world has gotten smaller and safer, it's a lot more open now," he said.

"I started in Uruguay and travelled South America spending about two weeks in each country; I got stuck in the Caribbean because of [availability of] boats and made it to Cuba — which wasn't easy. Then across Europe on trains."

Along the way, the former film and video producer has been recording the entire journey, and parts of his adventures in Europe, the Americas and Africa are already being screened on the Graham's World television show on the National Geographic Adventure channel.

Guinness mark

Hughes has already set a new Guinness record by visiting 133 countries in one year without ever leaving the ground.

But he is not merely travelling the world to pass through countries aboard articulated lorries or nursery school buses. He is also raising money and awareness for the charity Water Aid. So far he has raised £5,000 (Dh28,796).

"It took me seven months to travel over Africa, a bit longer than I planned. People often think Africa has the worst freshwater problems but India is worse," he said.

According to Water Aid India, the residents of Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh state, are experiencing the worst drinking water scarcity the region has ever seen.

Join the cause

To donate to Water Aid through Graham Hughes visit www.justgiving.com/theodysseyexpedition

You can also follow his journey on www.theodysseyexpedition.com and on You Tube. Every time his videos are watched, You Tube will donate money to the cause.

* Audio supplied by Radio 2