Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Conversation with Graham Hughes

While doing a radio interview for my latest show I met Graham Hughes in the lobby. He was a super cool adventurer. When I found out what he has been up to I was blown away by his amazing life! He has been to almost 200 countries on a budget and he has done it all SANS airplanes! How amazing is that?! You have to check out his blog and if you have the National Geographic Channel watch his show, Graham's World! I don't have a tv or I would totally check in! (As soon as it's on Itunes Graham I'm there!)
You can find his blog at:
You'll love it! It's smart and I can't imagine having an adventure like his! It's such a larger than life experience. I'm in awe of his dedication to his craft of being a traveler. I asked him if he had an Odysseus moment on his journey? Apparently he totally had a couple of those.
Thanks again to Graham for having an interview with me!
I appreciated his time and his lovely traveling hat! 

Thanks to Graham for the awesome photo from his blog!

1. Introduce Yourself and Your mission:

My name is Graham Hughes, I'm a filmmaker/adventurer/TV presenter/world record holder from Liverpool in the UK. For the past three years, four months and nine days I have been on a mission of biblical proportions: to the first person to visit every country in the world without flying. That's 193 members of the UN, plus some states of limited recognition thrown in for good measure to make a nice round total of 201 countries. 

So far, I've been to 197 countries all on a shoestring budget, a TV crew that consists of just me holding a camcorder at arm's length and a logistical support team that consists of my girlfriend, my best mate from school and my mum.

The four countries I have left are Sri Lanka, Maldives, Seycelles and South Sudan.

2. What inspired you to travel around the world without airplanes?

Michael Palin's Around The World in 80 Days was a great inspiration, as was my father, my love of travel from an early age, my love of video games (this is one big real-life version of Monkey Island) and my interest in world politics. People have already set records for going to every country by flying so it wouldn't be original, it wouldn't be as interesting and it would cost a shed-load more. Not to mention that flying to all these places would be very bad for the environment. I'm only allowed to use scheduled ground-based transport (and the occasional sailing boat).

3. What has been your best travel experience on the journey?

Oooh that's a hard one... seeing a space shuttle blast off in Florida, being invited to a Persian Grandmother's house for breakfast, dancing with the Highlanders of Papua New Guinea, swimming in Jellyfish Lake in Palau, having the tomb room of The Great Pyramid all to myself, meeting the President of East Timor, meeting Bungy Jump King AJ Hackett, having a snowball fight in Iraq, watching Ghana beat the USA in the World Cup on a clapped out TV in the middle of the road in Eritrea, spending Christmas with a Fijian family, cadging a free ride on a cruise ship, winning at the races in Mauritius... ARRRGH!! TOO MANY THINGS... sorry, I can't choose one. There's plenty more, you just have to read my blog.

4. What has been a frustrating thing from your journey?

Visas, Island Nations and Somali Pirates. Visas for countries like Angola, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia and North Korea etc. involve lots of ridiculous paperwork and they can be damn expensive. But now British people need to spend $100 to even get a visa 'waver' for the United States. I recently visited Saipan and Guam but wasn't allowed down the gangway off the ship! What a joke! This is the thanks us Brits get for supporting the US in two unpopular and unwinnable wars? Grrr!!

Before I started all this madness, people were asking me how I would get to Afghanistan, Iraq or Somalia. They were the easy ones! The real difficulty is getting to islands nations like Nauru, Sao Tome and Principe or Tuvalu - island nations that may be hundreds or even thousands of miles away across the deep blue sea. Because I'm not flying, I sometimes have to get creative when it comes to crossing water. In the last seven months, I've spent over 130 days at sea, on 8 different ships order to get to just 12 nations of the Pacific Ocean.

But island nations are one thing, island nations that happen to be in the Somali HIGH RISK pirate zone are another!! Which is why Maldives and Seychelles are still 2 of my final 4. I can't hitch a ride on a commercial ship as I'd invalidate their anti-piracy insurance. Still haven't quite figured out quite how I'm going to do that bit...!

5. What is the most used item in your backpack?

My camcorder. Then my AA battery charger that you can plug into a USB socket - I love that thing!

6. I love your hat, what made you choose it as your traveling hat?

It's an Aussie akubra hat made from kangaroo leather and its main function is to stop me getting sunburnt. It also stops my glasses getting wet when it rains, keeps the sun out of my eyes, it makes a nifty face fan, hides any zits I on my forehead, you can stuff a guidebook into it and it doubles as a pillow, use it to give you a buffer zone between your head and the ice-cold bus window, pass it around when you're begging for money, jump up and down on it when you're frustrated (much in the manner of Yosemite Sam) or just use it as a makeshift Frisbee when you're in the park.

And the best thing about akubras is that you can scrunch them up and they pop back into shape - also, it always nice to see the relief on people's faces when they hear my voice and realise that I'm not actually from Australia! (Joke!!)

7. What is your website and where can people find out more about your journey?

For up-to-the-minute goings on, my website is, my Twitter account is @EveryCountry and I also make a TV show which you can see on the National Geographic Adventure channel here in Hong Kong. The show is called 'Graham's World' and the first series covers my first year and first 133 countries of the expedition.

8. Got a wild and crazy story from the road?

Ah, plenty! But the stupidest thing I did was when I took a leaky wooden fishing canoe - a 'pirogue' - along with 10 fisherman from Senegal to the Cape Verde islands. The canoe just had one outboard motor, no oars or sails, no radio, no distress beacon, no satphone, no lifejackets, oh and did I mention it was made of wood? And leaking? And that the distance from Senegal to Cape Verde is 600km across the ATLANTIC OCEAN? 

The authorities in Cape Verde were so impressed by my stupidity that when I arrived in the port of Praia on Santiago Island they promptly threw me and the fishermen in a tiny cell and we were all made to sleep on a dusty concrete floor for the next five nights while they worked out whether I was a people smuggler or just inordinately stupid. Thankfully, they realised it was the latter.

9. Anything else you want to share?

First up, I'm not rich by any stretch of the imagination. I keep costs down by CouchSurfing, hitching rides on boats, only eating street food and only taking public transport. Secondly, doing this journey has really re-affirmed my faith in humanity. If you sit in your living room watching the news, it can seem that everywhere is awful and everyone is trying to kill you, but that's really not the case. Everyone I have met in 197 countries and 12 territories, from Colombia to Iran via Nigeria, has fallen over themselves to help out this scruffy stranger that's come wandering into their midst - the worst I've had to put up with is tax drivers trying to rip me off. In general, most people are just like you and me, getting on with their lives. It's only the crazies out there that get on the news, but don't let that taint your view of the world in general - news will always highlight the suffering and injustices in the world, it's its job, which is why 'Nothing bad happened today in Burkina Faso' is not a headline we're ever likely to see.

Finally, I'm not just doing this for shit and giggles, I'm also trying to raise money for the clean water and sanitation charity WaterAid ( If you go to my website and you like what you see, please chip in a few dollars for a very good cause via our JustGiving account - It's maddening that one of the biggest killers worldwide of children aged between 6 months and 5 years is diarrhoea - not malaria, not war, not famine, not Aids, but an ailment that is easy to avoid and cheap to treat - a donation of just $1 could pay for a sugar-salt solution that could quite literally save a child's life.

Anyway, take care, thanks for taking the time out to read about my Quixotic Quest. ONWARD!!!

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