On 1 January 2009, Graham Hughes, 34, left Liverpool on a mission to visit every country in the world without flying. Almost four years later, he arrived in South Sudan to complete his task...
There are three things you need to travel round the world by land and sea: a stomach of steel, mosquito-resistant skin and the ability to sleep anywhere. I have all three. I can wake up at any time without an alarm clock, no matter how much I drank the night before.
The best training I did beforehand was eating loads of kebabs at festivals. It prepared my stomach to withstand anything. I didn’t get ill once during the four years I was away, even when I ate balut in the Philippines. It’s basically a fertilised duck egg. Imagine eating an egg with a half-formed duck foetus instead of a yolk. It’s as disgusting as it sounds.
I never realised my kangaroo-skin hat would come in so handy. It was an umbrella, a fan, a water carrier, a fly swat and a pillow: very useful when trying to sleep in jail cells.
Hitch-hiking by road is easy. It’s the open oceans that are tricky. I worked out ways to blag lifts on yachts, cruise liners and cargo ships. To get on a yacht, you have to schmooze and offer to pull your weight on board. Cruise liners often don’t mind because mariners, especially night watchmen, like the company.
I had a lot of great nights out all over the world. One of the best was when I got hammered in Tuvalu with the US coastguard, the Tuvalu police chief, the Tuvalu Prime Minister and a group of burly transvestites.
The worst journey? Hitching a ride to Cape Verde with local fishermen on their 38-foot leaky canoe. Four terrifying days on the open ocean with no radio, no roof and no one to save us if we sank. When we arrived, I was thrown in jail for a week by police who thought I was a people trafficker.
The hardest thing is putting your life in other people’s hands. I was on a mini bus in Guyana when we saw a bus that had plunged down a ravine – with five bodies inside. Rather than wait for the police, the driver nicked the windscreen wipers and sped off.
Never judge people by their government. Iran is the friendliest place on earth. I was on an overnight bus when an old lady suddenly passed me her phone, smiling. Her grandson at the other end said, in perfect English, that she was worried about me and wanted to know if she could take me home to feed me breakfast.
We’re only here once. When you look back on your life, will you go, “Wow, in 2014 I bought an iPad”? Or will you remember the day you watched a space shuttle take off in Florida?
Check out theodysseyexpedition.com