He visited every country in the world — without using an airplane.
On Sunday, he hopped on the website Reddit to reveal how he did it and what it was like -- including the part where he ended up in jail twice.
British adventurer Graham Hughes regaled the internet with tales of his canoe-, ship- and foot-based world travels during his "Ask Me Anything" session Sunday, and for a guy who was imprisoned twice during his journey, he seemed to bear the world little ill will.
Here are a few of the things Hughes shared about his global trek:
Where exactly did he travel?
"[I visited] all of the members of the UN, plus Kosovo, Palestine, Western Sahara, Taiwan and Vatican City," Hughes wrote. "What Guinness World Records regards as 'all countries.' I also went to 18 territories, such as Faroe Islands, Martinique and New Caledonia."
How did he pay for things and communicate?
"I saved up, I got some money for the TV show I made for Lonely Planet, and towards the end of my journey, my family and friends chipped in to ensure I finished what I had started," Hughes said. "The whole thing cost me around £27,000 over four years - just under £7,000 ($10,000) a year."
Hughes said he speaks English, "a little bit of French and a little bit of Spanish" — yet he managed to get his meaning across to people worldwide.
"Communication was never really a problem," Hughes said. "At the end of the day you can just smile and point at stuff!"
"The fine police officers of Cape Verde (understandably) didn't quite understand what the hell I was doing arriving in the country on a big wooden canoe with a bunch of Senegalese fishermen," Hughes said of his first arrest, when he was suspected of illegally entering the country. "I[t] was an idiotic thing to do, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't kick myself for being such a fool."
While he took the blame for his first arrest, he said his second arrest was out of his hands.
"Congo - that's not as justifiable," Hughes wrote. He admitted that he "los[t] my rag" (lost his temper) with a Congolese police chief, and learned an important lesson: Stay cheerful to schmooze foreign law enforcement.
"KEEP SMILING!" Hughes advised Reddit. "Seriously. Could have saved me a good few days of sleeping on a concrete floor."
Did he ever feel unsafe?
There was only one occasion when Hughes said he was scared for his life.
"A representative of the British Embassy in Congo came to visit me in my holding cell and made it quite clear that if I didn't stop shouting and kicking the door the police might, erm, 'make it look like an accident,'" Hughes revealed. "That proper freaked me out."
How did he visit North Korea?
Hughes admitted that he took an easy way out when visiting the Hermit Kingdom.
"I just went to the DMZ [demilitarized zone between North and South Korea]," Hughes said. "BORING I KNOW! But I couldn't afford the $1,000 for a three-day trip to Pyongyang from Beijing."
His favorite food: Sweet and sour squid.
"The best meal I had was in a street-side awning in Jayapura, West Papua," Hughes said. "Sweet and sour squid on rice. I still have happy dreams about that squid."
The most beautiful place in the world: Palau.
"One thing that sticks my head was swimming with the stingless jellyfish of Palau," Hughes said. "That was like being on another planet!"
Palau jellyfish. (Image via Y A B/flickr)
The most beautiful women in the world: Liverpool, U.K.
Hughes might have been biased — like the Beatles, he's from Liverpool.
The country he was most surprised by: Iran.
"[I]t was NOTHING like what I was expecting it to be," Hughes wrote of the Persian nation. "Friendliest country in the world by a mile."
Commenters quickly filled the thread with stories of friendly Iranians and drinking in Iranian nightclubs — and a few commenters identified themselves as Iranians who were fed up with media portrayals of their country as a theocratic terrorist state and who said they were grateful to see a Westerner appreciate their culture.
The country he would stay away from: Syria.
"I had unhappy experiences in Cape Verde and Congo, but I reckon I'd go back there (the people were lovely, it was just the police I had a problem with!)," Hughes said. "At the moment, I wouldn't be too keen on returning to Syria, for obvious (and heartbreaking) reasons. When I was there in 2010, the country was at peace."
What did his passport look like by the end of his journeys?
A multicolored panoply of national stamps.
He wouldn't pick a favorite country.
"I'd go back to them all (including the ones that put me in jail)," Hughes said when asked to name a favorite nation. "I'll admit to having a special affection for Iran, Thailand, Bolivia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea."
Why did he take the journey?
"It all stemmed from my love of travel, which I've had since I was a kid," Hughes said. "I can't sing, I can't play a musical instrument, I can't run 100m in less than 10 seconds, but I am fairly gifted when it comes to getting around, sleeping in uncomfortable places, making myself understood, trying new things, putting myself out there... going to every country without flying seemed like something that was within my capabilities."
He added a short list of five reasons he embarked on his trek:
- Nobody had done it before
- To raise money for the charity WaterAid
- To prove it could be done...on a shoestring budget
- To encourage people to travel
- To show that the world isn't this big scary place the media often portrays
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