Hughes in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 2010
|Born||March 1st 1979|
Graham David Hughes is a British adventurer, filmmaker, television presenter and Guinness World Record holder. Hughes was the first person to visit all 193 United Nations member states and several other territories across the world without flying. He did so over a period of nearly four years and completed the task in November 2012.
While on his journey he presented the television program Graham's World on the National Geographic Adventure channel, a weekly look into his ongoing quest to break multiple world records by visiting every country on earth without flying.
Graham Hughes was born in Liverpool in 1979. He attended Blackmoor Park School and the Liverpool Blue Coat School, studying English, General Studies, History, and Politics at A-Level. He read Politics and Modern History at the University of Manchester and graduated with a 2:1 BA Honours degree in 2000. He moved to Orrell Park and set up a video production company firstly in Dale Street and then in the Baltic Triangle.
The Odyssey Expedition
The Odyssey Expedition was a quest to drop in on every one of the 193 UN member states. For the United Kingdom, Hughes visited all of the four constituent countries that make up the kingdom, and counted the UN member state as four separate countries. Hughes also visited the non-member state of Vatican City, as well as the partially recognized non-member states of Palestine, Western Sahara, Kosovo, and Taiwan, for a total of 201 "countries" without flying. He says people tend to wonder how he got into the further-out countries like North Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan, but claims "they were the easy ones".
Before embarking on the journey, Hughes contacted Guinness World Records to agree in advance the rules of his unique journey. They were: no flying as part of the journey, no private taxis over long distances (shared "bush" taxis were okay), no hitch-hiking, Hughes could not drive a vehicle or ride a motorbike as part of the journey (Guinness World Records does not permit people to "race" on public roads in private vehicles in order to set or break records), he must set foot on dry land (sailing into territorial waters did not count) and no travelling to far flung territories and counting them as a visit to the motherland. Private transport was permitted over short distances (such as taking a private taxi across town), private transport was also permitted over water and he was allowed to take a break from the journey for personal reasons so long as he did not fly as part of the journey and he returned to the exact spot from which he left, something he did twice on his landmark journey. It was agreed that the clock would not stop.
Highlights of the trip included imprisonment in the Republic of the Congo, getting caught sneaking into Russia, and running the blockade into Cuba. He was arrested in Estonia and Cameroon and spent jail time in Congo and Cape Verde.
Guinness World Records were reportedly unhappy with his entry into Russia as it was the only country he entered without passing an official border post. In January 2013 Hughes returned to Russia, this time with an official visa.
In February 2014, it was announced that Guinness World Records had confirmed Hughes's Odyssey Expedition was "The fastest time to visit all countries by public surface transport" (4 years and 31 days) after an extraordinarily long verification process. Marco Frigatti, Head of Records at Guinness World Records was quoted as saying "I can't remember a more absorbing record to verify in recent years."
In August 2017, Hughes attempted to set a new record for visiting every country in Europe without flying in the fastest time, a challenge he dubbed "The Eurodyssey". He completed the task in 21 days. However, Guinness World Records believed he could have done it faster had he not included Kosovo, Scotland, Turkey and Cyprus—which they either decreed "not countries" or "not in Europe" (as defined by the United Nations website). Hughes has stated that he intends to try again in summer 2019, depending on the outcome of Brexit.
TV shows & filmmaking
Hughes's personal video log of the first year of his expedition was made into an eight-part television series called "Graham's World" or "Lonely Planet's The Odyssey". It was commissioned by the National Geographic Adventure channel, produced by Lonely Planet and distributed by BBC Worldwide. It has been broadcast in over 50 countries, including China, India, Australia and the USA (on Travel Channel).
On 12 December 2013, Hughes was declared the winner of SOS Island, a Survivor-like show featuring Les Stroud which relied on social media to promote Samsung products on a desert island setting. The prize was $100,000 towards a future island adventure of his choice. He chose to buy an island in Bocas Del Toro, Panama, from fellow British adventurer Ian Usher. Hughes renamed it "Jinja Island" and lived there off-grid for the best part of three years.
Before stepping in front of the camera, he wrote and directed a number of short films and won the inaugural Liverpool 48 Hour Film Challenge in 2006. Hughes produced videos for World Challenge Expeditions, and also shot or produced videos for Hot Club De Paris, The Dead 60s, The Basement, (We are) Performance, Peter And The Wolf, Lyons And Tigers, China Crisis, The Coral, The Real Kicks, The Sonic Hearts, Metro Manila Aide, White Rose Movement and filming for the release of the Arctic Monkeys second album, Favourite Worst Nightmare.
In the summer of 2013, Hughes's "One Second Every Country" YouTube video went viral, amassing almost one million views in just a few weeks, which led to appearances on BBC News  and CBS This Morning  as well as articles about his travels on Buzzfeed and Esquire.
Hughes's debut travel memoir, "Man of the World: Book One of The Odyssey Expedition", a lively first-hand account of the first year of his journey to every country without flying, was first published by ATBOSH Media in October 2017. It was named to Kirkus Reviews' books of the year in December 2018.
Hughes has spoken about his travels at TED Active in California and numerous TEDx events, as well as at Thinking Digital, the Telegraph Adventure Show and various schools and universities around the UK, including Durham University, Eton College and Liverpool Blue Coat School.
Global Scouse Day
In the wake of the Brexit referendum, Hughes wrote to his local Labour Party MP, Stephen Twigg, threatening to stand against him in an upcoming election if he voted with the Conservative Party to activate Article 50 without any protection for EU citizens living in the UK or British citizens living in the EU (against the wishes of a majority of his constituents). When Theresa May called a snap election in April 2017, Hughes, true to his word, returned to the UK to run against Twigg as an independent candidate. He received 0.7% of the votes.
Since then, Hughes has been a vocal advocate of remaining in the European Union, leading and emceeing the "People's March For Europe" in September 2017. He stood as a candidate for the Liberal Democrats in the 2018 local government elections for his home ward of Knotty Ash, Liverpool and came third with just over 6% of the vote. In 2018 Hughes also started a YouTube series under the title "3 Blokes in a Pub" discussing Brexit with fellow Brexit opponents.
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