Every Country on Earth – at ground level

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Odyssey-CoverI’ve posted my thoughts on ‘how many countries there are’ on a number of occasions. A year ago I reported on two friends, both down to their last eight countries – at the time. Me? I’m a non-starter, by my count I’ve only been to 155 countries and that’s by my definition of ‘country.’ If it’s the UN list of 193 then I’ve only been to 139 of them. If my travel plans work out I’ll add at least four more ticks this year.

Back in 2009 Graham Hughes set out to visit every country on earth (the UN list) within 12 months. No trick there, lots of people have done that. His unique selling point was he’d visit them all at ground level, there would be no flights involved.

Between Lonely Planet and National Geographic it was turned into an eight part TV show, Graham’s World or Lonely Planet’s The Odyssey. I’m now part owner of Chemical Media, which back in 2009 was Lonely Planet TV and produced the series.

The only problem was Graham didn’t get to every country on earth. Hardly surprisingly it was a much bigger task than he’d expected. There are lots of places on earth where it’s difficult to get from one country to another even when you can (technically at least) get there by land. The real difficulty is islands which might be easy enough to fly to, but if you want to get there by boat there may be only two or three opportunities in a year. At the end of the 12 months he’d got around Europe (easy), South America and Central America (pretty easy), the Caribbean (now that was more difficult), then up through North America (easy), a boat back across the Atlantic and then down into Africa. Where things got very difficult indeed. He didn’t finish all of Africa.

Nevertheless he carried on, his odyssey eventually took four years and 31 days and it’s just been recognised (the recognition process took a year) by the Guinness Book of Records.