Days 1,469-1,475: I Didn’t Do It

Tue 08.01.13 – Mon 14.01.12:

Dear Graham Hughes,

Thank you for your application for ‘First Surface Journey To Every Country in World’. Unfortunately, due to media reports that described that you snuck into some of the countries you visited, we cannot accept your application as a new Guinness World Record, as we, as an organization, do not accept any illegal activity in order to achieve a record.

Thank you and we hope you understand.

– Guinness World Records

When I had gathered my aforementioned jaw off the aforementioned ground, my noodle went into overdrive as I attempted to suss out what the hell I was going to do next.

THINK, GRAHAM THINK!! Okay. Calm. The only place I crossed a frontier at a place other than an official border point was when I foolishly attempted to wade across the the River Narva from Estonia into Russia. I overlanded it back to the UK. I could pick up the journey if need be. So I wrote back to Guinness.

Thanks for getting back to me regarding my attempt to complete the First Surface Journey To Every Country in the World.

I completely understand and support GWR’s zero-tolerance approach towards people breaking the law in order to achieve world records. With that in mind, I hope we can come to a solution that will benefit us both.

I can prove from my GPS records that all but one of my 200+ border crossings were carried out at an official entry point and I was seen by the border guards or officials on the way through.

There is only ONE country in my entire 4-year journey where I crossed unofficially, and that was Russia – I have never hidden this fact and have spoken about the incident, as you have noted, with the press and on my website.

On the way back over the border I was picked up by the Estonian police and questioned. I was not actually arrested, I was not charged with any crime and I was let go within the hour. Nevertheless, I totally agree that if anyone is to copy my feat, they should know from the start that all border crossings must be carried out at official points of entry.

I therefore plan to complete my journey, complying with GWR regulations, by returning overland from the UK (where I am now) to Russia. This time I promise to cross legally and officially and get a visa and stamp in my passport.

As I travelled overland and on scheduled ground transport back to the UK from South Sudan at what I thought was the end of the journey, I can ‘pick up the trail’ from London and travel across Eastern Europe into Russia. The clock won’t have stopped and instead of the journey taking 3 years and 11 months, it will be recorded as taking 4 years and 1 month.

I hope you see this as a fair way to resolve this matter.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss my claim in finer detail, you can email or call me any time on my mobile. This journey has come at great financial and personal cost, it was suitably epic, incredibly complex and multi-faceted.

To keep within GWR regulations of not condoning a road-race, I did not hitch or drive myself: often when it would have been cheaper, easier and safer to do so. In countries like Nigeria, Egypt and India, this meant putting my life in the hands of maniac bus drivers: drivers happy to career across the central reservation and drive towards oncoming traffic on a freeway.

I dearly hope that just because of one easily-fixed transgression that occurred on one day out of almost 1,500 days of travel that I’ve not unnecessarily risked life and limb legally visiting over 200 countries and territories as well as wasted the last four years of my life.

All the best,

Graham Hughes

Not wanting to hang around for a reply, I sent off my application for a special visa for the Kaliningrad region of Russia (WHICH IS WHAT I SHOULD HAVE DONE FOUR YEARS AGO!!!), intending on heading over there on Monday January 21.

I’m not angry with Guinness – they are 100% in the right here. This is my f— up, and mine alone. I really don’t know what I was thinking at the time. Actually, I do… it was “£150 for a visa?! Sod that for a lark! I’ll just wade across this ’ere river.”

The only thing I wish is that they told me this when I put in for my first record (most countries visited in one year without flying) as I had ample opportunities to pop back into Russia officially (it is, after all, the biggest country in the world) over the last three years. But hey-ho.

I do have some good news though, I got to speak to Cara from NBC Peacock about this travel show they’re putting together and they’re very interested in having me on board. The bad news is that it probably won’t happen for between three to six months. And I can imagine myself needing food and shelter in the meantime.

Starbucks is calling……

Opting to remain in the big smoke with Casey, I stayed at lovely Matt’s gaff up in Bound’s Green for a couple of nights, but the dog, Daisy, had a terrible habit of BARKING like a crazy moo every time I shuffled into her line of sight. After a 4am sojourn from my room to the toilet was heralded by crazy hound waking up everybody in the tri-state area, I moved on to pastures new: specifically my friends Michelle and Daniel’s place in Hampstead. On the Friday night, Case and I headed back to Liverpool for the weekend. We hit a couple of house parties on the Saturday night, one of which we were invited to by ConfusedMike, one of the regular commenters on That’s right! Invite me to all the parties you want! I don’t bite… and, chances are, I’ll probably turn up!!

After catching up with my family on the Sunday, we drove back down to London in the wee hours of Monday morning. Compared with bright and breezy Liverpool, London feels dark, foreboding and oppressive – not somewhere to raise the kids. In fact it’s cold as hell. Although I’m currently not in hell, I’m in Limbo. Paradigm haven’t got back to me, neither have Guinness and neither have the Russian visa people. I can’t go anywhere, can’t do anything.

Don’t worry, I’ll keep on trucking.

It’s all I know to do.

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

Leave a Reply