As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a backpacker. The road at my feet, a song in my heart and 500 miles to the horizon. On January 1 2009, I took a ferry boat over the River Plate from Argentina to Uruguay and thus began one of the most daring, most epic and certainly most hilarious solo travel adventures of all time.
I had been told over and over again that it couldn’t be done, it was impossible, a fool’s errand. But I knew it could be done – and I was determined to prove it, or else die trying.
Nobody had ever attempted this before, probably because the concept alone is quite simply insane. As well as the 193 member states of the UN, I had to visit Vatican City, Western Sahara, Taiwan, Kosovo, Palestine, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland… 201 nations by land and sea.
Needless to say, it was an adventure of epic proportions.
In the first year of my adventure I watched one of the last space shuttles blast off into space, I had to sneak into Cuba from Key West without the American authorities realising, I was arrested on the Russian border for wading across a river and I was forced to backtrack over 2,000 miles through the Sahara Desert to get a visa.
I paid a group of local Senegalese fishermen to take me on their wooden ‘pirogue’ over 600km of open ocean to Cape Verde… no radio, no sat phone, no distress beacon, just an outboard motor and the good will of King Neptune… and was promptly thrown in jail for a week upon arrival on suspicion of people smuggling.
I braved the Mad Max-esque freeways of Nigeria, joined a tribe of hallucinogenic tree-bark worshippers in Gabon and found myself imprisoned again, this time in Congo.
I met the Nuns of Gabarone, grabbed a beer in the highest pub in Africa in Lesotho, won on the horses in Mauritius and reached Egypt at 6 minutes past midnight on New Year.
I watched Ghana beat the US in the World Cup while drinking Asmara beer in Eritrea, I sailed around The World in Dubai and hung out with Frankincense farmers in Oman and Maoist rebels in Nepal.
I crossed the rooftop of the world into Tibet, tucked into a dish of dancing octopus in South Korea and met the Nobel-prize winning President of East Timor.
I found myself knocked for six at a cricket match in Sri Lanka, discovered the joys of Takamaka Rum in The Seychelles and was welcomed into South Sudan – a country that didn’t exist when my expedition began – with sandwiches and a bottle of champagne. For my last hurrah on my way back to England (overland) I scaled the Great Pyramid of Giza under cover of darkness with three guys called Mo(hammed).
It would be 4 years, 31 days and TWO HUNDRED COUNTRIES after Uruguay that I crossed my final frontier – and entered the record books.
I did it alone, with no professional support (save that of my wonderful friends and family) and on a shoestring budget of just $150 a week.
Here at theodysseyexpedition.com you can read my raw, uncensored blog entries from the adventure and access my videos, photos, maps and the occasional wild tangent.
The Odyssey Expedition is currently being turned into a series of books which will begin hitting the shelves around September 2016. For more information, go to the Odyssey Books page.
If the adventure taught me one thing, it’s that you can’t judge the people of a country by the actions of their government. It also taught me that the world isn’t such a bad place – it isn’t going to hell in a handcart, although it might seem that way if the only experience you have of a given country comes from the media.
During the entire journey I was not mugged, robbed or even fell ill. It gave me a new-found appreciation for this beautiful planet of ours and positively restored my faith in humanity.
I hope that my journey has inspired you to go out and see the world for yourself. Yes it was difficult at times, but then so is life!! Most of the time The Odyssey Expedition was, quite simply, a bloody good laugh. Here’s to all the incredible people – people from EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD – who helped make it happen.