The Odyssey Expedition is FIRST Official Guinness World Record™ attempt to visit every country in the world in one journey without flying. Nobody has ever attempted this before, many have told me that it can’t be done. But I’ve now been to over 195 countries, including every nation of The Americas, Europe, Asia, Australasia, The Pacific and all but one country of Africa.
As far as I am concerned, it CAN be done and I am going to prove that it can be done. There is no precedent for this. I can’t refer to a single book or call up one person and ask them how to do it – I’m making it up as I go along, dealing with the best information I can lay my heads on and leaving myself completely at the mercy and good will of my fellow human beings from Timbuktu to Kathmandu.
The Big Idea
I’ve had the idea of doing The Odyssey Expedition around 8 years ago while I was backpacking around South East Asia. I had wanted to visit every country in the world since I was a kid and it excited me that I had the opportunity to visit off-the-beaten-track places like Bangladesh, Burma and Brunei – it dawned on me that with a British Passport, I could – if I tried hard enough – visits every single one of those weird and wonderful places. The only thing stopping me was the fact that several countries at that time were still at war. Wars which, I’m happy to say, are now over.
After clocking up a total of 70 countries on various backpacking adventures and fielding the idea of The Odyssey Expedition to people in the media, in 2008 I decided it was time to stop talking about it and DO IT. I managed to get a meeting with the head of television development in Lonely Planet – they liked the idea, and what’s more they thought that it was doable. The stage was set.
Over the following six months I prepared as best I could for the journey, getting the necessary vaccinations, learning to sail (kinda), getting in touch with Eimskip to help me cross the Atlantic, arranging a mobile internet dongle with Vodafone so I could keep the website updated on the road and filming stuff for Lonely Planet of my ‘preparations’.
I contacted the good folk at Guinness World Records™ so we could be clear about the ‘rules’, and they requested that as well as not flying, I not drive myself or take private vehicles over large distances – they can’t support any kind of road race.
Truth be told though, there wasn’t much to prepare. I travel fast and I travel light and most of this couldn’t be set-up in advance. Visas only last for a month or two, there was no way of knowing when cargo boats or private yachts will be leaving six months in the future. You can’t predict you’ll get thrown in an African jail or blag a ride on a cruise ship – you just don’t know. But as far as getting around overland is conserned, one late night with a large stack of Lonely Planet guidebooks was all I needed to consult. The world is surprisingly accessible!
With a British Passport you don’t need a pre-bought visa for hardly any country in the Americas or Europe and although the roads in Africa are pretty damn awful, you can always find some sort of public transport trundling along them.
Something else that is quite surprising is how cheap this is to do! If you’re registered on CouchSurfing your accommodation will be free, public transport in most countries is remarkably inexpensive (if you’re prepared to rough it) and you can feed yourself for just a couple of pounds if you know where to look.
An Earth Odyssey
What’s great about this adventure is having the opportunity to meet people from all over the world – people who live and love their respective countries. I love waking up somewhere new every day, I love not knowing what lies around the next corner, I love the thrill of the unknown and the tremendous sense of achievement as I break through these borders and see my map of the world filled in. Most of all, I love the support and friendship offered to me by complete strangers – everywhere, from Antigua to Afghanistan.
I can also safely say that in the last fifteen months I have learnt more about the world than I did in fifteen years of schooling. Geography, history, politics, culture, language, film-making, writing, blogging… you name it, if I took the exam tomorrow I’d get an ‘A’.
Setting a brand new Guinness World Record™ for my travels in 2009 was a dream come true. There were times when I’ll admit it was hard to want to carry on, but there are literally hundreds of people who have gone out of their way to help me on this quest and it’s for them, not me, that I continue and will see this through to the very end.
And why do I want to go to every country in the world? Because this planet is ours. It’s the only home we have known and it is the only home we will ever know. For too long the powers that be have decreed where we can and cannot go on this spinning rock of ours, our Pale Blue Dot. Their time is over – after centuries of needless bloodshed, pretty much every country in the world is now finally open for business. Let’s go see ’em!