The Odyssey Expedition was the FIRST Official Guinness World Record™ attempt to visit every country in the world in one journey without flying. Nobody has ever attempted this before, and many told me that it can’t be done… they where wrong.
I travelled on my own. I organised my travel, planning and logistics with a little help from my friends and family. I film everything myself, edit the YouTube videos, keep this site updated and write the blogs.
As far as I was concerned, it could be done and I was determined to prove it can be done. There was no precedent for The Odyssey Expedition. I couldn’t refer to a single book or call up one person and ask them how to do it – I made it up as I went 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 all over the world.
The Big Idea
I’ve had the idea of doing The Odyssey Expedition in 2002 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 – visit 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.
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 was great about this adventure was having the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. I loved waking up somewhere new every day, I loved not knowing what lay around the next corner, I loved the thrill of the unknown and the tremendous sense of achievement as I broke through these borders and saw my map of the world filled in. Most of all, I loved the support and friendship offered to me by complete strangers – everywhere, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.
I can also safely say that I learnt more about the world in four years of travel than I did in fifteen years of schooling.
Setting a brand new Guinness World Record™ was a dream come true. There were times when I’ll admit it was hard to carry on, but there are literally hundreds of people who went out of their way to help me along the way and it was for them that I continued to see the journey through to the very end.