History undergraduates are often asked “so what will you do after your degree?” as if having a history degree dooms you to a life of unavoidable failure. No longer! Next time maybe you should answer “I don’t know. Maybe travel to every single country on earth!”, because that’s what Manchester Politics and Modern History graduate Graham Hughes did. Born in 1979, the Liverpudlian has designed a career path very far flung from the norm (i.e. graduate schemes, teaching, bar work, temporary homelessness). As far as lifetime achievement goes, Graham Hughes has squeezed as much in as possible.
January 2013 saw him complete a four year, cross-globe journey visiting every sovereign state, without flying, named the ‘Odyssey Expedition’. He has a Guinness World Record for visiting the most countries (133) in one year using only scheduled ground transport. On his website, Graham describes his influences, including “My Dad… Michael Palin… Bilbo Baggins”. He describes the highlights of his trip to be “Madagascar! Or Uzbekistan. Or maybe Iran. And Key West. And, er, Colombia. I like places that surprise me!”. However, his travels were not all enjoyable, as he faced much adversity on his journey, including being arrested sneaking into Russia and spending a week in a Congo prison. Regarding financing the trip Hughes, although having the film of his adventure broadcast on television, received no funding for his travels and said he relied on two credit cards and a hefty overdraft! Utilising; couchsurfing.org, cheap hotels under $10, sleeping whilst travelling, eating street food and “wearing the same pair of jeans for four months” Graham has truly travelled on a budget. He also states on his website that he still hasn’t paid back his student loans, with this knowledge travelling after graduating doesn’t seem so impossible after all.
Whilst on the road Graham presented a television show entitled ‘Graham’s World’ for the National Geographic Adventure Channel, and also has BBC and Lonely Planet on board for his adventures, an arrangement which he accredits to the aligning of the planets. His film making exploits also link to his career before epic travel, as he owns film making company, ‘Hydra Studios’ and, between 2002 and 2009, he was hugely involved in Liverpool’s music scene working with a long list of artists including The Coral and filming for the Arctic Monkey’s second album ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’. On his website, Dina Deasha describes the motivation behind his Odyssey Expedition as “… years from now school children across the land will be required to learn the date of his birth”. Certainly he has achieved great success with very few resources, and along the way has raised funding for his chosen charity Water Aid. Why? He writes “Because clean water and sanitation should be a basic human right…Unfortunately, we in the West are more interested in saving the lives of animals (in the UK we give more money each year to the DONKEY sanctuary in Cornwall than we give to the NSPCC) than kids… The world is desperate for the toilet. And you can help”. Graham Hughes, we salute you and your desperately interesting post- Manchester life.