PRESIDENT OBAMA’S touchdown in Saudi Arabia after his India visit made it his 84th trip to a foreign country since becoming President, including repeat visits (like India and Saudi Arabia). The latest issue of Time has calculated that he has accumulated over 447,000 frequent flyer miles in international travel since January 2009, making him the most travelled US President in recent history. As a contestant for the most travelled leader title, however, he loses out to Pope John Paul II, who was one of the most travelled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificat. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also ahead of Obama, having visited 93 countries during his time in office as prime minister from 2003 to 2014. World leaders getting the travel bug is more to do with diplomatic imperatives and crisis situations than love of travel and visiting new places. For that, the title goes to an Indian: Kashi Samaddar, recognised by the Guiness Book of World Records as being the first person to visit all sovereign states of the world. Samaddar, a businessman based in Dubai, took 12 years, eight months and 13 days to complete his epic journey to all 194 countries in the world starting with a visit to Holland in July 2002 and finishing in Kosovo in May 2008. He formulated his plan to visit every country when, in 2003, he was stranded at Johannesburg airport after being refused a visa on his arrival there. He also has the Guinness Record for being the fastest person to travel to all sovereign countries.
His record has now been broken by Graham Hughes, a British adventurer and filmmaker, who has also travelled to all sovereign countries in the world, but unlike Samaddar, he did it without taking a single flight. His journey took him four years and he eclisped the record on 9 July, 2011, when South Sudan gained independence, setting a new World Record as the first person to travel to all 195 countries of the world as recognised by the United Nations. Samaddar still holds the record for having visited all countries, states, important territories and atolls. Hughes had the advantage of being sponsored by National Geographic for visiting every recognised country in the world without flying, and his journey was broadcast as a weekly television show. His trip involved no flying and no private transport. The next on the most travelled list are two New Zealanders, John Bougen and James Irving, who recently completed a trip that took them through all but two of the world’s sovereign nations in 169 days. Bougen and Irving only missed Afghanistan and Sao Tome—a tiny country in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea—on their 191-nation trip. They covered 151,125 miles—the equivalent of circling the globe six times. The pair used 104 airlines, boarded 242 flights, spent 417 hours flying and passed through 190 airports. They crossed the equator nine times and checked into 114 different hotels. Their trip, aimed at raising money for Save the Children, cost £128,000, which they met themselves and through sponsorship.