Where in the World is Karl Bushby?

Those following the elusive British ex-paratrooper’s 20+ year walk around the world often have to guess where he is. His current situation? It’s complicated…

If you Google Karl Bushby, one of the top questions you will find is “where is Karl Bushby now?” The elusive British ex-paratrooper dislikes and rarely updates his social media. However, we do get glimpses of his expedition every now and again.

Karl Bushby has been circumnavigating the globe since 1998. So far, he has walked 43,493km. His expedition — though not himself personally — is currently stuck in Turkmenistan, on the Iranian border. Since 2019, his Goliath expedition has hit an impasse because of the pandemic and geopolitics.

Karl Bushby pushing his cart, called “The Beast”. Photo: Karl Bushby


The Iran dilemma

Currently, Bushby is waiting out his COVID quarantine in Mexico. Why is he in Mexico, you ask? The word “complicated” is an understatement here. By the end of 2019, he had trekked through Turkmenistan to its border with Iran. But he couldn’t get a visa into Iran, and his 30-day Turkmen visa had expired. His Turkmen government escorts confiscated his equipment and forced him to leave the country. He decided to go to Los Angeles to update his sponsors and to figure out the Iran dilemma.

The complications continue: His British passport denied him easy access to Iran. His American sponsors couldn’t pay for this segment of his expedition because of increased tensions with the U.S. after the assassination of Iran’s General Soleimani in a drone strike. His lifelong dream of visiting Iran had begun to slip from his grasp. Even after tensions died down somewhat, other obstacles appeared: increasing costs, his Iranian contact suddenly vanished, and of course, the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Turkmenistan has locked its borders to outside visitors. Most of Bushby’s equipment sits gathering dust in a garden somewhere near the border. Getting back in the country to retrieve it will be difficult, since Turkmenistan visas are hard to come by. 

Karl Bushby from his National Geographic documentary, Walk Around The World. Photo: National Geographic


The Russia problem

If he does not manage to secure an Iranian visa, he will have to implement Plan B: travel to Uzbekistan, go north to Kazakhstan, and into Russia. He is trying to avoid this. Not only does Russia also forbid entry because of the pandemic but previous run-ins with Russian authorities have made him eager to avoid them.

His military background gave him a spy vibe, and he was detained in Russia for 58 days in 2006. Eventually, diplomatic intervention secured his release. Much later, the FSB imposed a five-year visa ban on him. This was eventually repealed.

It goes on and on. But suffice it to say, Russia would not welcome him back with open arms. This Plan B has great potential to be a disaster. Besides, it would add 1,100km to his route. “Everything is on hold,” he explains. “It’s like one step forward, two steps back.” For someone like Bushby, who has been in almost constant motion for over 20 years, there is nothing harder than being on indefinite hold. 

You would think that this is where friends would step in to help him stay sane. But Bushby chooses to go it alone, to play the waiting game. He is currently starting a science literacy non-profit organization and recently helped with rescue efforts after tropical storm Hernan flooded towns in southwest Mexico. 

He has at least two years until he becomes the first person to walk an unbroken path around the world. If he is forced into Plans B, C, D, E, who knows how many years more.