21-year-old becomes youngest person to travel to every country in the world.
Lexie Alford of Nevada City, California, is currently being reviewed by Guinness World Records for the designation of being the youngest person to visit every country in the world. The title was previously held by James Asquith at 24 years old.
Alford claims to have set foot in country number 196 on May 31, 2019 — that country being North Korea. She has submitted 10,000 individual pieces of evidence providing that she has visited every country, and is waiting on Guinness to verify her new title.
“Travel has been a part of my life since before I can remember,” Alford shared with Forbes. “My parents would take me out of school and place me on independent study for weeks and months at a time every year.”
“My parents placed a lot of importance on exposing me to every way of life around the world and that had a very profound impact on the person I am today,” she said. “I’ve always had a curiosity about other people’s ways of life and how they find happiness.”
Alford started off with the same mentality shared by many globetrotters, which is to experience as much of the world as possible:
“Honestly, in the beginning, I simply wanted to push the limits of what I thought I could do with my life and see as much of the world as possible in the process,” she says. “It wasn’t until things started getting really challenging that I realized I was inspiring people around me, especially young women. Feeling that support meant that I couldn’t give up when things got tough. I was determined to show everyone that the world isn’t as scary as the media portrays it to be and that there’s kindness everywhere.”
Upon reaching country 72 by the age of 18, Alford realized she was onto something and made it her mission to travel to every single sovereign nation.
Her travel is self-funded, along with picking up some branded partnerships along the way. When she’s home, Alford works as a travel consultant in her family’s agency, and she focuses on photography and blogging when travelling.
Alford is an advocate for disconnecting when travelling, allowing herself to live in the moment and talk to people. She claims to have never used a foreign SIM card.
So what has been the best part?
Finding the light in places that have been painted with a dark reputation.
“The countries that have such a bad reputation that people don’t dare to go are the places that spark my curiosity,” Alford shares with Forbes. “I experienced so much more kindness and natural beauty in places like Pakistan and Venezuela than I ever found in typical tourist destinations. Going somewhere with no expectations and being absolutely blown away by what you find there has been the most fulfilling part of this project.”
And what about the hardest part?
Alford encountered difficulty in areas of West and Central Africa, due to complicated visas, lacking infrastructure for tourism, language barriers, and challenges to travelling safely.
“There aren’t many flights, hotels or English-speaking guides so the operators have the market completely cornered,” she explains. “They can pretty much set any outrageous price they want because there aren’t many other options (besides maybe gruelling and potentially dangerous bus rides). Travelling in this area of the world thickened my skin more than anything in my life ever has.”
From here, Alford plans on writing a book about what she has learned, and is giving her first TEDx talk on June 15.
Follow her adventures on Instagram at @lexielimitless.