A 21-year-old American woman has just become the youngest person in history to travel to every country on Earth. That’s 196 countries in 21 years—more than nine countries a year on average!
Last month Lexie Alford, also known as @LexieLimitless on Instagram, stepped foot in North Korea—the final country on her mammoth journey—to break the previous record. That was held by British Guinness World Record holder James Asquith, who achieved the same feat at the age of 24.
Travelling to each one of the world’s 196 sovereign nations is an achievement that Lexie has been working on since she was a child—though she didn’t know it at the time. She grew up in a family that owns a travel agency in California—that may have helped a little!
Speaking with Forbes contributor Laura Bloom, Lexie said: “Travel has been a part of my life since before I can remember. My parents would take me out of school and place me on independent study for weeks and months at a time every year.”
While she was growing up, Lexie says that her family travelled everywhere from the floating villages of Cambodia to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, from Ushuaia at the tip of Argentina to the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. “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.”
It wasn’t until 2016, having already travelled to 72 countries and turning 18, that Lexie thought about breaking the world record. “The very first time I thought about breaking the world record was in October 2016 in my home, California,” Lexie said. “I graduated from high school two years early and had gotten an associate’s degree from a local college. I was ready to start my gap year when I dropped the idea of going back to school and began to pursue the record full-time.”
The new record is not yet official. Having finished her amazing feat in the very hard to access North Korea, it’s thought Lexie completed the journey in North Korea and South Korea’s demilitarised zone (known as the DMZ). This may cause contention for her record because some people do not consider the DMZ to be an official part of North Korea.
Regardless, it’s an impressive accomplishment and while Lexie says she still hasn’t figured out her biggest takeaway from the whole experience, she does have some advice for intrepid travellers:
- Anything is possible.
- Don’t spend your money on unnecessary material possessions— save up as much as you can, move back in with your parents if you have to. You have to make sacrifices to travel the world if it’s something that’s genuinely important to you.
- There’s definitely more good than bad in the world.
- You can never run out of beautiful places to experience.
- Every country is accessible and there is so much we can learn from each one of them.
- Every time I’m disconnected from WiFi, I’m genuinely connected to everything happening around me, which is surprisingly rare these days.
- My advice for young people who want to do this: Believe that you can do anything you set your mind to. If you prioritise travel over all aspects of your life, it’s only a matter of time until you can make it a reality.
Featured image: Lexie Alford/Instagram