For many people, the highlight of being 21 is the ability to legally down a bunch of Dollaritas during happy hour. For Lexie Alford her highlight was a bit more involved. On May 31 Alford became the youngest person to visit every country in the world, al 196 of them.
She broke the previous record set in 2013 by 24-year-old James Asquith.
The globetrotting Alford has been working on this accomplishment since she was very little. Her parents own a California travel agency and in an interview she gave to Forbes, Alford said her parents used to “take me out of school and place me on independent study for weeks and months at a time every year.” All that travel had her visiting 72 countries by the time she was 18. Once she realized how many places she’d already been, she decided to aggressively go after Asquith’s Guinness World Record.
Getting to every country was a challenge. She told Forbes that she couldn’t spend much time in several countries—South Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic, Chad and Papua New Guinea—due to lack of infrastructure and security concerns. And then there was the problem of North Korea. There US government instituted a travel ban to the DPRK, but Guinness gave her a workaround. She was able to “visit” North Korea by stepping on to the North Korean half of a conference room in the DMZ between the two countries.
For anyone hoping to travel even half as much as Alford she has some tips:
- Don’t spend money on things and be willing to move back in with your parents if extensive (and expensive) trave is truly important to you.
- Don’t think any country is inaccessible—there are places to go, things to do and people to meet in all of them.
- When you’re abroad, stay off WiFi as much as you can. “Every time I’m disconnected from WiFI, I’m genuinely connected to everything happening around me,” she says.