21-year-old woman becomes youngest person to travel to every country in the world
21-year-old American, Lexi Alford, has become the youngest person in history to travel to every country on Earth.
On May 31st of this year, Alford stepped foot into North Korea, and in doing so, she beat the 24-year-old current Guinness World Record holder, and joins the ranks of other historic travellers, such as 27-year-old Cassie De Pecol - the first woman on record to visit every nation.
Traversing the world's 196 countries isn't a goal that Alford initially had. The 21-year-old's family owns a travel agency in California, and she credits that with imbuing her with a sense of wanderlust. "Travel has been a part of my life since before I can remember," Alford told Forbes. "My parents would take me out of school and place me on independent study for weeks and months at a time every year."
She details that during her childhood and adolescence, she and her family visited everything from the floating villages of Cambodia 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 continued. "I've always had a curiosity about other people's ways of life and how they find happiness."
Initially, she didn't set her sights on a Guinness World Record.
"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 told the publication. "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."
And then, when she turned 18, Alford realised that she had already travelled to 72 counties. "The very first time I thought about breaking the world record was in October 2016 in my home, California," she revealed. "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."
And making her quest more admirable is the fact that it's largely self-funded. While the 21-year-old has done several brand endorsements along the way, she told Forbes: "I always knew I wanted to take time off to travel so I've been working every job I could find and saving since I was 12-years-old.''
"I do a lot of research in advance to find the best deals, utilize points and miles for my flights, stay in cheap accommodation like hostels or create content for hotels in exchange for accommodation. I've also made sure to keep my monthly overhead as low as possible by living at home with my parents, I don't have a car payment or student debt and I don't spend my money on unnecessary material possessions."
"The countries that have such a bad reputation that people don't dare to go are the places that spark my curiosity," Alford concluded. "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."