A 21-year old American woman has become the youngest person to visit every country on the planet. Lexie Alford accomplished this feat on May 31, when she crossed the border into North Korea. By doing so, she has now been to 196 sovereign nations around the world, something that few people ever get the chance to do at any age, let alone when they’re still in their early 20s.
According to Forbes, Alford started traveling when she was a child thanks to the fact that her parents were travel agents. At a young age, she had the chance to visit places like Cambodia, Egypt, Argentina, and Dubai, just to name a few. This allowed her to rack up quite a few passport stamps before she even really knew what that meant. At first, she wasn’t even trying to set a record or even get to every country on the planet. But when she turned 18 in 2016, Alford realized that she had already visited 72 countries and the idea of getting to all of them started to percolate inside her brain.
After that, it became much more of a focused goal, particularly after Alford had graduated high school early at the age of 16 and had an associates degree from a community college two years later. Before pursuing a college degree though, she wanted to spend a gap year traveling. That turned into pursuing the goal of visiting every country, and before long she turned her attention towards figuring out how to reach places like North Korea and Iran, which are more challenging to get into. It should also be pointed out that even though she’s done a few sponsored travel campaigns during her run for the record, all of Lexie’s travels have also been self-funded.
Having now stepped foot into North Korea, Lexie has entered the pages of the Guinness Book of World Records. The previous youngest person to visit all 196 countries was Brit James Asquith, who achieved that goal at the age of 24 back in 2013. It wasn’t always easy though. In the Forbes article linked to above, Alford shares some details about the challenges she faced along the way –– particularly in places like Western and Central Africa, where tourist infrastructure is practically nonexistent. She also had a hard time reaching North Korea for obvious reasons.
As someone who loves to travel, I found this story to be a good one. Lexie seems to really love and embrace travel and didn’t embark on this quest just to get a record. That said, she’s visited 124 countries over the past three years, which averages out to about one new one every eight days or so. Hopefully she took some time to really appreciate the places she has been too, rather than just checking them off on some list. The fact that she has never used a foreign SIM card, and likes to turn off her phone while traveling, tells me that she does appreciate the things that make travel special, which is something to be celebrated.
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