A while back, we wrote about 27-year-old Cassandra De Pecol, who visited all 196 countries in the fastest time ever documented. She was also the youngest American to complete such a feat. She not only broke the previous Guinness World Record in less than half the time of the previous record holder but also became the first woman on record to travel to every country in the world.
Of course, records are made to be broken, and there’s a new person on her way to earning the reign of “youngest person to visit them all,” and she’s a 21-year-old American named Lexie Alford.
Hailing from a small town called Nevada City, CA, Alford came from a family that loved to travel. So she had already visited over 70 countries by the time she was 18 years old. After graduating high school in two years and getting her Associates degree by age 18, she decided to break the Guinness World Record of being the youngest person to travel to every country.
Her travels were all self-funded, which included some brand deals and campaigns (but never any sponsors) along the way. Her mother is a travel agent, which also helped to keep her travel costs down whenever possible.
Alford traveled solo for much of her journey, during which time she felt, “intense loneliness,” but she still recommends people go on adventures by themselves.
“I spent over seven months traveling alone through 50 or so countries which was a very enriching yet isolating experience,” she said. “I eventually learned how to be alone without being lonely, and I think that solo travel is something that every person should experience at least once in their lives.”
Because she spent so much time alone, safety would sometimes play a part in how long she would spend in a country, be it days or weeks.
“I’ve spent over a month in Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Indonesia, Switzerland, and more because I have so much I personally have always wanted to do in those countries and there are ways do make those trips more reasonable financially,” Alford said. “Then there are some countries like Mali, South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Somalia which I would have loved to spend more than a few days exploring but unfortunately I didn’t have the budget to take the proper security precautions necessary to travel throughout those countries safely.”
On May 31, 2019, Lexie Alford stepped foot in North Korea, which was her 196th, and final sovereign nation she needed to visit. That alone was a difficult feat, as she told Forbes:
After months and years of trying to get around the U.S. travel ban, she finally got the opportunity to go to North Korea in May, thanks to a loophole that allowed her to officially take a step into the country. According to Guinness World Record’s guidelines, visiting the North Korean side of the conference rooms in the legendary “blue house” in the Joint Security Area on the DMZ qualifies as a visit to North Korea. “I’m honestly very disappointed that I didn’t get to visit the country properly because of political issues,” she says. “But I’ll be visiting again as soon as the U.S. travel ban is lifted.”
Alford maintained a blog of her travels on her website, but was more active on her Instagram account, where she posted (and continues to post!) photos from her journey. She also has a TEDx talk available for viewing, where she shares her stories from around the world to inspire others, especially young women, to follow their dreams, to get out of their comfort zone and to stimulate personal growth.
While waiting for the Guinness World Record people to confirm her feat (it involves them going through 10,000 pieces of evidence for verification), Lexie is recovering from her journey and, not surprisingly, writing a book.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary