Lexie Alford, 21, says she recently became the youngest person to visit every country. Though her feat is still being verified by the Guinness Book of World Records, Alford says she’s been to 196 countries.
When you turn 21, it’s normal to start reflecting on your goals and what you want to achieve in your life. Lexie Alford, however, decided she’d get cracking on her goals at a much younger age. And the 21-year-old now says she recently become the youngest person to visit every country.
Though she’s still having her documents approved by the Guinness Book of World Records to make her accomplishment official, Alford says she’s ticked off 196 countries. This would put her three years ahead of the official record holder, 24-year-old Taylor Demonbreun.
Alford told Premium Journey that achieving her impressive feat has come down to learning “a few simple life lessons.”
‘Never take no for an answer’
Alford told us the three most important lessons that helped her were, “Never take no for an answer, have the courage to pursue what you’re most passionate about, and problem-solve like it’s nobody’s business because where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
“There were so many obstacles to overcome while traveling to every country and I learned the most from the true moments of struggle,” she said.
While her adventures may have looked glamorous and exciting on her Instagram account, Alford certainly encountered her fair share of obstacles. “Having visas denied, running out of money, having health problems like malaria and food poisoning, becoming exhausted and wanting to go home after three months on the road, just to name a few,” she said.
“When it came to visas or impossible itineraries or people simply telling me that I wasn’t able to do something, never giving up and not taking no for an answer got me through so many tough situations,” she added.
Alford said that she had to get about 30 visas in advance and that it was especially difficult for counties in West Africa and Central Africa where the tourism infrastructure is less developed.
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“Surprisingly enough, it’s also the least visited countries in the world that are the most expensive to visit because they don’t have many transportation and accommodation options thus the operators can charge anything they want,” she said.
“I now believe that every problem has a solution if you work hard enough. There are also a lot of sacrifices you have to make if you want to travel the world, but if it’s something you’re truly passionate about, it only takes courage to pursue it.”
‘Hard work, consistent saving, smart spending’
For most people, the barrier to seeing the world is, well, lack of money, but Alford says she managed to fund her travels largely on her own.
“I started working multiple jobs and saving everything I’ve earned since I was 12 years old,” Alford said. “I’ve worked in everything from commercial painting to freelance photography and blogging to managing at my mom’s travel agency. I’m fortunate to be able to structure my work schedule in a way that accommodates my travels because my bosses are flexible and I also work for myself.”
Through a combination of working while she travels and saving everything for her adventures, Alford has managed to fund her way around the world. She’s simply prioritized.
“I rarely buy nonessential material possessions,” she said. “I don’t spend money on fancy clothes or shoes — I still wear clothes I’ve had since high school. I’m also fortunate enough to still live at home, so my monthly expenses are very low.”
Alford acknowledges that the fact her mother owns a travel agency has allowed her to find offers.
“I always look for the best deals and book ahead of time,” she said. “As I mentioned, my amazing mom has a travel agency she’s owned for over 30 years. So I’m able to grab awesome savings on flights and hotels because my mom has worked in the travel industry for so long.”
Growing up in a family that loved to travel also meant Alford had already visited about 70 countries by the age of 18.
Staying safe when traveling solo
More recently, however, Alford traveled on her own, and as a young woman she had to take safety precautions. Alongside budget and personal interest, sometimes safety would play a part in how long Alford would spend in a country, whether three days or three 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.”
Traveling solo also meant Alford sometimes 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.”
After her travels, Alford now has had the pleasure of meeting a variety of people and learning about different cultures.
“The countries that have the least are usually the places that have the kindest people,” she said.
“Countries like Pakistan, for example, that don’t have a developed tourism industry are incredibly friendly because the locals haven’t been jaded by overtourism and are still genuinely excited to share their culture with foreigners.”