A 21-year-old American woman named Lexie Alford has just become the youngest person in history to have traveled to each and every country on Earth. She got started at a young age, her family owns a travel agency in California and took her to dozens of foreign places as a kid. So when she was 18 and realized she’d already visited 72 countries, she got serious about trying to break the world record of James Asquith, who hit all 196 sovereign nations by age 24 in 2013.
That’s when Lexie made it her mission to break that Guinness World Recordand she started traveling full time. She paid for most of her travels herself, using money she’d saved from every job she ever had to cover the first year and a half. She would also come home and work at her family’s travel agency to earn cash or do photography and blogging on the side. She also found the best deals, utilized points and miles for airfare, and stayed in hostels and cheap accommodations to stretch her budget.
She says she struggled the most in West and Central Africa, where tricky travel visas, language barriers, and the expense of traveling safely caused issues. And getting to her final country on the list - North Korea - also proved challenging. A U.S. travel ban kept her from going there, but a loophole saved her. According to Guinness World Record’s guidelines, visiting the North Korean side of the conference rooms in the famous “blue house” in the Joint Security Area on the DMZ qualifies as a visit. So when she stepped foot in that room on May 31st, she reached her goal and broke the record.