It was back in October 2017 when Lexie Alford knew she needed to do everything in her power to break a Guinness World Records title.
It wasn’t just any record – a traveler her whole life with her parents, Lexie wanted to learn as much about the world as she could during a young and capable age.
Two years, 195 countries and hundreds of passports stamps later, the vibrant explorer is now the world’s youngest person to travel to all sovereign countries (overall) and (female) - at the stark age of 21 years 177 days.
All sovereign countries: The guidelines say you must visit 195 countries - the 193 UN Member States as of December 2018, the Vatican and Chinese Taipei
Many who know Lexie might say that her record was inevitable – coming from a traveling family, her mother began her very own travel business at a young age, and always took Lexie with her on all of her travels.
By the time she was only 18 years old, she had already visited 70 countries, inspiring her to conquer the rest of the world.
"Once I knew which countries I had left, I broke down the world into regions. I started in Central America then went down through South America. I then traveled to the countries in Europe that I had never been to before," she explained.
"Continuing forward, I traveled from Timor Leste to Mongolia and basically all the countries in between during a huge, beautiful trip through Asia. Things started getting more difficult because I went to an area of the world that I had never been to before: The South Pacific island nations."
Incredibly passionate about traveling, Lexie underwent the tedious processes of getting visas and planning her routes.
Knowing the tiresome but amazing journey that lay ahead of her, she most looked forward to the different cultures she would be exposed to and the unique sites she would get exposure to.
"There were so many different countries I loved for different reasons but one country that stood out to me was Pakistan. Since the country is still developing infrastructure for tourism, the locals haven’t become jaded towards foreigners and were incredibly friendly and excited to share their culture with me."
But no record-breaking journey as intense as this would come without its own set of challenges; aside from racing against the clock she also endured hours on planes, experienced extreme food poisoning and other adversities.
“There was never a specific moment where I felt like I wanted to give up completely but there were some periods that were more difficult than others. When traveling solo through the South Pacific island nations I experienced intense loneliness and traveling through West Africa was extremely stressful because of visa requirements, lack of infrastructure and also having an unfortunate encounter with malaria."
Despite these conditions, Lexie never failed to lose hope. Stopping home periodically to rest and be with family, she reached her final destination of Mozambique on 4 October 2019.
"I learned so much about the world during my travels but one of the biggest takeaways for me was realizing that despite coming from very different environments and growing up with different values and economic situations.
"I experienced nothing but love and kindness from the people I encountered in each and every country. If anything, the world would be so boring if everything was the same everywhere. I believe it’s our differences that make discovering new cultures such a beautiful experience."
Lexie thanks her mother most of all for all of her support and motivation throughout this trek around the world.
She now has plans to create an online travel hack course for those to learn from her experiences, and plans to release a book later in 2020 about the life lessons that she gained along the way.
"We live on such a big, beautiful planet and I’m looking forward to finding more fun and creative ways to involve my audience and inspire them to get out of their comfort zone and see the world."