World record: Nevada County woman’s shot to get in Guinness a difficult but rewarding experience
Lexie Alford has wanderlust.
As the daughter of a local travel agent, 20-year-old Alford has been traveling her entire life, and two years ago she set her sights on a lofty goal: she wants to be the youngest person to visit every country on the planet.
Since beginning her quest, Alford has visited 183 countries and has 13 to go. The Guinness Book of World Records, to whom she must provide evidence of her travels, has made the globe-trotting a bit more challenging for Alford, who has folders full of documentation as record of her travels.
“For Guinness, the hardest part isn’t even the travel for breaking the record,” Alford said. “The hardest part is proving it, proving that I’ve been to all these places. I have to get signed witness statements in each country I go to, (and provide) plane tickets, passport stamps, accommodation receipts, log books for every country I visit.”
Spending much of her travel time alone — she was flying solo for about five months this year — Alford said she has learned things that can’t be found in any geography or history book. The evening news, she said, can paint a picture of world events, but really experiencing things like war, death and corruption have an indelible impact.
“I had a really crazy experience in Yemen,” she said. “That’s probably the most intense place I’ve ever been. It really showed me a part of the world not a lot of people see. People walk around with guns there, the buildings are damaged from air strikes. I had never been somewhere that was so affected by war.”
The depth of what she has learned during her travels isn’t lost on Alford. She said experiencing the stresses of traveling and having to come up with solutions in the moment has taught her lessons many of her contemporaries might not learn until later in life.
She has few regrets, and said she’d like to inspire others, of any age, to see as much of the world as they can.
“There are so many beautiful places to see but I think what I would want everyone to experience in their lifetime is how friendly and welcoming locals can be in the most unexpected places. You would never think that a farmer living in a hut in Yemen would want you to come into his home and have his family make you food and tea and just want to sit with you. There is so much kindness out there.”
With just over a dozen countries left to go, Alford is in the home stretch of meeting her Guinness goal. She hopes to mark this achievement in April.
“I have 13 countries left — five in Africa and the rest are in the Middle East and North Korea.
“North Korea is the only country with an active travel ban, but Guinness gave me approval to go to the demilitarized zone. The conference rooms there count as a visit to North Korea. It’s a technicality, but I will take it.”
With a passion for sharing her story, Alford is writing a book about her travels.
“When I started this two years ago I had no idea what I was getting into. You can have a plan but you’re never going to know exactly where you’re going,” Alford said.
And, she said, just because she is on the precipice of having stepped foot in every nation on the world, her wanderlust will remain strong.
“I will 100 percent keep traveling. I feel like I am just beginning.”
Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4231.
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