There are numerous world records relating to travel; most are truly extraordinary, and it is difficult to imagine how anyone would be able to achieve them. However, countless record holders stand as testament that the unimaginable is always possible, so long as someone is willing to try.
On 31 May 2019, Lexie Alford, a 21-year old woman from Nevada City, California, became the youngest person in the world to have visited all 196 countries. Having grown up with a family who owned a travel agency, she was exposed to travelling from a young age. After realising she had visited 72 countries by the time she’d finished high school (two years early) and acquired a local college degree at 18, she took it upon herself to make it into a challenge.
Her final destination was North Korea. After struggling with the US ban on travel to the country, she stepped into the North Korean section of a conference room in the Joint Security Area of the Korean DMZ, allowing her to fulfill her record.
Alford’s travels as an adult have been entirely self-funded, with the occasional brand deal to help fund her project. Money she had been saving since she was 12 years old supported her for the first year and a half, and a later position in her family’s travel agency as a consultant kept her going through the rest.
In the description of her story on her website, she says: “I was determined to show everyone that the world isn’t as scary as the media portrays it to be and that there’s kindness everywhere”. Her website is also packed with photos and blog posts, with recounts of her experience and advice pieces, such as ‘Travel Tips for For Solo Female Travelers’.
A more local record is one that is constantly being attempted: the quickest time to visit all 270 London Underground stations. The current record is 15 hours 45 minutes and 38 seconds, set on 21 May 2015 – Steve Wilson, one of the record holders, is also accredited as the record holder in 2009 and 2011.
Geoff Marshall and Anthony Smith (who held the penultimate record in 2013 with 16 hours 20 minutes 27 and seconds) explained their process in an interview with the BBC: “It’s like the wheels of a bicycle spoke – you start on the outside and then go back into London, everything comes into the middle.”
This record is so competitive and coveted that record holders refuse to share the specific routes they’ve taken to achieve the quickest time.
Meanwhile, in 2016, Irishman Eamonn Keaveney became the Guinness World Record holder for the longest barefoot journey. His journey took 104 days, starting on 1 May and ending on 12 August, with Keavney travelling a total of 2,080.14 km across Ireland.
Keaveney’s walk aimed to raise funds for Pieta House: Suicide and Self Harm Crisis Centre in memory of a friend. In an interview with Travel Secrets, he said that the idea emerged after he did a barefoot hike up Croagh Patrick, West Ireland.
His campaign was roaringly successful; he raised over €13,000 for Pieta House. His journey also helped him witness the kindness of strangers – despite preparing to sleep in a tent most nights, he only ended up using it a few times, with many people offering him places to stay as he passed through the country.
Even though each person mentioned in this article has completed an entirely different feat, they are all united by the same thing: the desire to be the best at what they do.