Have you heard of Lexielimitless? Lexie Alford is the youngest person to travel to all 196 sovereign nations in the world. This inspiring young women accomplished this feat at the age of 21. A short background: She is from Nevada City, has a travel agent mom, and had been to 70 countries by the age of 18. As she reached the end of school and that age where everyone asks "what are you going to do next," it came to her. She decided to take her love of travel one step further and try to see every country and beat the current world record. Did you know more people have been to space than have seen every country on earth? It is an exclusive club and the number of women who have done it is even smaller.
Impressed by her accomplishments, I decided to watch her TEDx talk and at the end I felt rather inspired by her tenacity. Then, as any good citizen of the internet, I read the comments! 🤦🏼♀️ I couldn’t believe what I was reading. So much negativity aimed at this 21 year old girl. Things I never even thought of because I don’t spend my life trolling other people online. Things to the effect of...
"Why is this even a record wtf, this just requires having a lot of money and country which has a good passport and can get you visas."
"This brat needs to work a night shift at Taco Bell on the line so she can actually truly appreciate her privilege."
"Accomplishments that come from money and privilege are not impressive."
“So a child treated world travel experience like Pokemon. I don't see why this is being celebrated. It's actually really sad that world travel has been reduced to a checklist."
"You are just looking for fame and to beat a record.” And...
”Yeah, easy for a white girl.”
EASY? These people think this was easy? Having been to a mere 33 countries in my life, I knew intrinsically this feat was not easy, even if she started with a position of privilege we can all respectfully acknowledge. In my travels there have been plenty of moments when I thought to myself, "This is not good. How am I going to get myself out of this?" And I haven’t even travelled anywhere particularly crazy. EASY? Even if you ignore the amount of planning, and saving, and visa applications, and logistics. Most of us spend hours to weeks planning trips to Disney or a beach vacation. Imagine doing that for 120 some countries. Even if you ignore the malaria and food poisoning she faced alone in strange places far from home.
EASY? Any 18 year old girl in her own town in most parts of the world takes a risk just walking down the street at night alone. Nevermind walking down the street in Somalia, Congo, Venezuela (in its current situation) Syria or Yemen. Young women don’t get the freedom to walk on this earth without being alert and taking safety precautions. EASY? An Immigration official in West Africa told Lexie “I’d like to keep you in my closet.”
She traveled to 50 or so countries alone as she became less able to convince family and friends to go with her to some parts of the world. Most people don’t like going to the movies or to a restaurant alone. We yearn to share the experience with someone. To turn to another face and nod with acknowledgement about how crazy or amazing any particular moment is. And she faced anxiety. 30% of the population does. She suffered anxiety attacks in public, yet alone in a foreign country. She also experienced true panic and fear as 50 men gathered outside her hotel in Yemen and began firing guns. She hit the floor and could literally do nothing but sit there alone with her fear. She cried herself to sleep after they left only to find out the next day it had been a part of a wedding celebration. A cultural misunderstanding, but still, can you imagine? By the age of 21, Lexie learned how to be alone without being lonely and how to cope with anxiety, two problems full grown adults still struggle with.
What can we learn from Lexie? She arrived at the other side of her adventure with two great pieces of advice.
1. Never take "no" for an answer.
Through visa denials, closed borders, travel logistics and naysayers, she pushed through. Never taking her eye off the goal. If you have a dream or a goal you really want to accomplish, don't take no for an answer. Just because one door closes, it doesn't mean there isn't another way. Persevere.
2. Live your life by asking one question...“Will I regret this if i don’t do it?”
If the answer is, yes, you have a moral obligation to yourself to do it, according to Lexie. This is something I actually do and try to instill in my children. At the zoo recently I said exactly this when my 6 year old was contemplating whether or not to hold a hissing cockroach. I said, "You might not get this chance again, and you don't want to regret not doing it." I am always open to being pulled onstage at some cultural event to embarrass myself, to touch exotic animals, or to swim in a strange body of water where you can't see the bottom. I apply to odd things like decorating the White House or to be on TV (both of which I got) simply because I think "I'll regret it if I don't try." I agree with Lexie this is an important piece of advice. Advice more people should take. It is a question you should be asking yourself regularly.
Lexie set off with the goal to break the world record, but she discovered a new goal along the way that resonates with me. As she got further into her journey, she went to harder and less traveled places. She found that regardless of a country’s political situation, the people themselves were always welcoming. The best part of her journey was "finding the light in places that have been painted with a dark reputation." “The countries that have such a bad reputation that people don’t dare to go are the places that spark my curiosity,” says Lexie. “I experienced so much more kindness and natural beauty in places like Pakistan and Venezuela than I ever found in typical tourist destinations.”
"I couldn’t give up when things got tough. 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.”
All photos are from Lexie's instagram account
If you want more of Lexie Alford you can follow her at @lexielimitless on Instagram
Rants of a Diplomat's Wife
Hola, I am an American married to a Mexican Diplomat. I am on my 3rd post as a trailing spouse. The first two posts I joined were in the US, and in July 2018 we moved to Mexico City. Maybe it was the fact that I was pumping out my diplo-babies, or maybe I didn't think anyone would be interested in diplomatic life at my US posts, but I didn't blog then. Now I am in Mexico, and perhaps you might find it interesting to know what life is like here. This is where I share my adventures and thoughts at my current post.