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Life Lessons from the Youngest Person to Travel to Every Country: Lexie Alford (Transcript)

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Lexie Alford at TEDxKlagenfurt

Following is the full transcript of Lexie Alford’s talk titled “Life Lessons from the Youngest Person to Travel to Every Country” at TEDxKlagenfurt conference.

Lexie Alford – TEDx Talk TRANSCRIPT

We are having the wrong conversation about our comfort zone. The phrase “getting out of your comfort zone” is thrown around so much today online and in motivational quotes that it’s begun to lose its meaning.

And this is because we don’t clearly understand what our comfort zone is, and it seems counterintuitive to leave it because it’s where we feel the most safe.

It also sounds like we’re sugar-coating something that we don’t want to talk about, which is fear.

Let me tell you a bit more about my story and how fear has played a role in it.

I come from a family of travelers. My mom started a travel agency when she was younger than I am now, and growing up they never left me behind when they went on their adventures.

I graduated early and got a degree from community college by the time I turned 18. And at that time I had traveled to around 70 countries. This was the point in my life where people began to ask me the most intimidating question that you can ask a young person: “What are you going to do next?”

And in attempt to answer that question, I began by asking myself what I was most passionate about, which has always been traveling, and how to make the most out of the cards that I was dealt, which was how much travel experience I’ve had at my age.

That’s when it dawned on me. I had over six years to break the world record for the youngest person to travel to every country. And this was the perfect opportunity that I was looking for to get out of the books and into the real world. In retrospect, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

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Flash-forward two and a half years later, and I spent countless hours crammed on planes, trains, chicken buses, tuk-tuks and junk boats traveling with nothing but a backpack.

I have encountered health issues, spanning from malaria in West Africa to hospital-worthy food poisoning in Pakistan. I learned how to cope with public anxiety attacks by myself in foreign countries, and I endured the brain-sizzling frustration of dealing with bureaucrats from every country that requires a visa.

Believe it or not, these have been some of my most treasured memories because they were the most defining moments of my life, spent far, far away from my comfort zone.

Proving to Guinness World Records that I have traveled to every country was a completely different story. According to a very strict pack of guidelines, I’m required to submit everything from plane tickets to accommodation and taxi receipts, to multiple witness statements from each country.

I struggled to find two people in each country that spoke, read and wrote in English that would be willing to help me with my witness statements. I had to plead with immigration officers at every border to please stamp my passport with enough ink, to be able to read the name and the date on the passport stamp.

I am now in the process of submitting nearly 10,000 pieces of evidence in chronological order, documenting how I entered and exited each country, along with a detailed itinerary of what I did in each place.

Beyond this very overwhelming amount of paperwork, somewhere along this journey, I discovered that there was more than one element of my comfort zone that I was going to have to get out of to get to where I wanted to go.

I now believe that there is a correlation between our comfort zone and our mind, body and soul. If you know that you have fears in general, knowing exactly where those fears are stemming from is the first step towards overcoming them.

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I personally have a few very distinct fears. I am afraid of heights, which stems from my physical comfort zone. I have — I had a fear of being alone, which was completely controlled by my mind.

And I also am terrified of regret, which comes straight from my soul. The reason why so many people are unsuccessful at getting out of their comfort zone is because our comfort zone is not just one thing. It’s three.

The first is obvious, our physical comfort zone. Naturally, what we fear most is death. We’re evolutionarily wired to avoid situations where we could get hurt. And that’s why every cell in my body was screaming when I was standing on the edge of a 750-foot drop in Switzerland.

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