For the past three years, Lexie Alford has been traveling at a fevered pace. In her race to become the youngest woman to visit all the world’s countries, she’s seen some incredible sights — only to leave them and continue on her journey. Here are five of the places she can’t wait to return to.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Home to mountain gorillas, breathtaking forest and an active volcano, Alford plans to go to northeast DRC’s Virunga National Park this summer. “I’m going to climb that volcano, for sure,” she says. Virunga, the oldest national park in Africa and a world heritage site, features over 100 endangered mountain gorillas and ranger-led treks deep into the rain forest to see the animals in their natural habitats.
The high-speed rail network in this island nation makes hitting the country’s top tourist spots extremely easy, Alford says. And while that makes must-sees like Kyoto and Tokyo easily accessible on a short trip, Alford says, the country’s smaller, rural villages are an excellent contrast to the frenzied big cities. But really, there’s one reason she’s heading back to Japan so soon: “It is literally the best food anywhere,” she says.
“There’s much more to Pakistan than you could ever see in a lifetime,” Alford says. Karachi offers plenty of opportunities for exploring, she says, and the whole of southern Pakistan features sandy beaches and impressive citadels that rarely make it into travel brochures. But the mountainous north, where the subcontinent meets a wall of mountains that stretches from Pakistan’s Karakoram through to the Himalayas in Nepal, is among the most dramatic landscapes Alford has ever seen.
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Happiest in high places ✌🏼this was one of the most rewarding hikes of my life! I’ve always been a mountain enthusiast & Northern Pakistan has some of the most epic mountains in the world. Literally though, Pakistan is home to more than 100 peaks over 7000 meters (23,000 ft.)!🤯 In the top right corner of this photo you can start to see the summit of Nanga Parbat, also known as “Killer Mountain” because of the notoriously difficult climb. It’s the ninth highest mountain in the world at 26,660’. The first person to summit it wasn’t until 1953 and no one was able to summit it again for another 10 years. I didn’t realize there’s such a cool history left behind on these mountains by the crazy humans that are addicted to the thrill of being on top of the world ⚡️
After finally managing to visit a patch of North Korea and reaching all 195 countries, Alford planned a reward trip for herself: the Raja Ampat Islands, off West Papua, in Indonesia. “You can’t run out of islands to explore in Indonesia,” she says, but these are some of the favorites. The water is crystal clear, allowing for world-class scuba diving and snorkeling, the beaches are white sand, and you can stay in one of those tantalizing beach huts that sit on stilts above the placid seas.
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Happy #WorldOceansDay from Raja Ampat, Indonesia! It’s been such an incredible experience diving in the heart of the Coral Triangle with the @meridian_adventure_dive team and learning about all the ways we can become more environmentally conscious. Avoiding single-use plastics and using reef safe sunscreen while exploring our unbelievably beautiful oceans is a great way to start making a difference. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ What are some of the alternative practices you guys have learned about to help protect our environment? Please share below so we can start learning from each other! #OceansThatConnectUs
“I haven’t been to enough states,” Alford says. The Nevada City local is a big proponent of the Northern California foothills that out-of-state tourists rarely visit, but she wants to see more. Her solution: try to visit all the national parks. It’s a daunting goal for a travel mortal — there are 58, in total — but the trek would take you through much of the West and out to Alaska and Hawaii, as well.
By David Ferry