He started travelling in 2008 and spent a whopping £125,000 to achieve his dream. Over the course of five years James Asquith, the 24-year-old, who is now 28 and works as banker in London, managed to visit all 196 countries. Last year, he received a Guinesss World Record for becoming the youngest person in the world to travel to all sovereign countries.
However, according to James that was never the plan. “It was never the purpose to race around and hop into every country to tick it off,” he said. Instead, he got the idea after he had travelled a few times with his father who was an airline pilot for BMI (British Midland International). “I thought, ‘I want to see more,’ and eventually decided I wanted to go everywhere,” he said.
From an early age James had saved his money by doing odd jobs such as car washing. As an adult, he continued to save and at 18 he finally had enough money to travel. What started as a three month trip with friends carried on to become an around-the-world trip that lasted him five years!
“When it started, I remember going to get our backpacks and the guy in the shop saying, ‘Get this one, you’ll catch the travel bug and it will be durable.’ I thought, ‘No, it’s just going to be a three-month trip.’ Two days after I came back I booked my first solo trip and went to Egypt.”
James’s Dad was a pilot working for BMI, meaning he got to tag along to destinations he otherwise may not have visited.
“They went direct to Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kazakhstan – places that were pretty expensive to get to and that I’d normally never have gone to,” he said.
When James began travelling with his dad, he always thought that he would like to see more. Even travelling without his dad, he would head off to weird places, just because he could.
“I started going away with my Dad when I could, or even without him, on these weird route networks. I thought, ‘I want to see more,’ and eventually thought, ‘Now I want to go everywhere.'”
“Initially I was living with my parents, so I saved money on rent there,” he said. “I worked three jobs at one point, and I started up a student events business in my second year which turned out to be lucrative — that’s what made it happen.”
“Syria was lovely when I went in 2011,” he said. “I stayed in the Sheraton in Damascus and it was a completely different place back then. So many places have changed massively — I went to Kurdistan in north Iraq, which from what I hear in the press is now an awful place, but my photos of it are beautiful.”
James has tried to spend at least one day or a night in every country he has been to, and he has fond memories of many places.
“It was probably the loneliest place — I broke up with an ex-girlfriend the day before I went there, and I went for four month by myself. I didn’t speak a word of English for about the first two months — there was a large aspect of solitude and a lot of self-reflection.”
“There were obviously some that I spent less time in — I went to Afghanistan during a war — but some I spent months in. I got a flavour of every country.”
To boost his travel funds, James took to dabbling on the stock market and openly admits he had no clue what he was doing. It seemed to work though, because he manages to fund his travelling very well.
“I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but I bought a few stocks from UK banks when they were on their knees and I got really lucky,” he said. “I managed to make a fair amount of money from that and basically spent it all traveling.”
“A lot of people write articles about how you can trick the system — I wouldn’t read too much into that, just keep looking for deals all the time,” he said. “The first thing I do is search on Skyscanner ‘London to Everywhere.'”
He also suggests signing up to airline emails to take advantage of their sales. “They obviously use their cheapest, super-discounted seats to promote their sales, and there are very few tickets that are at the price that they advertise, but they do have tickets at those prices.”
“Older legacy airlines from Europe and the US are, in my opinion, way behind the curve of the Middle Eastern three,” he said. “The Asian airlines and the Middle Eastern airlines are absolutely spot on.
“European budget airlines work for sure, but Asian budget airlines are amazing. Air Asia got me just about everywhere for so little.”
“My parents helped me as much as they could in various ways, but I certainly didn’t get any handouts. It obviously helps when you get financial help with the airfare, but a lot of the places I went for five months or something like that and was on a shoestring to get by.”
“I worked in bars and hostels when I was in South America so I got food, drink, and accommodation for free — when you’re backpacking, there’s not really much else you’re spending money on.”
“I probably took about six different trips that were four or five months in length,” he said. “I was 18 when it started, and finished when I was 24 and some amount of days.”
When he set foot in the final country, James said he had a very empty feeling, and not what he had expected to feel. “It was a really weird feeling — I felt quite empty. I always joked that I would have a mid-life crisis at a young age, but it almost felt like that.”
“There were times when I went to five countries in a day just for the purposes of getting a stamp,” he said, adding, “I didn’t have tickets from everywhere. I paid people in a jeep to take me to Somalia — it’s not like I was going to turn around and say, ‘Can I have a receipt please?'”
The Guinness Book of Records finally recognised him, as did RecordSetter, which is the second biggest organisation to recognise records such as this. James says that it was a wonderful moment when he received an email from Guinness to say he had set a new the record!
“I got an email saying ‘Congratulations, you’ve got a Guinness World Record.’ It was amazing.”
“Everyone can write a travel book and there’s lots of travel blogs out there, so I needed it to be official,” he said. “I spent pretty much all of last year writing it — I started to do it while I was at work, but I realised it wasn’t conducive to sitting in meetings talking about financial markets then coming home to write about the most amazing thing I’ll probably ever do in my life.”
“So I took loads of trips and basically just got in the mindset of writing while I was on them — I spent three and a half weeks in the South Pacific just sitting on the beach writing.”
“If Europe was a country, it would be Europe because of the difference between Spain, Italy, Scandinavia… it’s massively diverse, but it’s the same from New York to Texas, Las Vegas, Alaska, and Hawaii. I think I’ve been to 29 states.”
“I want to do something more extreme now, some sort of crazy marathon or something,” he said. “I’m not going to be in a sail boat going across the Atlantic any time soon, but something a bit more edgy I guess.”
“There are going to be so many other places that amaze me. There’s so much more to see.”
Source: Business Insider