The youngest person to travel to 196 countries is giving away his airline miles
Ever wonder how many frequent flyer miles you’d earn traveling around the whole world? James Asquith, the Guinness World Record holder for the youngest person to travel to all 196 sovereign countries, wants you to guess. He set the record when he was just 24. Since then, he started the holiday home exchange app, Holiday Swap. Now, he’s giving away all of his air miles on Instagram to the person who can guess how many he has. Here’s a hint: It’s enough to fly around the world three times.
The World sat down with Asquith and asked him how and why he’s giving away his air miles.
The World: What made you decide to travel the whole world and what year do you use as the starting point for this trip?
James Asquith: So, I started in 2008. I had absolutely no intention to travel. I remember getting my very first backpack and the guy in the store said, “Hey get this one because it’s really durable. You know you’re going to get the travel bug.” And I was thinking, “Absolutely not.” You know I’m just going on this trip.
I went to Southeast Asia actually. I went and volunteered, building some houses with my two best friends in Vietnam. And yeah I went out there and I did absolutely pick up the travel bug — the freedom, how it made me feel. I went out there as an 18-year-old. I was incredibly naive. I didn’t really have respect for cultures. I didn’t understand much about myself. And I grew and learned a lot and yeah, I’ve still got that backpack now. I just picked it up as I went along. But even then I never thought I was going to go and see every country in the world. I guess I just got carried away with that bit.
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So James, you’ve got all these frequent flier miles. Why give them away to the person who can guess how many you’ve got? Don’t you want to keep traveling?
Absolutely. But I thought, “you know what, I built up a bunch of air miles and I actually don’t necessarily use them that much.” And I thought, “Hey, I get asked all the time by people, ‘How’s the best way to use air miles?’ People always saying ‘How can you sometimes travel in business class?’ Or “How can you travel so much?'” And it always gets asked and I love seeing how it inspires people. Because travel is the biggest thing that’s ever inspired me, it was the best education I had — learning about different cultures, how people think differently and how people think the same. And about food, religion. I feel like it made me a more interesting person and made me a better person. So look, you know, I can always start off with zero [points] again. That’s cool for me.
And you are @jamesasquithtravel on Instagram, right?
Yes. And it’s not confirmed yet and I can’t give too many details but it looks like we might hopefully be doing something quite exciting with the air miles thing to try and extend it to a few more people. Because there’s been some fantastic stories that have come to us. People who haven’t seen relatives for years and, you know, long distance relationships where they haven’t seen each other for like three years — and it’s just some incredible stories.
We’re very hopeful that after the next couple of weeks we might be able to do something to really inspire a few more people around the world.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.