An accomplishment certainly worth highlighting – world traveler, James Asquith remarkably completed visiting all 196 UN recognized countries by the time he was just 24. An even more remarkable was he started this epic and ultimate road trip when he was just 18. Recently we had a chance to ask him a few questions about his time on the road (he no longer has a permanent home) and he recently built and launched an app that has introduced an extremely affordable way for travelers to see the world. The service is called Holiday Swap, and currently allows one to swap space (as basic as a room to as luxurious as a villa) with someone else for just $1/night.
And James was again in the news recently for giving away on his Instagram page, all the frequent flyer miles he earned from his travels around the globe. Read on for some of his insights and stories from his global travels.
Q. What is your earliest memory of traveling and what hooked you on traveling?
My earliest memory was a really rocky boat from the UK to Denmark when I was 9 years old. I really didn’t pick up the travel bug until I was 18 and went to Vietnam with my best friends to volunteer building houses. After this trip and seeing such different culture around South-East Asia I was hooked! I came back after 3 months and booked a solo trip to Egypt straight away!
Q. Please share a story with our readers of a time on your travels were you were helped out by the generosity of others.
Oh there have been so many times where the kindness of people around the world has helped me out. My faith in humankind has never been higher. I’ve been offered places to sleep when I had nowhere else, been fed and watered by strangers, and even had doctors in Istanbul pay my medical bill when I had no money after jumping out of a moving car in East Africa (I thought I was being kidnapped – I was wrong it seemed!)
Q. What was the most unusual experience during your journey through the 196 countries around the world?
Being in Tuvalu. A small atoll in the South Pacific where the landing strip of the runway takes up most of the land. With very few flights, the local population use the runway for anything from motorbike races, to sports matches and even to sleep under the stars at night, because it’s too hot inside their homes. It’s really fascinating to see.
Q. Which country of the 196 that you visited did you spend the least time in but want to return to?
There were some countries such as Vatican City for example, that, as almost everyone does, I only spent a day inside. I’ve actually spent quite a lot of time in Brazil, but it’s such a huge country that I would to explore more of.
Q. “Perspective” is one of the most important words in travel – what sort of perspective or insights have you gained from all of your travels, especially from your visits to countries or regions of the world that do not see many tourists?
As I travelled more I respected and appreciate how we are so different yet similar, from cultures to religion. I was fairly naive when I started my journey around the world, but I not only learnt a lot about myself, but about the world around me that we live in. I feel like I’m learning and growing every day and my greatest life lesson was definitely from travelling.
Q. What was the most difficult country to date for you to gain access to and why?
Getting a visa for Sudan as a tourist was actually one of the most difficult me. It took lots of back and forth with the letter of invitation and embassy visits. Sometimes, a no one day can be a yes the next with little rhyme or reason. Persistence certainly pays off!
Q. What sort of advice can you share for those planning a round the world trip or for those going on an extended trip involving multiple destinations?
Enjoy it and say yes as much as you can. Too many things we never get to do and discover are because we ran out of time, and that’s something we don’t have much of. Take the risk, buy the ticket and say yes. It might be scary at first but there’s so much to explore, not just about the world, but about yourself.
Q. When you decided to visit certain countries with “unsafe” reputations and you told people of your plans, I imagine their responses were fairly similar. How did/do you address their concerns?
After I had been to a few ‘unsafe’ countries, people were actually very supportive. I did a lot of volunteering as well, and if you wanted to take a negative look on the world you could be unsafe anywhere. I was recently in Bali during the earthquake, so there could be dangers wherever you are. A lot of the time away from natural disasters, a bit of common sense will serve you well anywhere in the world, and what’s more, I tend to find people are inherently and generally good people.
Q. You live in London – what are several under the radar experiences you can recommend for visitors to the city especially for those who have already been to some of the primary attractions.
I actually don’t live anywhere technically now. I’m a nomad I guess the saying goes. I actually have to check the tube map myself when I go back to London. I love moving around for work. It’s a strange life sometimes having to always and constantly familiarize yourself with new places, but I feel alive for sure.
Q. Tell us about Holiday Swap, a new app that you created.
I kept getting asked by many people how they could travel more. Hotel prices and home stays are continuing to go up in cost so we wanted to make a way for people to use the bed they sleep in to travel more, and take away most of the expensive cost of accommodation. At Holiday Swap we wanted to build a sharing platform that saves us all money for things like flights and tours. We have grown to offer accommodation in 184 countries now and it’s really inspiring to us, hearing how we are making travel more affordable and accessible for people all around the world, who are able to swap their accommodation for anything from a room to a villa for just $1 a night.
Everything we try to do at Holiday Swap inspires travel, and that’s where the Air Miles Giveaway we recently announced on my Instagram page came from too. We do a bunch of giveaways here, and live to see our communities feedback to the exciting opportunities to travel more of the world.
James Asquith has set the Guinness World Record for being the youngest person to travel to every country in the world before the age of 25. After visiting every county in the world, James aimed to make travel more accessible and cheaper for everyone. That’s when the idea of Holiday Swap was born. The app currently lists spaces in over 40 countries, across 6 continents.
James is also the author of Breaking Borders: Travels in Pursuit of an Impossible Record.
And in 2018 James decided to give away all his frequent flyer miles earned while traveling the world to one lucky person whose mileage guess closely matched his total.