IN JUNE 2019, Taylor Demonbreun set a Guinness World Record by being the youngest person, at age 24, to visit every country in the world. But her record wouldn’t last long, because late last year, 21-year-old Lexie Alford officially stole the title.
The young swashbucklers documented their crusades online, demonstrating how easy it was to the see the world before the novel coronavirus: What was once an unimaginable lifetime journey could be accomplished in about 18 months. That’s how long it took Demonbreun, anyway. She still holds the speed record.
In the Before Times, many of us would have reacted to their accomplishments by packing a weekend bag. But the near-global halt to international travel dictated by coronavirus created a (long) moment of forced reflection and called into question what Alford’s and Demonbreun’s accomplishments say about our evolving relationship with travel. Some of us, myself included, have grown gluttonous. As sea levels rise, we’re increasingly devouring the world like a fun-size bag of Cheetos. Alford and Demonbreun aren’t the only ones grinning with orange-stained fingers held up to the camera. To some extent, we’re all guilty.
As an old millennial, I vaguely recall the revolt that turned my peers and me against the Humvees and McMansions that marked status for our parents’ generation. We understood that happiness was to be earned through experiences, not possessions. We didn’t care about keeping up with the Joneses—or we didn’t think we did, anyway. So, we studied abroad, backpacked through Europe, and nursed our souls with adventure.
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September - October 2020