There are people who travel, who enjoy experiencing new places and there’s James Asquith. James is certainly one who loves to travel, and this was clear very early on. James took traveling seriously and by the age of 24, he had travelled to every country in the world and achieved the Guinness record for this impressive feat.
There’s an adage “choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” and it seems James chose well because he’s turned what started as a hobby into a business. James had a goal of traveling and experiencing different cultures of the world but knew this would only be possible if he found a way to budget and save as much money as possible. Enter Holiday Swap; an app that helps everyone interested in traveling and saving money at the same time.
James has seen so much of the world that we would need an infinite amount of time for him to respond to all our questions, so, we will focus on the most relevant aspects of his motivation, some of the travels and, of course, the sharing platform he’s built. So, what’s next for someone who has been around the world? Read on to find out all about James Asquith and his drive to help people travel the world while saving costs.
Hi James, I’m excited to talk with you about your journey to 196 countries, something you achieved at the young age of 24yrs old, that saw you receive the Guinness record holder of youngest male to visit 196 countries. Tell us how you felt receiving this award at the time.
To be honest with you, I didn’t feel too much. It was a very personal journey and I never set out to get any type of record. I wanted to visit the world to educate myself and understand about cultures, religion, history, and people. I learn much more traveling than I ever did in a classroom at university. It almost felt a large part of the journey was over when I visited the last country, but little did I know at the time that it was just beginning. I feel like I travel a lot more now than I did then and am permanently on the road for work.
Do you remember your first time on a plane, and would you say this was where the desire was born to travel to all 196 countries?
I actually remember my first time on a boat much better. It was from the U.K. to Denmark. I had been on a plane before as my father was a pilot and we used to fly around quite a lot domestically particularly to spend time with him when I was young. But both my parents flew so I guess it was certainly in my blood and nature!
Can you tell us what motivates you, how does one go about achieving such a feat and at such a young age?
Passion and a large amount of hard work mixed with determination. There have been many times where everything has been very hard, but you stick at it. People see what they want to see from the outside but it’s rarely easy for many people. A lot of hard work goes into what I do and the company, and even before then when I worked in investment banking. If I didn’t have the passion for it then I may have given up a long time ago – so it’s certainly about staying passionate.
How long did it take you?
It took me about 6 years to visit every country in the world – but I do travel permanently now for work, so I feel like there is so much more to discover in the world.
Please tell us about your experience flying to Nigeria, any challenges in getting the visa, how was the visa process?
I loved Nigeria! I actually managed to get a visa very easily in Benin. But Nigerians, wherever you go, have this spark that is catching! This passion and I love it! From New York to London to Lagos and Abuja, it’s the same, this passion that I found captivating. I can’t wait to return!
How long did you stay, and which cities did you visit? What was your favorite part of your trip?
I was only in Nigeria for a few days the last time that I visited, but I can’t wait to return, hopefully very soon actually as Holiday Swap is making a big push in Nigeria, so stay tuned for that! I went to Lagos and Port Harcourt.
How long do you stay in the countries you visit?
It depends but on average it was about 5-6 days in each country. Some that were smaller like Vatican City or Andorra was less, but I feel since I completed the record, I’ve traveled to many more places in countries I’m now discovering.
I see you’re the CEO of Holiday Swap. I’ve just downloaded the app, how did you come up with such an ingenious concept?
I was always asked in the media and interviews about how people could travel more, and money-saving travel tips. I was randomly on a flight from Romania to London and thought that traveling could be cheaper, by creating a TRUE sharing economy platform, where users can remove the largest cost of travel (the accommodation) by using the accommodation they live in, to exchange and swap. That’s where Holiday Swap was born and we’ve become the largest home swapping platform in the world by users, now in 185 countries. As there is no money exchanged between users, everyone can use the platform!
The app has 400,000 users in just 3yrs that’s amazing! who would you say were your competitors and what do you hope to achieve for the company in the future?
We like to think we are quite unique in what we are doing. Home swapping has been around for many years, but no one has really managed to scale it globally and with a strong tech platform behind it. There are homestay platforms where users have to spend money like a hotel that we certainly compete with, but we are instead a true sharing economy platform where users swap their accommodation to save the price elsewhere, they travel to. We want to keep growing the platform at Holiday Swap to offer even more options around the world. No user has to swap when they match with someone, so there’s no reason why everyone can’t have their house on there to wait until they really want to use it.
Has covid19 impacted you’re traveling and business?
In some aspects yes, with international trips declining, but since March Holiday Swap has continued to grow its user numbers. I think because the platform is very low cost, people are now actively looking at ways to save money and dreaming about travel. In certain parts of the world, we have certainly seen growth in regional travel alongside lots of new users that are finding places where they can match and stay when the time is right for them.
I see you gave away your miles, first of how many miles did you attain after 196 countries, and what’s the status of your current miles now if you care to share?
I did yes! To be honest I had a few too many drinks on a flight and thought it would be a genius idea! When I woke up it turned out the press had picked up on it so there was no going back! It was great though to see how people got excited about thinking where they could travel to – getting us all dreaming. I actually wouldn’t know my balance as it’s now split between so many different airlines and alliances.
Is this a regular thing you do and if so why? And how can one be in the running for when you give out your next miles?
Funny you should say that I was actually thinking of doing something similar again the other day, so stay tuned, let’s see!
Do you know how many planes you’ve flown on and can you tell us in your opinion which airline is the best and why?
I think it must be over 1,500 easily now. I’ve likely been on every major airline and last year I took 166 flights! My favourite Airlines are Qatar, Etihad, and Singapore. They provide consistently great service and live up to their reputation.
Please tell us which of your trips was the most memorable.
So many of them to be honest that it is difficult to pick one. When people ask what my favourite beach/destination/or even movie is I don’t tend to have an answer, as I always appreciate the moment where I am. I did however love Africa as a continent. I always say that the USA is one of my favourite individual countries due to the diversity but there is something special and genuinely magical about Africa and South America – which are my two favourite continents. The variation of nature mixed with incredible culture and people make those two continents as a diverse whole my favourite.
Please tell us about your most challenging trip.
There have actually been a few. My timing was never great and with visa difficulties, I had to use any opportunity I could grab to visit more ‘difficult’ countries. I went to Libya during the civil unrest, and Afghanistan during the war. Iraq and Somalia were also quite tricky for me, but overall, I always found that people are willing to be supportive and help. I met some incredible people around the world that made my trip happen and I’ll be forever grateful for that.
So, James what’s next, what world record are you looking to beat next? To boldly go where no man has gone before?
To be honest, I’m not looking to break any more records at this point. It just kind of happened when I did so before. I’m more looking to create positive change and a lasting impact. That starts with what we are doing at Holiday Swap, by actually solving a problem and making trace accommodation more affordable but goes beyond that in terms of my work with UNICEF in Yemen. If I can use my platform to make a positive change then that’s exactly what I want to do.