Early in his career, James Asquith was as money-driven as anyone you’ll ever meet. After graduating from the London School of Economics, he worked as an investment banker in London at HSBC. Subsequently, he became vice president of Deutsche Bank and finally head of corporate bond trading at SMBC.
While clearly climbing the corporate ladder and achieving the success many of us could only dream of, something didn’t quite sit right with what he was doing. He had always loved to travel, but found it difficult to take time off work in such a demanding industry. One day something clicked and James left finance for good.
The 33-year-old told MyLondon: “I loved working in finance, but over the years it got a bit lethargic, a bit boring, and I wanted to incorporate travel into my professional life as well as in my personal life.”
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The passion of a lifetime
Although he initially enjoyed finance and graduated from a prestigious university, James traveled at every possible opportunity. “I used every opportunity to travel during my time at college, so I often planned long weekends and took advantage of long vacations to try to get as much travel as possible,” he said.
As a student, funding his expensive travels was difficult if not impossible, but he worked as hard as he could to fund his passion. From the age of 15, he worked three jobs, saved up and made several investments with the goal of one day exploring the world.
James persisted and eventually became the Guinness World Record holder for the youngest person to travel the world and visit every country. He became the record holder at just 24 years and 192 days old when he arrived in the last country, Federated States of Micronesia on July 8, 2013.
He visited his first country outside the UK – Lithuania – between May 26 and May 31, 2001. He then visited every other country on the planet between July 4, 2008 and July 8, 2013.
Speaking of the feat, he said: “It was a very personal journey and I never looked for any kind of record. I wanted to travel the world to educate myself and to understand the cultures, the religion, the history and people. I learned a lot more from traveling than I ever did in a college classroom.
“I almost felt like much of the journey was over when I visited the last country, but I had no idea at the time that it was just beginning.”
As a Guinness World Record holder, James is a clear authority on which countries are best to visit. Some of his favorites include Italy for its cuisine and Colombia for its culture. He is also a big fan of the United States. “The United States is so diverse, from Alaska and Hawaii to incredible national parks and southern culture, music and food, from Nashville to New Orleans,” he said. And what he learned from visiting all these countries is that happiness doesn’t just come from being rich.
Although he has worked his way up the corporate ladder in investment banking, which can usually earn someone hundreds of thousands of pounds, another country is on James’ favorites list because of its pure authenticity. He continued: “Countries like [the collection of islands in the Pacific that make up] Tuvalu is very small but family oriented. No one cares too much about money.
“They have some of the most beautiful islands in the world, where almost everything grows on Tonga, and there’s an abundance of fish – so the locals are very happy with all the food they could want, the warm weather and the a beautiful setting.”
With a world record under his belt, James had a decision to make. Stay with a boring and lethargic career, or take the leap and immerse yourself completely in travel. That’s when he decided to create HolidaySwap, a platform designed to let people securely swap or host their homes in 185 countries for just $1 a night, with the goal of making traveling less Dear.
“A lot of people asked me how they could travel more for less. I was by chance on a flight from Romania to London when the idea came to me to make travel cheaper; by creating a real sharing economy, where users can remove the biggest cost of travel – accommodation,” he said.
With the world of finance firmly behind him, James is happier than he has ever been. He now hopes to inspire others and has given some advice for those stuck in a career they don’t like very much. He said: “There will never be a good time to do something, so you just have to put yourself forward and go for it, otherwise you will end up regretting the missed opportunities. You have to make sure you are doing something. that you love otherwise what’s the point?”
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