NORTHPORT, Ala. (WIAT) – Taylor Demonbreun left Northport, Alabama to attend college at Vanderbelt, rather than attending the University of Alabama which was just across the river.
“You now, I had been there my whole life,” she said, “so it was kind of like…time to get out.”
Little did she know how that desire to explore and get out in the world would continue to snowball.
Demonbreun had traveled some internationally as a child. She went with a choral group to Germany and Austria. She said, it sparked a small fire. In college, she studied abroad as a junior. She was based out of London, but visited 20 countries while overseas.
“So that would be when I would say it really took off,” she recalled. “I just fell in love, and then I came back to the states. I had an internship that summer in New York at an investment bank, which, you know, I worked incredibly hard to get. It was on Wall Street–but it was like, this isn’t what I love doing. I loved doing what I was doing before I got here. Seeing all of these cool places. Just the juxtaposition of one right after the other–I realized, hey. I want to do something I love when I graduate. For me, I realized that was travel.”
There are probably plenty of people reading that quote right now saying: “well sure, me too. Wouldn’t that be nice?” I know that I did. But Demonbreun did something pretty inspiring. She figured out how to make “wouldn’t that be nice” a reality. And she did it on her own.
She spent her entire senior year planning her trip around the world. The idea to try for some world records hit her that summer. She filled out an application with Guinness World Records that had to be approved before she started. She planned so intensely that she worked to the limit on three Google spreadsheets. Prior to traveling, she contacted hundreds of hotels to tell them what she was doing. Many took an interest in her trip and helped her by comping her stays. She managed to save thousands of dollars on flights by using a variety of apps and booking with low cost carriers.
“You can get across the Europe for $100, $200 if you play your cards right,” she explained. “You just have to find the right flights. Norwegian is a low-cost carrier that does those European flights. I flew from New York to Dublin for about $100, and coming back, same price. So then, once you’re there, you’re there, and it’s amazing. It’s so easy to travel within the continent, and that’s a really good first trip.”
Demonbreun had to follow some rules according to Guinness. She couldn’t stop moving for more than two weeks. She had to collect evidence in every country–like witnesses, videos, pictures, and receipts.
Her longest stay of the trip was 10 days in New Zealand. Her shortest: Monaco for just 35 minutes. She had been to Monaco before–but it’s important to note that she had to travel everywhere for this trip in order to earn the “fastest” title from Guinness. In most of her locations, she tried to see as much as she could and visit some of the area’s top attractions. She loved Machu Picchu, for one.
In total, Demonbreun estimates that she spent about $70,000 making the trip. She said it’s considerably less than the last person who attempted the trip around the world. She credits the hotels who helped to sponsor her, her savings, some small loans, and careful planning. She said while her family was very supportive of what she was doing — they were not able to contribute financially. She also did 95% of the trip alone. Members of her family each chose a certain destination where they would join her, but primarily–Demonbreun was on the move, alone.
“I learned more in those 18 months than I ever have and probably ever will. Over that period of time I just met all of these amazing people and saw places that you hear about, and you know, actually seeing it first-hand is so much different than what you hear, see, or read about in a book.”
And if you’re wondering if Demonbreun ventured to some of the more hostile places in the world–the answer is yes. “The places I was most paranoid or worried and stressed about ended up being some of the best experiences that I had,” she said. “Libya was one of those, and Iran as well. You know, I met the absolute most incredible people and had life-changing experiences. I had some of just…the coolest conversations I’ll ever have.”
It may sound cliche, but Demonbreun says she saw more kindness and generosity on her trip than she ever expected–and came back truly feeling as though there is more out there that unites the people of the world than divides us.
Now that she’s home–the trip took one year and 189 days–she isn’t sure what she’s going to do next. She graduated from Vandy with a degree in Economics and Public Policy. She’s considering writing a book. She also thinks she’d love to do more with travel in some way. For now, she’s figuring it out.