With just fifteen countries to go, 27-year-old Cassandra De Pecol is set to become the first woman to visit all 196 countries in the world. Having visited 181 countries, De Pecol is about to complete her journey, Expedition196, which she started in July last year with the Pacific island of Palau.
De Pecol, who hails from Connecticut, travels as an International Institute for Peace through Tourism Ambassador for Peace. Funded through the help of several sponsors, her ambitious trip has so far cost approximately around $200,000.
After a 1 hour and 15 minute fast paced uphill trek, I arrived at Paro Taktsang. The pilgrimage was like something out of Avatar, a dream to trek, through low hanging clouds with a harrowing drop at any given moment on either side. Prayer flags swayed through the pines, prayer wheels spinning in the breeze, and tsa-tsas (ashes of the dead) wedged between crevices of stone. Passing over a bridge and waterfall and up the last flight of stairs, I entered one of the chambers where I was completely alone. Tip-toeing past the glowing butter candles and sacred relics, I kneeled on a rug, cracked open an aged window and rested my head on the windowsill to reflect and admire the massive 2,000ft plunge into the vast Himalayan valley below, as clouds swiftly passed. Without my phone or camera equipment, I was able to consciously enjoy this moment in peace. 🏔 • • • #expedition196 #everycountryintheworld
Aiming to break the Guinness World Record for fastest person to travel to all Sovereign Nations, De Pecol has to cover the rest of her destinations in less than six weeks. She even added 11 countries more than the previous record.
“As a young woman, I’d always dreamed to travel to as many countries as possible and make our world a better place,” De Pecol wrote on her website. “It bothered me though, that I could never figure out how to ignite this inner fire and make it happen.”
After some deep soul-searching and completing some personal milestones, she then decided to buy a huge world map and started planning her trip.
“The initial goal of traveling to every single country is not nearly as meaningful as was at the start. Looking into the eyes of the youth and hearing them realize their potential and limitless possibilities through listening to me speak — this is what I live for.”
Hi to all my new friends and fellow travelers out there! Thank you so much for all of the love and beautiful comments! It’s so awesome hearing where all of you are coming from 🌎😊🌎! Knowing that you’re here supporting my Mission is just the positive push I need to successfully finish. Please don’t hesitate to reach out, I love hearing from you all ❤️🌎❤️ #fbf to Palawan #expedition196
A photo posted by ᶜᴬˢˢᴬᴺᴰᴿᴬ ᴰᴱ ᴾᴱᶜᴼᴸ (@expedition_196) on Oct 28, 2016 at 11:40am PDT
Apart from experiencing beautiful cultures and sceneries, De Pecol also encountered and wrote about the harsh realities people from other countries face on the daily basis.
“To be honest, I’m trying desperately to focus on the good, but sometimes I find that I have to just let the mental challenge of it all run its course,” De Pecol wrote on her Instagram account.
Traveling through Africa has been the most challenging for me. It’s not only the most expensive leg (flights, hotels), the one that requires the most visas in advance that are also expensive, but physically challenging as well, with needing to be careful with my water and food intake, malaria prevention, etc. as well. In my lifetime, I’ve experienced an immense amount of poverty in countries around the world and have lived/worked in impoverished nations, but I’ve never seen anything like what I have seen so far throughout Western Africa in particular. I’ve had such an urge to want to jump outside of my body and leave everything I have to just walk through the villages and live with these people, sit on the side of the road with them. The other day driving around in Bamako it took everything in me to not just jump out of the car and start walking into the dead of night. I can’t explain this feeling but I don’t expect anyone to relate, as if this Expedition were unrelatable enough, but I’ve never really had the feeling of wanting to become invisible to the point of where I can safely live like a local in some of these countries, without being viewed as a tourist or “white girl” or that I had any money at all. When I’m in these places, I feel for these people and the way they live. I can’t believe that if I were back in the states this weekend I’d probably be concerned about feeding my dogs more than myself, and baking a pumpkin pie or going to Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte. But this weekend… I’m here. And it pained me to eat even just plate of steamed vegetables knowing that these people outside are suffering in this 95 degree dry heat, landlocked with little resources for water and food, where the life expectancy is just 54 years old. Maybe when you drink a pumpkin spice latte today, you can think of this. These people would kill for one (I would too, figuratively speaking 😬). It’s not to feel guilty for what we have, but I think we have a responsibility as earthlings to be educated and subconsciously aware. At the end of the day, we don’t have a choice what society we’re born into, but we can at least be aware.
A photo posted by ᶜᴬˢˢᴬᴺᴰᴿᴬ ᴰᴱ ᴾᴱᶜᴼᴸ (@expedition_196) on Sep 25, 2016 at 11:08am PDT
“I’m sure that many of you can relate to the feelings that I have; the nightmares and the sadness when it comes to seeing and experiencing certain things that are very challenging to comprehend. That being war, famine, harassment, unfairness, brutality, etc.”
Still, De Pecol continues to explore the rest of the world with open eyes.
“I look forward to also sharing the more somber of times, hoping that we can cultivate positive change as a result.”