Cassie De Pecol is an exceptional young lady from Washington, Connecticut. She’s accomplished what few travelers can claim to have done: She broke the world record for traveling all 196 countries that make up the world map. Others have attempted it, although most of us only dream about it. De Pecol did it in an impressive 18 months and 26 days.
During her long trek, the intrepid traveler visited the 193 sovereign states that make up the countries of the word. She also included visits to three states whose sovereignty is still in dispute. De Pecol included Palestine, Taiwan and Kosovo in her itinerary. She named her tour Project 196 and set about achieving it with precise planning.
Cassie had always been an avid traveler. She found herself in a corporate job that was not fulfilling. It had long been a dream of hers to travel the length and breadth of the world. She wanted to explore different countries to understand the history and culture of all the world’s citizens. De Pecol was keen to explore her own ancestry and examine her roots on the European continent.
Her curiosity was piqued by what she saw on the news about certain regions around the world, such as the Middle East. She wanted to know if what she saw on the news was the reality on the ground. Not only did she want to go to all these places to learn about them, but she also hoped to leave a legacy and footprint wherever she traveled.
De Pecol drew up a budget and came to the conclusion that it would be in the region of $198,000. Of that, she had saved up $10,000 from part-time babysitting. On her 25th birthday, she started drawing up her plan.
The $198,000 required to achieve her dream was an obstacle, but Cassie was not about to allow something like needing money to stand in the way of her quest. She decided to get sponsors to help her raise the funds she needed. However, she wasn’t asking for money in return for doing nothing. Her entrepreneurial instincts were stimulated and she started thinking outside the box. One of the things she decided to do was get people to invest in an educational video documentary she would make. Her documentary would aim to show people around the world the benefits of sustainable travel.
The next thing she did was drum up support and garner herself a large following on social media. Using this clout, she agreed to promote luxury, eco-conscious hotels on Instagram in exchange for free accommodation. Her 295,000 followers allowed her to reach people across the globe and inform them about these hotels. This meant that she had to be networking constantly on her travels to secure funding, investment and sponsorship. It wasn’t always easy, but Cassie’s determination never wavered.
Cassie used the opportunity to engage with students in the countries she visited. She acted as a Peace Ambassador for the International Institute of Peace Through Tourism and Skal International. This gave her access to address tourism students at various universities. There, she was able to raise awareness for responsible tourism and economics.
De Pecol used her unique adventure to collect water samples for Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation. These samples would be tested for micro-plastics. The aim was to gather data needed for a comprehensive study on the scourge of plastic waste and its effects on the world’s oceans.
Cassie confessed that much of her time was devoted to addressing students, meeting with government representatives and securing visas. But in between these demanding tasks, she found time to travel around the different countries on her own. Her time was limited, but she focused on being in places where she felt the impact of her visit could be maximized. She spent an average of 2-5 days in each country she visited.
As De Pecol reflected on her amazing adventure, she couldn’t help but admit that her odyssey had been a series of highs and lows. A lot of the trip was taken up by mundane activities such as flying between destinations. As a woman traveling alone, she did not always feel safe. There were instances where she felt preyed upon, as the perception is that women are more gullible and submissive than men. She vowed to do what she could to dispel these perceptions and introduce the idea of equality wherever she could.
With that said, Cassie would unequivocally state that the lows were nothing compared to the highs. She’s met students, dignitaries and locals who have made a profound impression on her. And she’s traveled to places few tourists have experienced. The videos she shared along the way have made global citizens out of her followers too. Her sincerest hope is to inspire others to take the bull by the horns and reach for their dreams.