How to Travel the World Like Cassandra De Pecol

Almost like the game, ‘Where in The World is Carmen Sandiego’, figuring out where in the world Cassandra De Pecol is, is just as trying. This 27-year-old American woman has made it her mission to travel to all 196 countries on the planet. She undertook this journey, that’s called Expedition196, as an Ambassador for Peace for the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism (IIPT). Color me impressed!

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This isn’t her first experience with long term travel though, she’s spent the better part of two years before this expedition, traveling around the world, trying her hand at living off every place she went to, keeping her traveling alive by working and spending in a balanced way. Good budgeting, girl.

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So she got back from that trip and realized what she wanted to do – travel the entire world (literally). One month later, and in conjunction with IIPT, she kicked off Expedition196 in July 2015 in Palau (somewhere in the western Pacific Ocean). She’s made it through 181 out of 196 countries so far.

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Other than being totally awesome for doing such a trip (my wanderlust is kicking in really bad right now), if she manages to finish her country count within the next 40 days, she’ll break the Guinness World Record for the fastest person to travel to every country in the world.

Hold on, I’m taking a moment to appreciate that she will be the first WOMAN ever to travel to every country in the world.

So how is she doing all of this?

#Cost

So far, the trip has cost almost $200,000, which Cassandra isn’t covering on her own but with the help of sponsors*. To offset the cost of hospitality, she is using a barter system every place she goes to. In other words, she is using her Instagram as an advertising platform in return for free accommodations.

*Some of the sponsors: AIG, Clif Bar, Avianca, Air New Zealand, and Krav Maga Worldwide.

If you or I would want to try this excursion for ourselves, sans sponsors, it would cost us at least the amount it cost Cassandra’s sponsors, and considering we would have to quit our job, it’s not the most realistic plan for us at this point – but retirement is going to happen eventually! I’m all for saving up from my current mid-20s so that when I do eventually retire, I can go on a tour of the world (minus North Korea and Syria).

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#Safety

We all know we live in a world where some countries are more dangerous than others. So I wondered how she kept herself safe while traveling in Afghanistan, for example. From what I saw, and man was she smart about it, every country she went to, she did her homework as to their local and religious customs. In Afghanistan she made sure her hair was covered, as is customary for women.

A motto in life, when you can, you should respect the local traditions of any place you travel to. I do as Cassandra does, and do some research before I travel. The last thing I want to do is offend the locals of wherever I plan on going. If anything, I want to befriend and enjoy the locals rather than make them angry or offended in any way.

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#Access

How on earth is she going to get into North Korea? First of all, it costs $800 just for the visa to get in. She plans on flying by way of Beijing as they don’t allow US citizens to come in by train or bus. Cassandra is also in the process of getting a Canadian passport (her mom’s Canadian) which helps with the visa situation for North Korea and Sudan.

Getting into Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia, she needed to be accompanied by men, so she contacted the Ministry of Tourism to help her with that. Smart move. When in doubt, she used her international connections to make sure she had everything she needed to get into a country. Granted, IIPT is also helping her get through the red tape of getting into certain countries.

Like I stated above, not so interested in North Korea, Iran and Syria to honest. Call it media hype or buying into political influence, there is still something ominous about trying to get into a country with a full media blackout, both inside and looking in; I like to know what I’m getting myself into, thank you very much.

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#Equipment

Cassandra is equipped with a satellite phone, GPS to track her location (for her knowledge of where she is, but also for security reasons in case something should happen to her; they would know where she is), camera and recording accessories to document her epic travels – obviously! and a laptop to upload everything that has been documented.

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All in all, it seems as though she’s got a handle on this massive endeavor. There is such a huge cause behind all of this, a personal one for Cassandra and one that should be important to us all. The issue of sustainable tourism and reduced carbon footprint (thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio and his environmental movement), and the mecca of important matters – peace; all of which are at the forefront of everyone’s mind these days.

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While on this adventure, Cassandra is meeting with ministers and mayors, trying to get into the micro-level of her peace mission by gaining understanding of the local situation. Got to give it to her, she’s a modern day Marco Polo AND Mother Teresa. Expedition196 is an inspirational feat, she obviously loves to travel, don’t we all, but to combine the passion for the world both in its cultural aspect as well as its environmental, is a brilliant move on her part.

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My take away from Cassandra’s achievements also happened to be what Cassandra stated to be her drive for the whole mission, “I felt very privileged being born in a country that has so much freedom and resources to be distributed to use toward influencing, educating and aiding other nations”.

At the end of the day its exactly that, our world is not created equal, it is diverse and ever-changing, for better or worse, that’s just human nature. So to come to the realization that you and I were born in a place where our rights and needs were never questioned, is not equal to that of another country’s stance on human and environmental rights, is a rude awakening.

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Cassandra is doing something about it. She’s putting her (and her sponsors) money where her mouth is and going for record breaking good-doing.