Cassandra De Pecol is only 27 years old, but will most likely become the fastest person to travel to all 196 countries on Earth. Her inspiring adventure started in July 2015 and is named Expedition 196, also the name of her website where you can find more information about her mission to be the first documented female to visit all 196 nations. Cassie is an ambassador for the International Institute of Peace Through Tourism and has spoken to more than 12,500 students and dignitaries across 33 countries so far.
We are Nodes got the honour to interview our fellow travel enthusiast Cassie De Pecol about her ambassador role, her traveling experiences and her plans for the future.
What has been your favorite country so far?
There’s not one country I don’t like. Turkey and Peru have always been two of my favorites because I lived in both, but there is nothing like your home country, because your home country is likely the one you’ve spent the most time in and know the most, and for me that’s the USA. They say home is where the heart is, and the more I travel, the more that’s becoming more real to me. Home is where family is, it’s where my safety net is, it’s where everything that I’m familiar with is, and my country is rich in nature, which is important to me.
They say home is where the heart is, and the more I travel, the more that’s becoming more real to me.
Switzerland is my favorite for mountains, Bhutan for peace, Vanuatu for kindness, Tunisia for history, Peru for rainforests, Turkey for culture, New Zealand for landscapes, Mexico for food, Jordan is probably the gateway to my favorite region in the world, the Middle East.
Your worst travel experience so far?
Probably being stuck in Somalia because Chase Ultimate Rewards cancelled my flight without telling me.
How has traveling changed you?
The goal has been to be as open minded as possible about people and places all around the world. I think there’s this huge divide among people based on anything from religion to ethnicity to gender, but in reality, we are all the same; we all have the same basic needs and we all just want to be happy. Once we realize this universal similarity, we’ll be able to be more open and understanding of one another.
What does your role as Ambassador for Peace entail?
There are several elements to this Expedition. Spreading peace through tourism and economics is one of them, promoting sustainability is another, and advocating women’s rights and achievement is another. Then there’s the YouTube vlogs, which showcase the beauty of many of these nations that I visit. The educational documentary that I’m filming to be used in part with a tool-kit and book written with the students I’ve spoken to all over the world. I also promote my sponsors as well.
People often say that there’s no way I can preach sustainability when I fly so much, and they’re right.
I’m not saying that I’m a sustainable traveler, but I am working towards being one with each tree that I plant with the students on this Expedition (45 so far in 12 countries), collecting water samples to test for the presence of micro-plastics to send to Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, staying in and promoting sustainable/regenerative hotels, and most importantly, educating university students who are studying tourism, on the importance of responsible travel and incorporating or keeping in mind the elements of sustainable/regenerative hospitality and tourism. Many students I’ve spoken to have no idea what sustainability even means, so it’s my job to educate them on this and encourage them to support responsible tourism best practices when pursuing internships and throughout their careers.
Peace through Tourism can really be best understood by educating the students on how we can quantify peace through a series of criteria set fourth by the Institute for Economics and Peace. Once we understand this criteria, we can then work towards creating a more peaceful and united world.
In regards to the tourism aspect of it, this is where I engage the Ministry and Mayors, where they also attend these keynote sessions and I present to them the ‘IIPT Credo of the Peaceful Traveler’ set fourth by the International Institute of Peace Through Tourism of which I’m endorsed. Together, we discuss how tourism can be a mediator between peace and conflict, and a way to further friendship among Nations as well as providing humanitarian assistance. For instance, a sustainable hotel partnering with Pack for a Purpose, where guests can bring educational supplies to then distribute to local schools in need in the area where they’re vacationing.
Since starting my Expedition, I’ve spoken to over 12,500 students and dignitaries across 33 countries, and continue to be approached by the youth (both young women and young men) in regards to how they can pursue their dreams after listening to my talk.
As a young woman myself, I like to think that I can set the standard for young women worldwide to pursue a quest or dream that is out of the norm or that everyone tells them they shouldn’t do.
It’s my job to leave a legacy behind that positively influences future generations of innovators, entrepreneurs and trend setters, especially when it comes to women.
Have you started thinking on upcoming projects after finishing Expedition 196?
A major part of me wants to just devote myself towards humanitarian aid and putting all that I have into addressing #13 and #16 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals which is Climate Action and Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, incorporating sustainable development. This is why I’m developing a Universal Student Internship Program to address these needs. On the agenda in addition to this program is an educational documentary that I’ve been filming in conjunction with a book series to be written in part with the university students who I’ve spoken to already. Money is of course a factor to ensure that I’m able to enhance our world through these humanitarian goals. And the initial plan is to continue to work with brands in their advertising campaign as well as have a show (a girl has got to dream, right!?).
Anthony Bourdain has been an idol of mine since high school, and it’s always been a dream to follow in his footsteps with his TV career, but instead of focusing on food and travel, something else and travel. I’m also lining up speaking engagements, TEDx talks, and the like which will take me both stateside and international over the course of hopefully the long term. Also, my first full Ironman race!
Have you encountered any challenges as a female solo traveler?
Generally speaking, I’ve experienced so much hospitality from people but I don’t think that has anything to do with being a woman. I have, however had several terrible experiences where I experienced discrimination because I am a woman. When negative experiences happen to me, I don’t automatically think that it happened because I’m a woman. It’s really when I share these stories with others that they automatically assume that it happened because of my gender. Either way, the positive outweigh the negative on this Expedition, and overall I’ve had wonderful experiences.
Want to learn more about Expedition196? Make sure to follow Cassie’s adventure through her social media platforms: