Culture Trip: For those who don’t know, what is Expedition196?
Cassandra De Pecol: Expedition 196 is a mission to visit all 193 sovereign nations (including Taiwan, Kosovo and Palestine), making it 196, to attempt to break a Guinness World Record for ‘Fastest Person to Travel to Every Sovereign Nation’ and also to be the first documented woman to do so.
Traveling as the ‘Peace Ambassador’ for the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism (IIPT) and Skal International, my mission is to promote peace through sustainable tourism to university students who are studying tourism and/or hospitality. [My goal] is to further responsible tourism, which includes the planting of trees and collecting water samples to test for the presence of micro plastics. Along the way, I’ll be filming an educational documentary and writing a book series to be used in part with a tool-kit for high schools and universities worldwide. Most importantly, [my mission] aims to inspire women worldwide to pursue their dreams, regardless of societal limitations.
CT: How will Expedition196 help raise awareness of peace through tourism?
CP: 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. 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 own dreams. 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. 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.
CT: What gave you the idea to go for breaking the Guinness World Record of ‘Fastest Person to Travel to Every Sovereign Nation?’
CP: There was a guy by the name of Eric Hill, and I remember seeing his story on the front page of CNN. From what I can remember, he was about a quarter of the way through his journey to break the Guinness World Record but tragically died while paragliding in Utah. Nevertheless, that’s how I learned that a record for rapid travel existed.
CT: How many days do you spend in each country on average?
CP: On average, two to five days, although sometimes it can be one day or a month, it varies.
CT: Do you ever count airport layovers as a visit?
CP: No way. This is a record for speed travel, but it isn’t worth it to me if I can’t see [the country].
CT: How are you funding your travels?
CP: $198,000 is my budget, which is funded by sponsors and investors—with the most prominent sponsors being Dogeared, AIG, Artisan Bags, LLC., Westcomb, Travisa, SPOT/Globastar, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Clif Bar, Eagle Creek and hotels such as Soneva, Six Senses, etc. The investors are contributing towards the making of the educational documentary.
CT: Tell us how you spend your time in each country?
CP: There are several elements to this expedition: spreading peace through tourism and economics, promoting sustainability, advocating women’s rights and achievement, my YouTube vlogs, the documentary I’m filming and the promotion of my trip sponsors. 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), the collection of water samples, staying in sustainable hotels, and—most importantly—educating university students on the importance of responsible travel.
CT: Of all the countries you have traveled to so far, which have been your favorite?
CT: As a solo traveling woman, what are your best tips to other women looking to solo travel?
CP: My advice for women traveling alone is to be confident, know Krav Maga combat moves, just in case, don’t look lost, put your shades on to avoid harassment if it’s there and above all else, enjoy yourself, immerse yourself in the experience, travel off the beaten path and have fun. Be aware, carry a small tracking devise such as SPOT so that your loved ones don’t have to worry and most importantly, listen to your intuition but trust in humanity.
CT: What do you hope to do once you complete your expedition?
CP: Part of me wants to just devote myself towards humanitarian aid and putting all that I have into addressing the Climate Action and Peace and Justice and Strong Institutions initiatives of the the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This is why I’m developing a Universal Student Internship Program to address these needs. 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 the footsteps of his TV career. 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.