Lonely Planet Writer

Meet the woman on a quest to set a world record for fastest female to travel to all sovereign nations

After visiting more than 100 countries on a quest to set a Guinness World Record, Cassandra De Pecol says that to her, travel means “the ability break down barriers, leaving all preconceptions at the door and having an open mind towards engaging in experiences outside of one’s comfort zone”.

Cassandra De Pecol at Petra in Jordan.
Cassandra De Pecol at Petra in Jordan. Image by Cassandra De Pecol

Having a positive travel philosophy is important as the 26-year-old American continues on her mission set a Guinness World Record for the “Fastest Female to Travel to all Sovereign Nations”.

With 100 countries ticked off her travel list since her first departure on 24 July 2015, Cassandra will visit 196 places in her journey to set the record, which will take about three years. She’s been to five regions so far on her expedition: Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa and North America.

Cassandra De Pecol in the planning stages.
Cassandra De Pecol in the planning stages. Image by Cassandra De Pecol

Now, Cassandra has set out on the next leg of her journey, which includes South America, Southeast Asia and then Africa. Her final destination will be Antarctica.

Cassandra said she was inspired to set the world record after seeing a man named Eric Hill on CNN. He had been attempting to set the Guinness Record for Fastest Travel to all Sovereign Nations, but tragically died in a paragliding accident in Utah. Cassandra said “his quest seemed so epic and inspirational, but I unfortunately never got the chance to reach out to him before seeing him on the news that day. His quest inspired me to give it a go for the same record”.

Cassandra De Pecol in Kazakhstan.
Cassandra De Pecol in Kazakhstan. Image by Cassandra De Pecol

The Expedition 196 mission is designed to promote peace through sustainable tourism, says Cassandra. She does this by speaking with university students who are studying tourism and hospitality to educate them about the importance of incorporating responsible travel practices and promoting sustainable and regenerative tourism.

She also collects samples from waterways around the world and sends them to a lab for Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC). They test them for the presence of micro plastics as they work on coming up with solutions to combat issues with mirco plastics, says Cassandra.

Cassandra De Pecol in Howth, Ireland.
Cassandra De Pecol in Howth, Ireland. Image by Cassandra De Pecol

As for setting the record, about five months into her travels, she got an email from Guinness saying they were splitting it up into two categories for females and males. Setting this record, as well as becoming the first documented female to complete the challenge, will show what women can achieve, she says.

“There are many challenges women face while travelling the world alone. Overcoming these challenges and obstacles are what will hopefully inspire current and future generations of women around the world to follow their dreams, despite societies limitations of what women can achieve”.

Cassandra De Pecol in the UAE.
Cassandra De Pecol in the UAE. Image by Cassandra De Pecol

Packing so much travel into a short time has its ups and downs, according to Cassandra. After six months she had gotten used to the pace, but the first six months came with challenges, leaving her sick and concerned she had malaria. “At that point I had been traveling for 1.5 months straight with no breaks. I burnt myself out and I quickly realized that I needed to respect my body and slow down”.

She added that knowing she has such a short time in some countries encourages her to pack her schedule with lots to do. For example, in three days in Jordan, she was able to meet with high school students near Amman, see the city’s archaeological sites and bazaar, head to Petra and the Dead Sea.

Cassandra De Pecol in Tunisia.
Cassandra De Pecol in Tunisia. Image by Cassandra De Pecol

“Sometimes it’s all about time management,” she says. But, Cassandra is realistic that time management only goes so far, noting that she wanted to spend a week camping in Wadi Rum, but her funds wouldn’t allow whether she had the time or not.

One of the highlights of her journey so far has been travelling around the Middle East. Cassandra says she was happy with how safe it is to travel solo as a female. The people she met there were kind, hospitable and calm – and for Cassandra, travel is all about having those kinds of experiences. “To travel is to learn about the world and its people in its truest and most authentic form”.

Learn more about Cassandra’s travels and Expedition 196 on her website or Facebook page.