Over the course of a lifetime, most people will only visit a handful of countries. In the last eight months, Cassandra De Pecol has visited 100 of them. No, that is not a misprint; 100 countries in eight months. She is currently in Africa en route to South America, well on her way to beating Guinness’ World Record for “Fastest Time to Visit All Sovereign Nations.” The current record is three years, three months and six days, set by Alan Liu of Ann Arbor, MI in 2010. Not only will she be the fastest person to ever complete a trip to all 195 sovereign nations, she will also be the first documented female ever to visit all sovereign nations.
When on an expedition like this, physical and mental health are crucial. However, frequent travel often means sporadic sleep patterns, poor diet, and lack of exercise; risk factors that leave the immune system very vulnerable to illness. That is the last thing Cassie needs when trying to break a world travel record, which is why she puts such an emphasis on physical fitness; even when time and resources are very limited.
“Fitness is a major part of this expedition and it’s always on my mind,” she says. “The toughest part is keeping a regiment while traveling so much; I train Krav Maga at affiliate centers, I lift, I run, I even do push-ups and stretch in the aisles during long flights. The key is watching what I eat and staying hydrated as much as possible.”
But more than just trying to stay fit during her time abroad, De Pecol has dedicated much of her time to raising awareness for World Peace and responsible, sustainable tourism. She visits many countries as a Peace Ambassador of the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism, where she gets the opportunity to meet with dignitaries and even speak to student groups across the world. One meeting in particular opened her eyes, realizing how rare of an opportunity she has:
“I was speaking in front of the students of Bethlehem University in Palestine. Their passports have a lot of limitations when it comes to travel and where they can go. One student asked me what they were supposed to do if they wanted to travel to every country in the world and how could they do it? And I really didn’t have an answer. It made me feel horrible, we don’t realize how lucky we are as Americans to hold a passport with such limitless possibilities when it comes to travel.”
It’s one of the many parts of her journey that’s about more than being a tourist. As part of offsetting her carbon footprint that comes along with traveling, Cassie plants the national tree of each country in which she meets with leaders.
Cassie’s completion date is open-ended. She started her trip on July 24th 2015, which means she’ll needs to finish by October 24th 2018 to in order to set the new Guinness World Record. However, if she keeps her current pace she’ll beat that mark by at least a year. When asked what her largest success factor has been during this trip, she acknowledged her own will and perseverance, pointing out that she holds the power to fail or succeed. With 100 countries down and 95 to go, she’s well on her way.
Editor’s Note: Follow Cassie’s journey on Instagram here.