A 27-year-old woman is on track to become the fastest person to visit all 196 countries in the world. Cassie De Pecol embarked on her mammoth journey in July 2015 and, since then, has visited more than 181 countries. She stays an average of two to five days in each country before moving on and has filled up four passports along the way.
De Pecol, from Connecticut, is filming her adventures for a documentary, acting as an ambassador for the International Institute of Peace Through Tourism and collecting water samples around the world for Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation.
She plans to tick off the final few countries — including Turkmenistan and Syria — by Christmas. If successful, she will take the record for being the fastest person to step foot in all the world’s countries from Yili Liu, who visited all sovereign nations in three years, three months and six days back in 2010.
We caught up with Cassie as she prepared to travel to Africa and the Middle East en route to her few remaining countries.
RedBull.com: Why did you decide to travel to every country in the world?
Cassie De Pecol: I’ve always wanted to accomplish something way bigger than myself and make a positive impact on the world. When I was 25, the reality hit me that this vision was never going to come to fruition unless I made some major moves as soon as possible.
I wasn’t happy with where my life was headed — I was working odd jobs and not following my passion — and that, muddled with the anxiety of never knowing how much time we’ll have left, made me take that leap of faith.
Where did the idea come from?
From a young age, I dreamed about seeing every single country on the planet. The idea to break the record came from seeing [reality TV star] Eric Hill go after it. Tragically, he died in a paragliding accident before completing his trip. It made me realize we never know how much time we have left and that I should just go for it.
How much is the trip costing you and how are you funding it?
My budget is $198,000 and it’s funded by sponsors and investors.
How many planes have you taken? How many countries have you visited so far?
I’ve taken at least 250 flights (so my life project after this will be to reduce my carbon footprint) and I've traveled to 181 countries and counting.
Which have been your three favorite countries so far and why?
Bhutan for its peacefulness, Switzerland for the mountains and United Arab Emirates because it’s a major hub in the Middle East, which is my favorite region.
Any handy travel tips you've picked up along the way?
Trust in TripAdvisor. Wait so that you’re the last person to board the plane and can "choose" your seat. And pack lightly … very lightly.
What has been the strangest situation you've found yourself in?
Being inside an armored vehicle with three men that was following a pickup truck with guys with machine guns. That was just to travel from the airport to the hotel in Somalia. That’s part of everyday life there — I wasn’t getting special treatment. It was one of the strangest, yet most thrilling experiences.
And the biggest adventure?
Flying over the rock islands of Palau [an archipelago in the Pacific] in a Cessna plane with just myself and the German pilot. I was hanging out of the door to get epic aerial views (with my seatbelt on, of course!).
What advice would you give someone who's about to travel the world?
Just book that one-way ticket and never look back. Trust in the unknown and enjoy the freedom of traveling alone — it gives you so many more opportunities to meet people and see what you want to see.
Anything else we should know?
Don’t believe all the negative things you hear about the Middle East — it’s one of the best regions on Earth with some of the kindest people.
What's next once you've completed your trip?
I'll move back to LA but I won’t be relaxing. That's not my style. I’m going to be busy with things like finishing the documentary and doing motivational speaking. I’ll also be competing in my first full Ironman.