Full transcript of American author and traveler Cassie De Pecol’s TEDx Talk: The Real Reason I Traveled to 196 Countries at TEDxMileHigh conference. This event occurred on July 8, 2017. To learn more about the speaker, read the full bio here.
Notable quote from the talk:
“At first I refused, but then sheepishly agreed. I didn’t know what his wife would think of him bringing home a young, blond American girl at midnight. But when we arrived to their little concrete home, she greeted me with a kiss on the cheek and made the bed for me. It wasn’t until the next morning when I saw her sleeping on a one-inch thick foam pad on the kitchen floor with a floral sheet draped over her. She had given me her own bed to sleep in.”
Cassie De Pecol – American author and traveler
Who in their right mind would travel alone to 196 countries?
When someone finds out I’ve done something that no other woman on this planet has done, and broken two Guinness World Records, they usually have a few questions for me, They want to know how I pulled it off, what my experience was like, and why I even did it in the first place?
Today, I’m excited to share with you how it took me three years to plan and raise money for the 18-month trip, what my experience was like traveling alone as a woman, and I’m going to talk about something I’ve never talked about publicly before: the real reason why I did this expedition.
So how did I do it?
196 countries sounds easy enough, right? I knew this expedition was going to be a huge endeavor. And the first step was figuring out all the rules for breaking a Guinness World Record.
There are so many rules, both big and small, like how I was only allowed to take scheduled public transportation to and from each country. I wasn’t allowed to drive a car while in the Guinness clock and there were limitations as to how far I could travel in a taxi.
I also had to prove that I’d been in each country, which is harder than you think. Many countries throughout Europe and Central America don’t stamp passports, so I had to find different ways to document everything.
I collected photos, videos, countless tickets, GPS coordinates, signed witness statements, credit card bills, and even phone logs.
Next time you go to North Korea, you can forget about bringing your phone. They don’t stamp passports, you can’t use your credit card, and Kim Jong Un is not going to give you an autograph. You can, however, send the pre-approved propaganda postcard showing a fist crushing the pentagon.
And then there was the most challenging rule of all: I wasn’t allowed to spend more than 14 days in the country.
This didn’t seem like a big deal at first, but I wasn’t always able to predict when I’d receive my visas. This rule almost ended my expedition in country number 196: Yemen.
First, the U.S. Embassy wouldn’t let me in due to high terrorist activity in Yemen, and then the Oman authorities wouldn’t let me out due to the situation in Yemen.
I faced a major risk of being stuck on the mainland of Yemen. But after two attempts of trying to cross the border, I watched in the night as the rusted steel gates pushed back. And I was finally let back into Oman.
But then the challenge came: How do I pay for this expedition?
Most people think that I must be rich or that I’m just this young blond American girl, leisurely traveling the world, not having to do a single day of work. But they couldn’t be more wrong.
I didn’t grow up in a family with a lot of money. In fact, I had to put myself through college, and I wasn’t able to finish my degree, because I couldn’t afford it.
So I knew that with this expedition I’d have to find creative ways with having to figure out how to fund it. I spent countless hours developing business plans, finding financial backers, vlogging, filming an educational documentary so that I could pay for it all on my own.
Remember the time and effort it took you to plan your last vacation? Now imagine doing it 196 times and all on your own. What I thought would take me six months to plan actually took me three years.