The real reason I traveled to 196 countries | Cassie De Pecol | TEDxMileHigh

Translator: Susanne Fisch
Reviewer: Cihan Ekmekçi 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 endeavour, 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. (Laughter) You can, however, send
the pre-approved propaganda postcard showing a fist crushing the pentagon. (Laughter) 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? (Laughter) 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. So what was it like? In four words: It was exhilarating,
it was exhausting, it was scary, and it was eye-opening. Whether you’ve been to five
countries or 150, you probably have your own personal,
unique experience related to each place. We all have our own way
of traveling and discovering a culture, and it doesn’t matter
what you see or where you go; what matters is your own experience
while you’re there. Some people think that only spending
a week or an hour in a country doesn’t allow you enough time to see it, but if there is one thing
I know to be true, it’s that just one brief experience
can shape your whole life. It was 11 p.m. on a Saturday night
when I arrived in Cuba. After traveling 12 miles in a taxi, I realized I only had
20 dollars cash on me. Cuba didn’t accept
U.S. debit or credit cards, so when I got to the hotel, I was unable to pay
the hotel or the taxi driver. I was so ashamed
of the mistake that I’d made. I rarely cry, but that night
I just sat on the side of the road and completely broke down. The taxi driver came over to me
and said something like, (Spanish) “Yo tengo tres hijas.
Yo entiendo. Ven.” And with my broken Spanish,
I understood that to be something like: “I have three daughters.
I’d hate for them to be in your position. You can come stay
with my family for the night.” 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. (Laughter) 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. I had experiences
like this over 196 times. I had just a taste of what every
country in the world is like, which for most people is unimaginable. I know that non-muslim women
can enter Saudi Arabia alone and without covering their heads. I know that you can swim
with whales in Tonga, and that you can cross
the Drake Passage to Antartica in 60-mph winds and 30-foot waves only to find tranquility
and penguins on the other side. These experiences will forever
shape my view of the world. But while this expedition
was exhilarating, it was also quite exhausting. I spoke to over 16,000 students
on countless issues. I collected water samples
and planted trees to offset my carbon footprint. I met with mayors and ministers
and filmed an educational documentary. And I used social media as a means to showcase the beauty
of countries around the world, and encourage others to travel in ways
that they never had before. But what you don’t see on Instagram is the constant exhaustion
of working 15-hour days or the raw fear that I felt. I was a woman traveling alone. And many countries that I traveled to
were either inaccessible or dangerous or both. Imagine arriving to border control
at 2:00 in the morning in Mogadishu, Somalia, and then getting into an armed vehicle
surrounded by pick-up trucks filled with men with machine guns. Then imagine passing
through four security gates just to get to the compound, and then them showing you to your room and then nonchalantly
pointing out the safe room where you go in case
you hear an explosion. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able
to tell my family if I’d be coimg home or when, and we all knew that it was a possibility
that I wouldn’t make it back safely. But I wouldn’t trade
these experiences for the world. They were hard and scary, yes. But I discovered the goodness
in people all around the world. Because of my expedition, I’ve been featured in tons
of news channels around the world, and hundreds of thousands
of newspapers, magazines and articles. And when I only have 30 seconds
to answer the “Why?” question, this is what I tell them: I saw the opportunity to make history
by breaking a speed record. I wanted to break down
misconceptions about women, and as a triathlete, I wanted to test
my physical and mental endurance while also experiencing
as much of the world as possible. I wanted to inspire others
and enhance the world we live in, and leave a positive legacy behind. And while all of that is true, this expedition actually
started from a much darker place. At the age of 13, I started
feeling like something was off, but I was never able to pinpoint it. I didn’t know why I was having
these negative thoughts or these feelings of unexplained sadness, so I just ignored them
as though they didn’t exist. And at the age of 21, I traveled
with my brother for a month and he began to notice
this unusual pattern of melancholy. He blatantly asked me:
“Cassie, are you depressed?” I became so defensive. I completely diverted from him and again just shoved
these feelings aside. I spent the next two years
running away from my own truth. But those thoughts
never seemed to go away. And in 2014, I was casted
for a reality TV show called “Naked and Afraid.” (Laughter) The show pairs two strangers together to survive naked
in the wilderness for 21 days. I’d never been on TV before, and I saw this as an exciting
opportunity to pull myself up. (Laughter) But I was not prepared for what came next. The editing made me
look like a useless villain and worse, viewers agreed. I received hundreds of thousands
of hate messages and death threats and still do to this very day. I didn’t know why so many people
hated me or what I’d done wrong when I just tried to do my very best. I didn’t know what to do next. So I moved out to Los Angeles
and picked up two babysitting jobs working 85 hours a week
just to make ends meet. Eventually, I hit rock bottom, and I felt like I had nothing else in me. I sat on the cliffside in Malibu and wondered if me being alive
had any positive impact on society. (Sigh) But then I asked myself the question: If I could do anything, what would it be? Travel! I still had feelings of melancholy and unexplained sadness
throughout the expedition, but at least I had a reason
to learn how to manage it or attempt to overcome it. But about a quarter of the way
through the expedition, I ran out of money,
and I considered quitting. And I realized I could not leave
my commitments behind. My commitments to my sponsors,
to my family, to my supporters, to everyone. And I had to finish what I started. When you’re at that very last moment, and everything around you is caving in, what’s that one thing
that’ll pull you out? For me, that thing was travel, and it ended up being a beautiful
and life-changing experience. We are given this magnificent minds
and these powerful bodies and it doesn’t matter where you come from,
your monetary status, your religion, your age,
how others judge you, what your friends and family
say you can or can’t do. It doesn’t even matter
what your dreams are. None of that matters. What matters is your truth. You’re either here on this earth
for one more hour or you’re here for 100 more years, but the beauty is you’ll never know. So like female record-breaker
Amelia Earhart said, “The most effective way
to do it is to do it.” Nothing else matters
but the next step you take and the respect and growth
that you owe to yourself. So find that one thing that brings you
just a little bit of excitement and devote yourself to it 150%. In my experience, you won’t regret it. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “The real reason I traveled to 196 countries | Cassie De Pecol | TEDxMileHigh”

  1. Yo tambien hablo muchos idiomas! En mi kanal hago interesantes videos sobre culturas extarnjeras, la vida en Asia, idiomas y muchas cosas mas! Os espero en mi kanal!!:))))

  2. It is always good to travel around the world. Great talks and very helpful ! Thank you !

  3. Was she actually enjoying the experience of travelling or just wanted to set a speed record of travelling 196 countries? I have been to 25 countries and have enjoyed and experienced the culture.

  4. This video brought tears to my eyes. It's amazing to see what you've done, all alone. It's inspiring and moving.

  5. Visit India its amazing it includes 584 princely country/states, u can say its a continent itself. modern India = 29 province & more than 100 languages, 500 + dialects.
    Btw its a motivational speech for travel aspirants.

  6. Just a thought but, all that effort to find funding from investors to travel/vacation, you could’ve swindled those same people into giving you money to finish your degree. what were the investors ROI? They got a shout out? Congrats though on finishing your expedition.

  7. So what is her real reason to do so? All
    I see is quanity over quality. Doesnt this look like she did this just to achieve her Guiness World Record and not the actual experience?

  8. she was like a JUMPER movie, just grab a photo of any country then she will be there to have some different experience in life. awesome!

  9. I spent 10.5 months in North America, 4 and a half years in Australia, 5 weeks in SE Asia, and many months in Europe. Dats about it.

  10. She should have spend more time in countries, she smells of ego so bad, what do you learn in a country staying less than a week days not even speaking the language nor having time to build life long relationship.. She might have 2 guiness records but as a humain being she is ranking pretty low regarding humanity standards, doesn't even sound smart, you can feel by her body language and the way she speaks and her energy that there are so many things she never fixed with herself, she doesn't smell true inner peace, eyes are lacking love glowing.. nothing impress me in that.. 18 months (18X30 = 540/190 = 2.9 day average for each country, travel should be choosen as a way to learn, grow and experience, not doing the "chinese" bus tour where one take pictures not even getting out of the bus to find personnal gratification for breaking records..

  11. Helloo virtual friends!

    I don't want to waste anyone's time so I'll make this as short as possible :). I'm 19 years old and I've traveled to 25 countries which inspired me to start a travel app made for travelers like us – people who want to learn about and embrace other cultures. This is a project with a vision of deepening connections when traveling abroad.

    I really appreciate anyone that's taken the time to read this so from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much.

    If you'd like to sign up for the launch or just get some more details, please feel free to check out

    Thank you times a million, 

  12. Guys here we have A blonde American girl suffers
    She has a hard life that she need to travel to 196 countries to fix it waaw how hard is that!!!!
    Do you want to convince me that you suffered a lot and that we must learn from your experience??
    I have lost a quarter of an hour of my life and I regret it most regret

  13. She starts with "who in their right mind would travel 196 countries?" Like lady, you did not impress anyone with that. Everyone would want to travel 196 countries to destress if only they had your means.

  14. i went to canada once when i was 4 or 5, i think my parents gambled at caesars the entire time and i vaguely remember eating at a buffet.

  15. She sounds like a lost soul. I actually feel sorry for her. She doesn't realize that she is whiny about a situation that she put herself if that was completely unnecessary.
    I can't finish watching…

  16. Who in their right mind??? Literally, anyone who has ever wanted to see what the world has to offer outside of their home. This is an incredible dream for the majority of people I consider friends all over the world. This is obviously an impressive feat, however, FRS has a point, it definitely helps to be a white, privileged American passport holder.

  17. Pure evidence for the fact that travelling alone does NOT broaden your horizons. How ridiculous is it even to count the countries one has been to?

  18. Last final Quoting:
    We are given this magnificent minds, and these powerful bodies, and it doesn´t matter where you come from, your monetary status, your religion, your age, how others judge you, what your friends and family say you can or can´t do. It doesn´t even matter what your dreams are. None of that matters. What matters is your truth.

    You´re either here on this earth for one more hour, or you´re here for 100 more years, but the beauty is you´ll never know.

    The most effective way to do it, is to do it. Nothing else matters but the next step you take, and the respect and growth that you owe to yourself. So find that one thing that brings you just a little bit of excitement and devote yourself to it 150%.

  19. Your majesty, thank your US passport who made you able to achieve this ego "Achievement" and come here to show off. You want to see what's achievement and Guinness Record, travel to the places with Guinness Records for victims of the owner of your passport .. Hey, congrats on the tan of your skin

  20. I have been able to travel to several countries for my age & that is all thanks to my PRIVILEGE of being Canadian and the sacrifice of my immigrant parents who gave up their careers back home so my sister and I could be where we stand now. I 100% acknowledgment this privilege. I think she also needs to acknowledge this BIG privilege of the passport she hold. Also we can go to 100 counties & so on, but my biggest gratitude is the connections & acts of service I have been able to do to make the world a better place. At the end of the day, even if we go to just one country, but make someone smile and change the life of someone, that’s more important and all worthwhile rather than going to 100+ countries.

  21. It's kinda inspiring but still there is a diffrence between go to a country and see a country. I rather choose to really see them, which takes more time.

  22. You clearly have very little responsibilities, no family to feed… so yeah .. travel all you want .. but people with so much responsibilities will not be able to identify with you.

  23. I took off hitchhiking at 17. Alone. No dinero. Changed my ENTIRE perspective. I worked when I needed $$. Once, I needed a bath in THE worst way. I knocked on an elderly Mormon ladys door. She called her sister. They let me bathe, fed me, sent me on my way.

  24. 18 months 196 countries is not traveling, you were in a race for a record NO comparison! How many hours in the AIR how many hours in the airport…that’s almost 11 countries a month that’s like 3 a week… right… not much time on the ground

  25. Yeah unimaginable is your word? Hope you enjoy your travel to almost 200 countries. Hmm maybe not? Did you experience a lot?

  26. it feels like a marathon of crossing all those places off her list rather than travel in the real sense of the word, for experience and taking it all in… a bit weird

  27. So now that Lexi travelled every country in the world at the age of 21, that sort of takes the thunder away from you a little bit uh? lol jk, still amazing what you did.

  28. Can travel to 187 countries, travelled to UK 🇬🇧, Sweden 🇸🇪, Finland 🇫🇮, Germany 🇩🇪, Turkey 🇹🇷, Saudi-Arabia 🇸🇦, Somalia 🇸🇴, Morocco 🇲🇦 and Egypt 🇪🇬. Stayed at least a month in each Btw.

  29. "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." ~ Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad.

  30. Stick to trains, planes and automobiles, you are NOT (and have NEVER been) a "survivalist"!!! Any ALLEGED "death threats" were wrong, but the "hate" you experienced from your N&A fiasco (INCLUDING from the N&A cast and crew) is what happens when you LIE your way into a genre and get exposed as the fraudulent dilettante you are.

  31. You traveled the world so fast, you didn't learn what the trip should teach you, humility. You don't have my respect or anyone that knows your story.

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