The Women Who Have Traveled to Every Country in the World (Media Fact-Checking Guide)

American traveler Cassie DePecol has been in the news for completion last week of her travel to every country in the world.

Update 2/16: scroll to the bottom for Ms. DePecol’s response via twitter.

Update 2/17: more tweets.

Update 2/19: blocked. 

Ms. DePecol’s website makes 3 claims as ‘The Face of Women’s Achievement’ and ‘The Power of Women’s Achievement Keeps Growing’:

  1. First Documented Woman to Travel to Every Sovereign Nation (disputed)
  2. First American Women to Travel to Every Sovereign (disputed)
  3. Youngest American to Travel to Every Sovereign Nation (subject to verification)

Cassie DePocol

There was also an attempt to break the Guinness World Record as the “Fastest Person (Female) to Travel to Every Sovereign Nation. According to her website, it appears she did not meet this goal which involves strict criteria such as to only used scheduled transport. This is not always feasible to reach certain countries, such as her last, Yemen. This criteria is intended to exclude someone chartering a plane and tapping a toe in each country, making it a particularly difficult feat.

Ms. DePecol’s Expedition196 involved both marketing and sponsorship as well as inspirational school speaking and sustainable tourism efforts.

Why Are So Many of the Most Traveled People in the World Up in Arms?

What has gotten so many travelers upset, particularly female travelers, is the claim ‘First Documented Woman to Travel to Every Sovereign Nation’ seems to deliberately dismiss the pioneering female travelers who have preceded Ms. DePecol in this achievement.

Rather than a ‘on the shoulders of giants approach’ and celebrate her crowning as youngest American to visit every country, the apparent intent, and definite result, is that the media have construed that into, ‘The First Women to Travel to Every Country.’

That major news outlets such as CNN did not perform a simple search of other women who have completed this quest is a sad commentary on the state of media. That is was fed to them by Ms. DePecol, indeed touted and amplied in her Press Room, does not speak highly of her. She is billed as such for her upcoming appearance at the Women’s Travel Fest, an event one assumes would want to recognize pioneering female travelers.

Women'S Travel Fest Speakers

Ms. DePecol’s website makes no statement as to what she determines to be ‘documented’ and on what basis she excludes other women. Several acquaintances of mine, all involved in the traveler verification organizations mentioned below, have attempted to contact her for clarification in this area and have not received adequate response.

I was going to stay on the sidelines. For me as a man to speak out can seem to lack understanding. It seems better to let female travelers voice displeasure with these claims since the claims and marketing blitz is so specifically about women.

Yet when I know the attacks and misogyny nearly all female bloggers face just for being female, I feel a duty to stand with those I respect and to speak out when they may not feel safe. I am cognizant that Ms. DePecol, through her own online presence, no doubt has been subject to the same kinds of attacks, so my intent is to be factual and balanced.

How Many Countries Are There?

The base standard for countries is the 193 United Nations Member States.

By wide agreement among travelers, those who have visited all UN Member States are considered to have traveled to every country in the world. Completion is based on traveling to all the countries as then exist. If you are deceased before a country comes into existence you can hardly be blamed for not visiting a new country!

UN+3 is a designation used by many, including Ms. DePecol’s Expedition 196, to further include The Vatican, Taiwan and Kosovo.

There are many further lists that all build upon the UN Member States. Organizations such as Travelers’ Century Club, Most Traveled People, and The Best Traveled all develop expanded lists based on criteria that are passionately debated among travelers.

The Travelers Century Club, of which I am a member and has a female president and vice-president, has a list of 325 countries and territories.

Most Traveled People and The Best Travelled have even more extensive lists.

Example: is Northern Ireland a country? You see how quickly this gets heated and political.

Taking my travels as plotted on The Best Travelled, I am at 189 UN countries and 292 Travelers’ Century Club territories.

Who Has Visited Every Country in the World?

Travelers Century Club, Most Traveled People and The Best Travelled all track travelers. The Best Travelled, founded by Harry Mistidis is the most extensive in documenting travelers and a wonderful resource.

Similarly, Most Traveled People and The Best Travelled have their own lists as well as track UN member state visits. By example, The Best Travelled has extensive visit guidelines, where, for instance, Ms. DePecol’s 30-minute transit of Tuvalu appears to count as a ‘minimal visit.’ The Best Travelled has a formal verification process, of which I am about to undertake as I close in on my own UN goal.

Author Ryan Trapp has extensively researched and interviewed travelers who have visited every country in Chasing 193 Vol 1 and Vol II.

The Counting Countries podcast from Ric Gazarian interviews many travelers who have visited every country or who are on their way (subscribe on iTunes).

Women Who Have Visited Every Country in the World:

Using these sources, here is a list of women known by these organizations to have traveled to every country in the world. There may be more out there who have not made their journeys public to these organizations.

Ms. DePecol joins a select group of the most traveled people the world has seen, male or female. Let’s not brush them aside with claims that they don’t exist. Her accomplishments are worthy of admiration, so are theirs. Let’s embrace Ms. Depecol’s message of ‘The Power of Women’s Achievement Keeps Growing’ and keep in mind that there is not just one ‘Face of Women’s Achievement.’

Update February 16, 2017:

The piece was shared with Ms. DePecol via twitter. She produced the following tweets in response, it is not clear if she read the piece as they are disjointed and some refer to information not in this piece. The tweets may not all be displayed in their entirety because it appears that shortly after sending, Ms. DePecol deleted most of these tweets, and I am unaware how to recover them other than my below notification feed.

Cassie DePecol Tweet Response 16Feb2017

Update February 17, 2017:

Cassie DePecol Tweet Response 17Feb2017


Update February 19, 2017:

I said my piece in this article, which I took time to carefully research and write as respectfully as the situation allowed. Perhaps more respectful than justified. It was brought to my attention today via twitter that these claims continue to be made and that rather than acknowledge the pioneering women travelers that preceded her, Ms. DePecol instead blocked my twitter account, from which I have only tweeted this article once and replied/retweeted to a handful of replies from others.

Laura Nalin tweetCassie DePecol Never ClaimedCassie DePedol blocked me

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  • PedroNY

    You tell ’em how it is! 🙂 I am glad you actually raised this issue, thank you for this post.

    Good luck with your final stretch of countries to visit.



  • Janice Schacter Lintz

    Excellent article!

  • Christine Krzyszton

    Well said, Stefan.

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  • Quail Nest

    We need more articals like this one. Fact is fact.

  • Shannon

    You are fair. She is dishonest.

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  • Look, Ms. DePecol’s point about “documentation” may be technically correct but is disingenuous and tone-deaf. Historically, members of the “every country” club tended to be recognized based on an honor system. But given that world travellers tend to be honest, considerate and magnanimous people, that wasn’t a problem. And indeed, the honor system was probably necessary because verification wasn’t always as easy as it is now with social media, etc. So, it may be true that the female travellers who preceded Ms. DePecol do not have a level of proof that would prevail in a court of law (although for all I know, maybe some of them do). But by dismissing their achievements, Ms. DePecol comes off as petty and essentially calling all of her predecessors liars. And she has caused a controversy that is overshadowing her very impressive accomplishment (and heck, just lining up $198,000 in fundraising for her travels was a difficult achievement that is worthy of admiration). It’s also unfortunate to see her doubling down on her debunked claim to be the “first female traveller to visit every country,” even when confronted with the truth. A mea culpa from her, and an acknowledgment that she stands on the shoulders of some equally intrepid female travellers who came before her, would go a long way in rehabilitating her image.

  • Couldn’t have said it better myself on!

  • Apparently, everyone is all excited because either she was the first, or she wasn’t. Frankly, I don’t care much either way. Lying is bad and you shouldn’t do it. But why is it such a competition? There’s no prize at the end, other than a passport full of stamps, there’s no medal or jackpot waiting for you. Frankly, if you’re that young and traveling to that many countries in such a short period of time just to be the “fastest”, I doubt you enjoyed them much or explored enough of the country to really get a feel for their culture. Isn’t immersing yourself into the culture, making friends, and sampling food & activities that you wouldn’t normally do the real reason to travel… not just a stamp in a passport? Her way of “travel” doesn’t make her a better person… and that is evident in her responses.

  • Linda Tabb

    Lee, I think you might be missing the point here. It’s not that it’s a competition, first of all. There are other women, both American and from other countries, both alive and deceased who have traveled to all of the countries. The number is small, much smaller than the number of men. Most of the women are quite elderly. I think the youngest still living is 50 years old. The American women who have done this likely are not necessarily in a position to challenge this. They were born in the 20s and 30s and might not even be aware of this woman’s claims. Since so few women have done this, it is even more important that someone claims to have done this and is ignoring the others. I would also point out that while there is no medal for this, this woman gathered the funds for her travel under the auspices of being the first woman, argubly fraudulently. In addition, she by her own admission intends to capitalize on this claim as an entrepreneur. If you don’t think her claim equals cash in her pocket, I am not sure how to explain it any better. It is very hard for me as a woman to see someone basically disregard these earlier accomplishments of other women by making the suggestion that they didn’t have proper documentation. The travel websites that Stefan mentions do just that. Her dismissal of this thoughtful piece by Stefan, because he hasn’t checked her proof is absurd and arrogant. After his piece was mentioned to her on Twitter, she just doubled down and then appeared on the Today show as the first female. Someone has to speak for these other women, but more importantly, she should not be able to profit personally or financially from a false claim and I suspect she already has and will continue to do so.

  • I get where you’re coming from. Personally, I just don’t see the allure of it. Rushing through and “only seeing the airport” of a country isn’t traveling. It is just checking the box off a country and moving on, which is my main point. Traveling is supposed to be about learning about new cultures and meeting new people.

    I agree that she’s being misleading and diminishing the accomplishments of women that came before her… especially considering how easy travel is today compared to decades ago.

    But, like anything, we are giving her power, fame, and fortune by making a big deal out of her (or other’s) being the first. And some of the blame goes to the people who are empowering her – the media, the financial backers, etc.

    Frankly, it doesn’t register even one iota in my life. I would care much more if she made a positive impact on the lives of people in the countries she visited. Say… she raised $5,000 for impoverished children in every country of the world. Now THAT is a story I can care about.

  • Linda Tabb

    I think as a woman, this resonates differently for me than for you perhaps. It registers more than an iota for me. There are reasons, lots of them, that fewer women have done this than men. And travel is easier today than decades ago. But as a woman having done it both decades ago and now, it’s still not always easy for solo women travelers. Imagine if this had been your grandmother who had traveled to all of the countries years ago? Wouldn’t it bother you that her accomplishment was just ignored? I think there has been very little pushback in part because it is a woman claiming it.

  • You’re not understanding that I do agree with you. I even said that travel is much easier today than decades ago. I just don’t care about accomplishments like this… by a man or a woman… especially when performed by someone with the express intent of just checking the box rather than actually learning about and exploring a country.

  • I count you both as friends so hope to have peace! These are both valid elements we all feel in this. One aspect, which I focused on in this peace is the factual aspect of the deceptive claims made and marketed, then there are the broader subjective arguments about the value of travel and different ways to travel, how it impacts the traveler and how it impacts the people and world around the traveler. I was not even aware of a Guinness record tracking ‘fastest’ and when I did hear of it my reaction is that it is absurd that anyone would attempt that or value their travel in such a way if that is the extent of travel, and my blog has the word ‘rapid’ in it!

  • Linda Tabb

    Agreed. I don’t travel that way either. If I might have done all the countries literally decades ago, but I doubt it. And unlike a lot of ambitious travelers I go back to the same cities and countries over and over and drill down deeper. I am not sure if I will make it to all the countries or not. I have seen so many changes in where it is easy and difficult to go to in my lifetime. I certainly have regrets about not going to certain countries I considered going in the past and didn’t and now might not get to. I have tried to go to Iran twice now and it has not worked out either time. My main quest is to try to always hit UNESCO sites near where I am. I am particularly drawn to these and what I learn from those visits is very important to me. And ‘fastest’ holds no appeal to me either. I always find I don’t have enough time everywhere I go, which is why I often go back. I applaud her accomplishment. I just wish she’d do the same for others before her, especially women.

  • Richard

    Body blow by H-Bomb

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  • Ray

    She seems to be blocking anyone on social media referencing your article that fact checks the MEDIA’S claim that she was the “First Woman.” Being the FIRST Woman and being the FASTEST Woman are two completely different things. Again, nothing wrong in wanting to attempt to break a Guinness World Record. And the fundraising done to help achieve that goal is astonishing in itself. Documented or not, there are still other women before her who have visited every country. They may have taken their entire lifetimes to do that (i.e. weren’t chasing after a record), but the media isn’t acknowledging them at all and Cassie isn’t doing too much to correct them, either.

    All along she was attempting to be the fastest woman (fastest person, actually, since she’s publicly criticized Guinness for diving this record into two categories – Fastest Man and Fastest Women). Now she’s just saying she was the First Documented Woman. Not for not, but you’ve now opened up the door for more scrutiny when you discredit the other women whom (as far as anyone can tell) aren’t actively complaining about her claims publicly. Show them a little respect, and you will get a little bit of respect in return. That is the gist of people’s anger towards this sensitive issue.

    And more importantly, why isn’t her Project Team helping her find a PR firm to speak on her behalf? The pressure she must be enduring from the backlash is really starting to get to her in the way she responds back to people. This is not helping her cause at all and just completely overshadowing what would otherwise been considered an astonishing record.

  • Ray, thank you for your thoughtful response. I will note that of the women who have previously completed, nearly all are deceased or too aged to get involved and the voices of support for their achievements have been women and men following in their footsteps.

    Also, while I agree there should be someone, PR firm or otherwise, to counsel her to walk back false claims, these claims were part of the marketing message from the very beginning, the crafting of a self-proclaimed and undefined nuance ‘documented’ splashed ‘first documented woman’ on her website, that media would overlook for a quick, click-friendly story. This has been the most slickly produced, media targeted, travel to every country campaign to date and has been remarkable in the effectiveness of its dishonest messaging, from gaining sponsorship to claiming visits that do not meet commonly accepted criteria to relying that media would not fact check. That has been the most astonishing achievement and an education for me, a broad supporter of journalism, at how far how much of the media world has fallen.

  • Ray

    It would be interesting to know what criteria Guinness Book of World Records uses to define a “visit.” And who do they consult with to define said criteria? They usually consult experts in the field to set these in stone, no?

  • I am not intimately involved with Guinness and their criteria, what I understand is they take a position similar to The Best Travelled’s ‘minimal visit,’ in that a strict airport transit does not count, while an airport transit that involves clearing immigration and walking right back in to exit immigration counts as a visit on this minimal standard. The Best Travelled does separates out minimal visits in its rolls.

    From Ms. DePecol’s own statements and external evidence, there are some number where where took this stamp in, [take selfie], stamp out approach. This is where subjective claims about the meaning of ‘fastest’ and the point of all for not even experiencing a country for a few hours come into play. As those are subjective opionion, I separate that from factual claims.

    Among the various organizations and travelers, everyone has their own opinion of what counts and generally it is as much to be honest with yourself as for any external claims. For instance, I have transited Istanbul many times, even spent nights in hotels near the airport, though have never seen the city, let alone any of the country, so I do not count myself as having visited Turkey. Until recently I did not count several other countries for this reason. At 192/196 by the UN+3 list, it is tempting to say I have another in the bad, but it would be dishonest and I want the thrill of actually experiencing the place.

    As for the separate claim of ‘first documented women,’ Ms. DePecol has made not public statement of her criteria and on what basis or authority she disqualifies her predecessors (she does not acknowledge them, either).

  • Gary Arndt

    It seems to me that if you have a passport, you have documentation. I’m not sure how you could do this in an undocumented fashion.

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