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: 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.
Ms. DePecol’s website makes 3 claims as ‘The Face of Women’s Achievement’ and ‘The Power of Women’s Achievement Keeps Growing’:
- First Documented Woman to Travel to Every Sovereign Nation (disputed)
- First American Women to Travel to Every Sovereign (disputed)
- Youngest American to Travel to Every Sovereign Nation (subject to verification)
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Christina Beekenkamp
- Cassie DePecol
- Phyllis Henson (also completed TCC list)
- Christine Kloner
- Dorothy Mowery
- Cathy Parda
- Dorothy Pine (also completed TCC list)
- Nina Sedano
- Marian Speno
- Lynn Stephenson
- Audrey Walsworth (also completed TCC list)
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.