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

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[…] Recently there was reports of a woman claiming to be the First Documented Woman to Travel to Every Sovereign Nation.  Rapid Travel Chai (himself a noted country counter) says… NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND! […]

Ray
Guest
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… Read more »
Stefan @ Rapid Travel Chai
Guest
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,… Read more »
Ray
Guest

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?

Stefan @ Rapid Travel Chai
Guest
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… Read more »
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[…] post es una traducción aproximada de ciertos fragmentos publicados en este post de Stefan Krasowski y publicado con su […]

Lee Huffman
Guest
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.… Read more »
Linda Tabb
Guest
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… Read more »
Lee Huffman
Guest
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… Read more »
Linda Tabb
Guest
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… Read more »
Lee Huffman
Guest

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.

Stefan @ Rapid Travel Chai
Guest
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… Read more »
Linda Tabb
Guest
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… Read more »
Harvey Silikovitz
Guest
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… Read more »
Mike Howard
Guest

Couldn’t have said it better myself brother..spot on!

Richard
Guest

Body blow by H-Bomb

Gary Arndt
Guest

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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[…] this week Rapid Travel Chai wrote a guide on “The Women Who Have Traveled to Every Country in the World” — Stefan is […]

Shannon
Guest

You are fair. She is dishonest.

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[…] was going to just ignore it like I do with so much pure BS stuff I see. And then Rapid Travel Chai wrote about it. I was going to ignore it too because, well, see the BLOG BUZZ section for a reason but perhaps you […]

Christine Krzyszton
Guest

Well said, Stefan.

Janice Schacter Lintz
Guest
Janice Schacter Lintz

Excellent article!

PedroNY
Guest

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.

Cheers,

PedroNY

Quail Nest
Guest

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