Cassandra De Pecol is only 27 years old, but will most likely become the fastest person to travel to all 196 countries on Earth. Her inspiring adventure started in July 2015 and is named Expedition 196, also the name of her website where you can find more information about her mission to be the first documented female to visit all 196 nations. Cassie is an ambassador for the International Institute of Peace Through Tourism and has spoken to more than 12,500 students and dignitaries across 33 countries so far. 

We are Nodes got the honour to interview our fellow travel enthusiast Cassie De Pecol about her ambassador role, her traveling experiences and her plans for the future.

See more of Cassie's wonderful photos on her Instagram.

What has been your favorite country so far?

There’s not one country I don’t like. Turkey and Peru have always been two of my favorites because I lived in both, but there is nothing like your home country, because your home country is likely the one you’ve spent the most time in and know the most, and for me that’s the USA. They say home is where the heart is, and the more I travel, the more that’s becoming more real to me. Home is where family is, it’s where my safety net is, it’s where everything that I’m familiar with is, and my country is rich in nature, which is important to me.
They say home is where the heart is, and the more I travel, the more that’s becoming more real to me.
Switzerland is my favorite for mountains, Bhutan for peace, Vanuatu for kindness, Tunisia for history, Peru for rainforests, Turkey for culture, New Zealand for landscapes, Mexico for food, Jordan is probably the gateway to my favorite region in the world, the Middle East.

Your worst travel experience so far?

Probably being stuck in Somalia because Chase Ultimate Rewards cancelled my flight without telling me.

How has traveling changed you?

The goal has been to be as open minded as possible about people and places all around the world. I think there's this huge divide among people based on anything from religion to ethnicity to gender, but in reality, we are all the same; we all have the same basic needs and we all just want to be happy. Once we realize this universal similarity, we'll be able to be more open and understanding of one another.

What does your role as Ambassador for Peace entail?

There are several elements to this Expedition. Spreading peace through tourism and economics is one of them, promoting sustainability is another, and advocating women’s rights and achievement is another. Then there’s the YouTube vlogs, which showcase the beauty of many of these nations that I visit. The educational documentary that I’m filming to be used in part with a tool-kit and book written with the students I’ve spoken to all over the world. I also promote my sponsors as well.
People often say that there’s no way I can preach sustainability when I fly so much, and they’re right.
I’m not saying that I’m a sustainable traveler, but I am working towards being one with each tree that I plant with the students on this Expedition (45 so far in 12 countries), collecting water samples to test for the presence of micro-plastics to send to Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, staying in and promoting sustainable/regenerative hotels, and most importantly, educating university students who are studying tourism, on the importance of responsible travel and incorporating or keeping in mind the elements of sustainable/regenerative hospitality and tourism. Many students I’ve spoken to have no idea what sustainability even means, so it’s my job to educate them on this and encourage them to support responsible tourism best practices when pursuing internships and throughout their careers.

Peace through Tourism can really be best understood by educating the students on how we can quantify peace through a series of criteria set fourth by the Institute for Economics and Peace. Once we understand this criteria, we can then work towards creating a more peaceful and united world.

In regards to the tourism aspect of it, this is where I engage the Ministry and Mayors, where they also attend these keynote sessions and I present to them the ‘IIPT Credo of the Peaceful Traveler’ set fourth by the International Institute of Peace Through Tourism of which I’m endorsed. Together, we discuss how tourism can be a mediator between peace and conflict, and a way to further friendship among Nations as well as providing humanitarian assistance. For instance, a sustainable hotel partnering with Pack for a Purpose, where guests can bring educational supplies to then distribute to local schools in need in the area where they’re vacationing.

Since starting my Expedition, I’ve spoken to over 12,500 students and dignitaries across 33 countries, and continue to be approached by the youth (both young women and young men) in regards to how they can pursue their dreams after listening to my talk.
As a young woman myself, I like to think that I can set the standard for young women worldwide to pursue a quest or dream that is out of the norm or that everyone tells them they shouldn’t do.

It’s my job to leave a legacy behind that positively influences future generations of innovators, entrepreneurs and trend setters, especially when it comes to women

Have you started thinking on upcoming projects after finishing Expedition 196?

A major part of me wants to just devote myself towards humanitarian aid and putting all that I have into addressing #13 and #16 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals which is Climate Action and Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, incorporating sustainable development. This is why I’m developing a Universal Student Internship Program to address these needs. On the agenda in addition to this program is an educational documentary that I’ve been filming in conjunction with a book series to be written in part with the university students who I’ve spoken to already. Money is of course a factor to ensure that I’m able to enhance our world through these humanitarian goals. And the initial plan is to continue to work with brands in their advertising campaign as well as have a show (a girl has got to dream, right!?).

Anthony Bourdain has been an idol of mine since high school, and it’s always been a dream to follow in his footsteps with his TV career, but instead of focusing on food and travel, something else and travel. I’m also lining up speaking engagements, TEDx talks, and the like which will take me both stateside and international over the course of hopefully the long term. Also, my first full Ironman race!

Have you encountered any challenges as a female solo traveler?

Generally speaking, I’ve experienced so much hospitality from people but I don’t think that has anything to do with being a woman. I have, however had several terrible experiences where I experienced discrimination because I am a woman. When negative experiences happen to me, I don’t automatically think that it happened because I’m a woman. It’s really when I share these stories with others that they automatically assume that it happened because of my gender. Either way, the positive outweigh the negative on this Expedition, and overall I’ve had wonderful experiences.

Want to learn more about Expedition196? Make sure to follow Cassie's adventure through her social media platforms: 
Instagram:  @expedition_196
Facebook:  Facebook.com/Expedition196
Youtube:  Youtube.com/Expedition196
Twitter: @cassiedepecol
Snapchat: @cassiedepecol

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In collaboration with Hamburg Tourism and Nordic TB

We are excited to finally share the details of our upcoming trip – on December 2nd, Sheida from We are Nodes will explore the Christmas season in Hamburg together with Hamburg Tourism, Nordic TB and fellow Nordic Travel Bloggers: Earth Wanderness, Danish Adventurer, Travelling Munk and Supermarie.

We will share our Hamburg experience on our social media channels using the hashtag #ChristmasInHamburg and #holyhamburg. So if you want to know what we are up to – make sure to keep an eye on the hashtags! Our guess is that the weekend will contain a great deal of Christmas markets and other holiday festivities (we can't wait until we get to see the full travel itinerary!).

Photo: www.mediaserver.hamburg.de / Dirk Rußmann, bsc Media

Hamburg, get ready!

We are particularly happy for the opportunity to participate in this campaign (read the official press release here) since Germany is a country that we only visited once before and are really curious to find out more about. The last time I (Sheida) was there was during Octoberfest 2013 in Munich which was a blast, so need I say that my expectations for Hamburg (Germany's second largest city) are sky high?
One happy bunch at Octoberfest 2013 (me in the middle). But this time, the beers will be exchanged to Glühwein (German mulled wine, popular during the Holiday season).

Mission: To Explore the best Christmas Markets

Both me and Yasmin love the Christmas season with everything that is included – so I must admit that I have already started browsing through some photos on Instagram to get a glimpse of what the Christmas vibe in Hamburg will be like. Judging from the photos, it looks pretty spectacular! Hamburg is famous for its Holiday celebrations with numerous Christmas markets spread across the town. Rumour says that there will even be a big Christmas parade with elfs, reindeers and of course Santa Clause himself! Who can say no to that?Whether I will encounter with some elfs or not remains to be seen, but with Hamburg Tourism and Hamburg Marketing as our hosts, I'm sure that we will get to see the very best that Hamburg has to offer either way. Wir sehen uns in Hamburg! See you in Hamburg!
Photo: www.mediaserver.hamburg.de / Jörg Modrow

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Almost a year has flown by, and as we are soon entering the last month of 2016 we thought it would be a good idea to sum up 2016 with a list of our travel highlights. Enjoy!

Favourite activity:
Champagnetasting at Moët & Chandon, Champagne.
Because in less than an hour with the direct train from Paris, you will arrive in Épernay, the capital of Champagne. It's the ultimate day trip and the perfect activity for champagne enthusiasts! The Möet & Chandon/Dom Pérignon champagne caves are over 28 km long, 30 metres deep and is likely to store over 1000.000 bottles. Pretty impressive!
img_4869img_4881img_1849img_1820Read More about our Champagne tasting at the Moët & Chandon Champagne Cellars 

Favourite restaurant experience:
KONG, Paris.
We love everything that has a great view and a great vibe – and Kong has both! The service was excellent, the food left us satisfied and as the evening progresses, the music gets louder and the lights go darker, making Kong the perfect restaurant to wine and dine at before a night out in the city of lights.img_4794img_1670Want more Paris-tips? Read '6 Amazing Places you Must Visit in Paris'

Best Beach Hangout of 2016:
Banana Beach in surfer's paradise Santa Teresa, Costa Rica.
Santa Teresa is the place to be if you are into amazing sunsets, surfing and chill hangouts. Cool down under the palm trees while sipping on tropical drinks and watch surfers as they hit the waves. We can't wait to go back and embrace the pura vida lifestyle again!
img_4347img_1528Planning to go to Costa Rica this winter? Make sure to read our popular Costa Rica guide.

Best Beach Club:
Puro Beach, Palma.
With its excellent location on a secluded peninsula, 180°-view of the coast and a fantastic pool area, Puro Beach is without a doubt one of the best beach clubs we've been at. Just look at the pictures and you'll understand why...
Read our Swedish Palma Guide that we wrote for Travellink here, or in English here.

Favorite Hotel:
Van Der Valk, Schiphol, Amsterdam.
Because of the newly built “I Am Superior” rooms, were we were the first guests to get to sleep in the super comfy new Hypnos beds (which were voted bed of the year in 2012). Of course the friendly staff was a bonus!
img_4925IMG_1956Read about our stay at Van Der Valk Schiphol here.

Best Aperitivo:
Cinc, in the artistic area Brera, Milan.
Because it was the first time after a long winter in Sweden that we were able to sit outside in the sun and enjoy an Aperol Spritz. In that moment the Italian phrase "questa è vita" (meaning: this is life) made perfect sense. Sun and friends is really all you need! 

Best Airport Restaurant:
Pontus in the Air, Stockholm Arlanda Airport.
After years and years of really poor selections of restaurants with good and price worthy food at airports (not only in Sweden, but in general), the opening of Pontus Frithiof's restaurant Pontus in the Air probably was one of the best things that could happen. Finally a nice place to enjoy a good breakfast, lunch or dinner before a flight.
img_2224img_2207img_2193Read about our lunch with Pontus Frithiof at Pontus in the Air here.

Best Budget Restaurant:
As Zebras Do Combro, Lisbon.
We nearly walked past this "Hole in the wall"-restaurant, but changed our minds just as we passed it and went back. And boy, are we glad we did, because the dinner at As Zebras Do Combro was a true highlight during our stay in Lisbon! Delicious food and wonderful serviceminded staff - if you're ever in Lisbon, make sure to stop by this restaurant!
img_3871img_3858Read our Lisbon Restaurant Guide here.

2016 has been a great year so far, and we still have one more trip planned to Hamburg (#ChristmasInHamburg) in collaboration with TB Nordic, Hamburg Tourism and VisitHamburg in the beginning of December, so stay tuned!