Are you forever researching new destinations? Always adding gorgeous travel Pins to your Pinterest board? Is ‘wanderlust’ pretty much your middle name?
Well, we have good news and we have bad news. In early 2017, Cassie De Pecol became the first woman on record to travel to all 196 sovereign nations (oh, and the fastest too). Born in Connecticut, the 27 year old visited 196 countries in 18 months and 10 days.
So, why is this both good and bad? Well, she’s (Guinness World Record-certified) proof that it is possible to visit every country! But she’s also proof that once you travel, you never want to stop.
Cassie found time to catch up with us recently while in Hong Kong (even as she keeps busy writing her book, starting a non-profit, finishing up her educational documentary, and promoting sustainable tourism). And when the jet-setter is back home in the United States, she’s based in New York, Los Angeles AND Connecticut. Yep, she really is the definition of #travelgoals…
She’s also the perfect person to ask about solo travel. After all, who better to give advice on the topic than the first and youngest American to travel by herself to every country on earth? Probably no-one. So, we asked her where to go for the best nature, the kindest locals, the tastiest food and more.
Here’s what she said:
The best destination for: value travel
I found that Moldova is very affordable pretty much everywhere, while in Cambodia, it’s a bit more challenging since they have the “local” and “tourist” prices throughout the country. So, while it is a pretty budget-friendly place, it helps to veer off the beaten path and know a bit of the language to not get taken advantage of with the tourist prices.
Visit Moldova: This adventurous 13-day Expedition trip visits Moldova, Ukraine and Romania! (If you want to know what it’s like visiting Moldova on an Intrepid trip, check out this firsthand account.)
Visit Cambodia: Whether you have 6 days or 1 month free, we have a Cambodia trip itinerary for you
The best destination for: hiking & nature
Cassie: The Balkans (Albanian Alps) are an underestimated destination for hiking and the outdoors.
I’m a big nature person and am pretty hard to please when it comes to mountains and natural ecology. The bigger, the more exotic and off the beaten path, the better for me, and I was never so intrigued by natural beauty as I was when I traveled to the Albanian Alps. From rafting to skiing to hiking to bird watching, really they have it all.
The best destination for: beautiful beaches
Cassie: Another quite unknown yet pristine beach spot is anywhere in Dominica. We all have our own opinions when it comes to beaches; some of us prefer rocky, some of us prefer red or black sand, some of us like palm trees for some shade, while others just want pristine beaches. Well, I love them all, and I must say that Dominica is a country high up on my list for best beaches and relaxing.
It’s tough for me to relax, and if you’re like me and need some adventure, some of the most beautiful rainforests and cloud forests exist in Dominica as well. So when you’re done being wined and dined or relaxing at a beautiful sustainable, luxury resort such as Secret Bay (one of my all time favorites), head to the caves for some sea kayaking exploration or the mountains for some strenuous but rewarding jungle hikes!
The best destination for: cool cities
Cassie: To be honest, I’m not much of a city person, but one city I really did enjoy was Dubai. If you want a taste of the Middle East without sacrificing your modern comforts and also want to experience the best of shopping, culture, history, etc., I’d highly recommend Dubai. Nothing beats a desert city!
The best destination for: authentic eats
Cassie: This is a tough one. Of course, I have my favorite type of cuisine, but that obviously varies from person to person. While Mexican, Ukranian or Italian would be my top choices, you really have to go to America for a taste of them all.
Whenever I came back home for a break on this Expedition and wanted to cook up some gallo pinto or punjab to impress my friends and family about an exotic cuisine that I tried, they already knew about it because they’d been to “that restaurant!” in NY, LA or elsewhere to try it.
And of course it’s made from directly from the hands of a once local (to that country) who, as the story goes, “their parents or grandparents migrated over and the recipe has been passed down from generations from their country”. America is a melting pot of cultures which cultivates into a melting pot of cuisines. Pakistani, Indonesian, raw vegan, you name it, you can find it in The States!
The best destination for: diverse landscapes
Cassie: Bhutan is a challenge for anyone to enter, and for good reason. Because the visa is so expensive, it naturally limits the amount of tourists or travelers who are there at any given time. For this reason, it is one of the most peaceful and environmentally sound places in the world.
One minute, you’ll be amidst the cloud forest, and the next, perched atop the vast mountains looking down into the abyss of evergreen forest and jungle (mix!) from a profound monastery of complete silence.
Read more about Bhutan: 6 reasons why Bhutan might be the world’s most livable country
Visit Bhutan: This 7-day trip takes you through all the highlights of Bhutan (Tiger’s Nest Monastery included!)
The best destination for: hospitable locals
Cassie: It’s so great when you go to Thailand and experience their hospitality firsthand. The first time I realized how hospitable they truly were was when I was in the store and I went to give the cashier my debit card to pay, and she literally placed her hands together and bowed graciously to me saying “thank you”, to take my card and swipe it through. The locals of Thailand, all over, whether Phuket, Bangkok or anywhere in between are truly so kind.
The best destination for: avoiding crowds
Cassie: Tunisia is a beautiful country, rich in culture, exquisite beauty, and lifestyle. I highly recommend visiting it to get a true sense of Northern African culture which many don’t have the opportunity to experience but it’s so incredibly appealing.
The best destination for: feeling safe
Cassie: Singapore is such a great, unique and safe city, everyone speaks English and it’s a really cool place to wander around and feel completely safe.
The best destination for: week-long vacations
Cassie: If you have limited annual leave I’d recommend heading to Central America or Europe. Both have great deals for cheap flights, and whether you’re in LA or NY, either place is a hop, skip and a jump to affordable and compelling places.
Got the solo travel bug? Intrepid has a new range of trip departures just for solo travelers.
(Image credits from top to bottom: Cassie De Pecol, Cassie De Pecol, Intrepid Travel, iStock/jahmaica, iStock/gydyt0jas, Cassie De Pecol, Intrepid Travel, Intrepid Travel, Intrepid Travel)