Peace through sustainable tourism is possible: World Traveler Cassandra De Pecol, tells the Oslo Times
Nov 12, Oslo: Cassandra De Pecol is an explorer, traveler and a peace activist who believes in combining her experience of exquisite natural environments benefiting the economies of local cultures through sustainable tourism. In an effort to spread the word, Cassie is on a world tour and is also attempting to break the Guinness World Record for “Fastest Person to Visit All Sovereign Nations” by venturing to each of the 196 sovereign states in less than 3 years. The current record is 3 years, 3 months, and 6 days set by Yili Liu of Ann Arbor, MI in 2010.
During her visit to Norway, The Oslo Times caught up with her for an exclusive interview.
First of all, thank you for agreeing to do this interview with us. My name is Prabalta Rijal and welcome to The Oslo Times International News Network.Before we begin, could you please tell us a little about yourself?
Thank you for having me!
My name is Cassie De Pecol and I’m a United States citizen. I grew up in Connecticut in a rural town about 100 miles north of New York City. My parents home schooled me until 6th grade so I was exposed to an unusual education from the start. In college and my first semester was spent in Costa Rica and I lived with a local family. I got to experience the beautiful rain forests as well as the culture and extreme poverty. This made me think the beauty of the world might be combined with helping impoverished cultures. My Sophomore year of college was spent learning Environmental Studies in Vermont. My Junior year was spent studying Meteorology and Environmental Studies in California, where I worked part time in a hotel to be able to pay for my education. It then occurred to me to combine both hospitality and environmental tourism and practice sustainability consulting abroad.
I decided to take some time off from college and spent the next couple of years traveling to 24 countries while working in sustainable, boutique hotels, absorbing their practices and knowledge. I ended up traveling to 24 countries and lived in Mexico, the Amazon in Bolivia and Ecuador, Italy, London and Turkey while developing sustainability and energy efficiency initiatives for these accommodation establishments.At one point it dawned on me that I could make a difference in the world. Two major issues that our world is facing is environmental degradation and an unsettled unity of our Nations. My generation has a very unique opportunity to make the world healthy and peaceful by connecting all people and communicating through social media. The majority of our world is now just seconds away from access to cell phones and wifi. We can now unite the world on sustainable and peaceful initiatives as there are no borders.
As I travel to all 196 Sovereign Nations, my hopes are to lead by example by proving that through the understanding of cultures and traveling sustainably, Millennials can unite the world. This is otherwise known as the Millennial Movement: Uniting the World through Peace and Sustainability.
Along the way, I’m meeting with University Tourism students as a Peace Ambassador for IIPT (iipt.org) as I meet with Skal Presidents (skal.org) to present to them a ‘Declaration of Peace’ by IIPT as well as planting the National Tree to offset my carbon footprint. In addition, I am collecting water samples from each country for Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation. This will help scientists identify the source and effects of micro-plastic pollution all over the world. In traveling to every Sovereign Nation, I’m also attempting to break a Guinness World Record and first documented woman to do so.
What inspired you into to making the journey, and how was it sponsored?
I guess you could say my “quarter life crisis” is what inspired me to take action towards following a dream that I’d always had. It was at that point, when I turned 25, that I asked myself what I was doing in my life and how I was making a difference. I then decided to quit one of my two jobs to start planning and executing this Expedition. I dove into 8 Entrepreneurial books that really inspired my decision, I finished them all within two months time. I would study certain influential people who have achieved or attempted to achieve some sort of epic odyssey in life, such at Laura Decker and Amelia Earhart.
And I realized that if I was going to make my mark on this world, 25 was going to be my year.The trip is not fully sponsored and I’m constantly looking for more companies who want to contribute (my Deck can be found here). However, I do have a strong foundation of sponsors at this point. Companies such as AIG, Clif Bar, Air New Zealand, Iridium and Krav Maga Worldwide, to name a few. It really took a year and a half of reaching out to hundreds and hundreds of companies to find the ones who truly believed in my Mission.
Can you tell us a little more about the peace through tourism initiative, have you been able to reach out to people the way you wanted to?
Millennials have the opportunity to change the world for the better. Now more than ever in the history of our planet (or as we know it), we’re all intertwined by technology, and a great majority of Millennials around the world have access to social media. With Skype, Airbnb, Uber, Couchsurfing, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Vine, and so on, why wouldn’t we utilize these resources to further peaceful initiatives around the world? With no political boundaries of communication, we now have the opportunity to form a collaborative of uniting our world through peace and sustainability. This is the Millennial Movement: Uniting the World through Peace and Sustainability.
We all too often we see and hear negativity on the news about countries around the world and more often than not, these stories scare us into not wanting to travel to those certain countries. They get a bad rep when in reality, they’re all fine and well. The goal of Expedition 196 promoting Peace Through Tourism is to unearth the beauty of every Nation and share this with the world.
Coming from the perspective of a young, American woman, I think this holds a lot of value. The goal is to see the world as a traveler, rather than a tourist. To experience cultural heritage, support economies and engage in regenerative tourism initiatives by staying in Eco hotel establishments and respecting the land. To be friendly with those I encounter and to enter a country leaving all preconceptions at the door. To go in with an open mind and show people that where I come from is a kind place. This is the way to travel and this is promoting Peace Through Tourism. The opposite would be to stay in a luxury resort with no sustainability initiative, never leaving and being demanding to the local people who are trying to serve you. The opposite would be to stay at a hotel such as Playa Viva, where they employ locals, grown their own produce for the restaurant and are completely sustainable, inviting their guests to also take part in vacationing sustainably.
When I meet with the students, I try to emphasize how they can promote friendship and travel as a traveler when they go abroad, or even to different places within their own country. The students have been very receptive thus far.
What kind of difficulties or problems have you encountered since you began your journey?
The most stressful aspects of this trip have been trying to juggle everything at once. Not only am I planning my travel scheduling on a daily basis, but I’m having to submit visa applications, book tours for the next continent, reach out to press and potential sponsors, organize Skal meetings, update social media and keep the website up to date, so on and so fourth. If I miss an e-mail, I lose an opportunity. So it’s all about keeping on top of things, which does give an added element of stress to this whole Expedition.
But, it’s good stress and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You are also producing a documentary based on this journey, could you tell us about the documentary film?
The Documentary is going to be showcasing the elements of traveling alone as a woman, portraying the beauty of some of the lesser known countries around the world. The idea is that it will be an educational film that will be used in High Schools and Universities around the world as an example of one woman’s dream to create a more peaceful world through the use of sustainable tourism. The added element is to teach the youth that they can pursue their passions in life while also making a difference for the greater good. The broader message is, Millennials can unite the world.
Now coming to a more slightly personal question, what scares you the most?
I’m more worried of getting in a bus, plane or car accident on this trip than anything else believe it or not.
Have you had any creepy experience or experiences on your journey across the world? (Can you tell us about one such incident)?
This trip hasn’t provided me with any creepy experiences so far. But in my previous travels, yes. I was 21 and traveling from Sharm el-Sheikh to Cairo on a midnight bus. I was the only woman on this bus.
During the bus ride this young man came up to me and asked if he could sit next to me. I said, sure. He started teaching me Arabic which I enjoyed. Then he asked me if I wanted to go back to his house when we arrive in Cairo so his mom could make us breakfast. I thought to myself, this could be a very cool cultural experience, so I said yes. We got off the bus at 4am, still pitch dark out and started walking down this even darker side street. No one was around so it was just me and this young man and it was at that point that I realized I might have made a stupid decision. But to my luck, he actually did take me to his moms house and a nice breakfast of fruit, scrambled eggs and coffee awaited us. A few hours later he took me around to the pyramids and then asked me to marry him. When I got no, he got mad and it was at that point I decided to head off to explore elsewhere on my own. It was a very nice gesture but that was the first time that I realized if a man does something nice in Egypt, he might have the intentions of you saying yes if he asks you to marry him. Whoops!
What kind of role can tourism play in promoting world peace?
Traveling to countries to support their local economy, learn about their culture and respect their environment and wildlife and then coming back home to tell our friends and family about these wonderful experiences. This is how tourism can play a role in promoting world peace. Every country has beauty, it’s about finding it and then sharing it with others. This in turn, will engage more and more people to get out there to experience our world in a positive way, thereby increasing the economies of countries and sharing the benefits of that country. I also know that there are a lot of non-profits, eco hotels and sustainable tour companies that want to help our planet both environmentally and culturally to see the beauty of the country they represent. It’s especially important to be involved in organizations that better our planet as a whole the next time a person travels or vacations.
And how do you think we as individuals can make it possible?
Like I said above, I think the key elements of promoting peace and friendship among nations is; engaging with the local culture, taking a sustainable eco tour, supporting the local communities, staying in eco-establishments, and then sharing the positives through social media and with our own country.
I’m doing my part by connecting all of the countries together. This grand task begins with my generation, The Millennials, by meeting with them first hand in a University setting to have an open-ended discussion of how we can unite our world through sustainable tourism. Sure, with great change comes great risk, but I’m hoping to lead by example, proving that it’s not impossible to create vast, positive change in our world as long as you have great determination. I’m proving something; that we are going to unite our world and my generation is going to utilize our resources to lead by example.
My next question is a question we ask all our guests--What do Human Rights mean to you?
If you look at this world as a story, every living thing makes up the narrative. Every single person has the opportunity to add to the story through their actions and no action is right or wrong. Whatever that narrative is that a person chooses to create, as long as it doesn’t involve violence, is one that is important and contributes to the betterment of our humanity as a whole. I think all too often we judge others based on their decisions in life. The truth is, we're all dying, and with our demise comes another century, another millennium of those who won't know us, few who will know what we've accomplished.
Care enough of what people say to the point of constructive criticism, but at the end of the day, this is your game, this is your story, and no one else knows or lives your story like you do. Make it powerful and inspiring.
Human rights is really about everyone having a voice and being able to pursue their dreams. For the first time in history almost everyone can now make their voice heard instantly through the internet. People can see what other people are doing and they want what advanced countries have: basic human rights and freedom. This is what happened with Arab Spring and its uprising. This is just the start. The Millennials will change the world as we know it. My journey attempts to show we can unite the world and everyone can have basic human rights.
Finally, is there anything else you would like to say to everyone who are following your journey closely through social media?
Millennials can unite the world through social media. As my expedition gains more publicity and more people follow me, I hope to show we can unite the world by interacting with all cultures and connecting all peoples. Social media connects all people, I am connecting with all countries. I want to show the world is connected and we can create peaceful relations with all cultures as well as be environmentally conscious.. I am showing we needto clean up our earth and regenerate our natural resources, resources that have been tread on by previous generations. More importantly, we have the opportunity to shape the next generation to come as they walk in our footsteps. I’d like everyone to join me in engaging the youth to take charge with rebranding our actions of how we unite the world in order to facilitate World Peace.
This is a 3 year project and there will be many ups and downs, many exciting things and disappointing things. Stick around and you’ll have the opportunity to witness a pretty amazing narrative to an even greater story.
Thank you to all who support my journey and are interactive. You’re who keep me going.
All Rights Reserved with The Oslo Times