A Finishing Note by Cassie

 

The Completion of Expedition 196

START: July 24th, 2015 | END: February 2nd, 2017
The big question is “What’s next”? Honestly, I was up for 45 hours straight until the night of completion when I finally got 8 hours, so ideally, I’d love to spend a few weeks sleeping and hibernating, ideally. But of course, working on my projects and next record (!), as well as submitting all my proof to Guinness is essential before I can “relax”. But as much as I’d love to chill, I physically and mentally can’t.
 
This month I will be visiting my 7th continent, Antarctica, thanks to Quark Expeditions, which I’m super stoked about and will of course share my experience with you all! And I have an Olympic triathlon next month in San Diego as well as speaking engagements, the next one being at the Women’s Travel Fest <3
But really, “What were your thoughts on whether you think you’d finish?”
Since the beginning, I was confident that if I was going to finish this Expedition, then I would have to make sure I could do it in 1.5 years. Though, to be honest, I never thought I would see the day that I would finish, but despite those negative thoughts in the back of my head, I was willing and ready to die trying. I’m such a hypochondriac I thought I’d die in a plane crash getting to Nauru before then, since flying has always been my greatest fear. Surprisingly though, I had no fears when it came to the typical dangers that one might think a woman traveling alone would experience. 
With that said, this Expedition really wasn’t about me at all. My goal was to prove to you how kind and hospitable people all over the world are, but specifically in regions that many people consider to be dangerous. It is my hopes that, through traveling alone as a blonde, American woman, I’ve been able to respectfully introduce you to a completely different perspective of the world and it’s people; the safety, kindness, and the similarities of 99% of people around the world. In portraying this, I’ve had to let go of all of my fears and trust in people, trust in strangers, and trust in the unknown, and it’s proved to be an powerfully rewarding experience.
Since I’m not a Nat Geo photographer or story teller, and get extremely shy taking photos of people, I tried to find different approach to share my thoughts on this with you. Thanks to The International Institute for Peace through Tourism, SKAL International, and Institute for Economics and Peace, I have been able to speak to over 16k university students, high school students and dignitaries across 38 Nations on the topics of ‘The Hero’s Journey’/Youth Entrepreneurialism, Women’s Achievement, The Two Pillars of Responsible Tourism and Peace Through Tourism and Economics. From my first presentation in Nadi, Fiji, to my last in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, my goal has been to empower or inspire just one person during my talks.

Country Number 196: Yemen

On February 2nd, 2017 at roughly 13:00, I entered Yemen by bus, which was country number 196 of the 196 countries I set out to travel to on July 24th, 2015. It’s taken a quick 18 months and 26 days but that’s not to say I haven’t had some of the most life changing memories and moments that have happened in each one of them, each shaping my life in a completely new way. I wanted to have a wicked cool way of breaking the news of finishing, but I must say that the best announcements are yet to come! Also, this story of what happened in my day couldn’t be more fitting keeping in line with the immense acts of humanity and kindness that I’ve experienced from people all over the world, including now Yemen. I yet again put my life in the hands of strangers who are from Yemen and I truly can’t thank my friends enough for their eager assistance and hospitality. 🙏🏽
 
A local family who I was introduced to just after we reached the border made me an extremely fresh and delectable lunch of fish, rice, salad and home made sauces. After exploring Hawf and Al Ghaydah, learning how sesame oil is made, tasting some of the best chai I’ve ever had, and connecting with people as I walked along the promenade, I was welcomed into the home of another generous family. The grandmother, Tama, prepared fresh tortillas and stone bread with warm, freshly squeezed camel milk that we sipped and nibbled on as we sat on the oriental rug under the stars, next to the fire with the crickets and mooing cows right beside us amidst the corn fields, below the mountains and above the sea. …Ahhhh 💆🏼
 
A perfectly chill ending to a pretty tense past couple of weeks on the road.
 

Peace Through Tourism

“But Cassie, how exactly can we Promote Peace Through Tourism?” Great question, and one I am asked frequently. As a traveler, you can support the local economy of the place that you visit by staying in hotels that support local travel services and have basic sustainability practices. Typically, these hotels will also engage local organizations to further connect their guests to the local traditional culture and people, to increase further understanding of local heritage. Perhaps when you vacation, or when you seek a career within the travel field, you can support local tour operators and work for hotels that support community-based organizations to further promote rural tourism.

But really, I am a huge advocate of non-judgement of one another, and I firmly believe in not making any assumptions about anyone until you hear their story. Everyone has an extremely unique story, and no two are the same. The only way we can truly create a more peaceful world is by respecting people of all races, religions, genders, and cultural backgrounds and if we’re feeling up for it, choosing to understand where they come from. While we’re all the same, by connecting with people who come from different backgrounds and cultures, we’re able to develop a deeper understanding of overall humanity, thereby creating more of a unity among people of all Nations.

After having spoken to universities and high schools across 30 countries, my main purpose is to educate the youth and particularly the Millennial generation on how we can quantify peace, and then how we can further peace within the tourism industry. Thanks to the Institute for Economics and Peace, I’ve been able to educate the students on the Global Peace Index, set fourth by the Institute for Economics and Peace. This give students hope, knowing that that a series of statistical data exists for each Nation, answering questions as to why they are or are not as peaceful as they could be, and what they’re doing to further develop a more peaceful Nation.

The tourism industry is massive, with 1.3+ billion tourists per year (in 2014) and the UNWTO contributing towards 1/11 of jobs within the tourism industry. Keeping in line with the International Institute of Peace Through Tourism and Skal International, it’s been important for me to discuss the importance that ethical tourism has on students as they consider their future careers. Whether a traveler or employee, connecting to companies that further responsible tourism and programs that aim to support the local economy of that Nation or community, is extremely important in facilitating peace through tourism.

Responsible tourism is equally important in promoting peace through tourism. When a company invests its time in locally sourcing their produce and infrastructure materials, they are supporting the economies of the local people, furthering the creation of a mutual understanding to want to support one another in corporate and local practice.

Building a culture through peace is important when embarking on international travel or considering a career in travel.

Thank you to my hosts in the following countries who have gifted me the opportunity to speak to the students:

Spoken to over 16k university students, high school students and dignitaries in educational institutions in:
Australia, Vanuatu, Taiwan, Bhutan, India, Sri Lanka, Seychelles, Mauritius, Pakistan, Croatia, Denmark, Norway, Greece, Italy, Mexico, USA, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Spain, Vanuatu, Fiji,  Honduras, Ireland, New Zealand, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Turkmenistan, and many more 🙂

Responsible Tourism

And then of course promoting sustainable tourism. Taking over 200+ flights on this Expedition has been terribly degrading on our environment, and in no way have I traveled sustainably. But as an Environmental Studies major, and having worked in the sustainable tourism industry since the age of 21, of course, where there’s a will, there’s a way to personally aim to combat the effects of climate change. On this Expedition, it’s been a goal to offset my carbon footprint along the way and through the Expedition 196 Tree Planting Program, I’ve managed to plant 48 tress across 15 Nations and sometimes alongside the university/high school students. In launching the Expedition 196 Non-Profit, it’s my goal to have completely offset my carbon footprint from Expedition 196 by 2020… and then some. If there’s one thing I’ve realized that everything is achievable so long as you dedicate yourself and put everything you have into the vision. Volunteering for Adventure Scientists, I’ve been able to collect ample samples of water from our worlds lakes, rivers and waterways to test for the presence of micro plastics as part of their National Geographic funded global micro plastics program.
And then of course promoting sustainable hotels, which aim to respect local heritage, add to the local economy, use locally sourced materials to build their infrastructure, obtain organic produce through either their own garden or from local farmers, and keep in line with energy efficiency initiatives such as solar, reverse osmosis and composting. A huge THANK YOU to several sustainable hotel sponsors on Expedition 196, Soneva FushiSix Senses Zighy Bay, Jalman Meadows Wilderness Camp, and LUX* Grand Gaube.

A Note To My Sponsors

This Expedition would not be made possible by the immense gratitude of my sponsors and investors, many of whom believed in my dream a year and a half before I had a nickel to my name and it was all just a far distant goal. Flash forward 3 years, and many of you are still supporting me day in and day out. I can not thank you enough.

Here’s to: AIG, Artisan Bags, Clif Bar, Avianca, Air New Zealand, Dogeared, Westcomb, Sovrn Republic, Travisa, Eagle Creek, Eagle Nest Outfitters, Globastar (SPOT), Serengetee, Knomo, Herodion Hotel Athens, Orange Hotel Taipei, Peace Hotel Somalia, Anantara Angkor Hotel and Spa Cambodia, Jalman Meadows Wilderness Camp, Cape Hotel Liberia and of course, Quark Expeditions, ensuring that I make it to my last and final continent, Antarctica.

“The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” – Amelia Earhart