There has been much fuss over Cassie De Pecol after she has been to every country and claimed to be the first woman to have done so. She picked up two Guinness World Records, other people picked up axes against her. She then “changed” or “corrected” her statement to be “the first woman on record.”
I have taken up the defense on that on behalf of Cassie. I'll continue some more:
If the problem is Cassie's claiming she was the first woman... First of all, we may all make mistakes, we all express things wrong sometimes. It happens. Even I -who claim to be a writer and who take pride in expressing things correctly, spending hours on a word if necessary- make mistakes. Or I shouldn't say make mistakes, but rather put things in a way that do not reflect reality completely. So I don't think Cassie deserves such a beating for that.
Do I think what Cassie did was meaningful? Not really. Still, what she has done is no small feat. We of all people, travellers that is, should know how exasperating it is to run after visas, how tiring it is to go to one country after another trying to catch planes so that the careful plans we have made don't fall apart. I think people are criticizing her a bit too unfairly. If it was a man, they wouldn't have been so cruel. I'll even give you an example.
Thor boasts on his main page:
“BONUS! Nobody in history has ever reached every country in the World completely without flying ;)”
He repeats the same claim in other posts too. But I suppose we all know about Graham Hughes here. How come nobody ever mentions anything about Thor's claim? I mean Thor mentions Graham in the FAQ but it is way at the bottom of the page. And why should anybody need to scroll through so many pages in order to read that? Given that most people are not so well-versed in world-travellers and may not know about Graham, wouldn't you agree that Thor needs to put a link to Graham every time he boasts “how cool it is nobody has ever done that!”?
“Once I learned that Graham had interrupted his project to fly home, fly on vacation and fly to get visas I saw the game as open again!” That's his argument. As Thor himself writes: “By Graham’s definition he has been to every country in the world without flying. I disagree and have my own definition which includes no flights. Sounds logical but it’s a debate with two camps.”
So Thor agrees and is aware that there would be a debate about his claim. So no, mentioning Graham on one post or two is not enough. Thor should give a link to Graham EVERY SINGLE TIME. And especially on the main page!
Thor can still claim whatever he wants, BUT people should know the whole story and be able to decide for themselves. I wouldn't want to travel like him and put myself through such long torture but I'm totally aware how Thor's is a gargantuan project, how much stamina it takes. So this is not to take anything off of what he is doing. I don't like it and believe it is very wrong when someone states his side only, making ignorant others swallow a disputable claim. That's it.
Even apart from the fact that Thor's is a more taxing project than Graham's, if I have to choose one, I'd choose Thor. I don't like Graham's style. “I am, and always will be, the first person to visit every country in the world without flying.” That's the way he opens up his webpage. There is a photo of him showing his muscles up in the air. He is the conqueror.
He has done some serious travelling and accomplished a big feat, nothing to say about that but hats off. But I have much to say about his ego. Plus, in his post on North Korea, he says:
“Anyone who has a problem with this can meet me behind the bikesheds after school for a damn good kicking. Be the first person to visit every capital city without flying why dontcha? At the moment I’m a year over schedule and stupidly over budget: I’ve got bigger fish to fry.”
I understand why he comes off as defensive... because so many people criticize him for putting a foot in North Korea at the DMZ and checking it off his list... I understand his reasons very well. Still, there is a way to say things. (And it is interesting that I get to say this because I am bold and blunt and hear that said to me quite often. So if I'm saying this, it must be real bad!)
Anyway, I cannot bear reading Graham; but even though I don't follow on social media I follow and read Thor. (I'm not a social media animal, if I'm interested in something I go and check it from the source. And if I'm interested, I don't leave it with just a follow, I read and learn.) He is a much nicer human being in my eyes and I have to confess I feel so many similarities with his complaints about his project not taking off etc. I've been and am in his situation, that is trying to get recognition and sponsors. It's interesting that he has the same issues even though his news has been published in a hundred countries and he has support from big groups and has many friends. Which is unlike me and my project.
But when it comes to being disappointed in “no support, no interest” in such projects, even Erden Eruç -who did the first solo circumnavigation by human power (or if you want to put it in more grandiose terms you may say he is “the first person in history to complete an entirely solo and entirely human-powered circumnavigation of the Earth.”) He did this in a bit over five years and you have to accept that needs some special special extremely special stamina, strength, courage, endurance etc. etc. He has 15 registered Guinness World Records.- even he doesn't get enough attention or support. But of course he doesn't have boobs or a face that the media and advertisement world can exploit. Tough luck. That's the way it is. People who deserve attention and being listened to are ignored while so many people who spew out crap are held in the spotlight (By the way, interestingly and coincidentally, we have graduated from the same university and same department, Boğaziçi Mechanical Engineering. He is a Turkish-American.)
Going back to Cassie and her claim of being the first woman... Even in the Conde Nast podcast, they are saying Cassie is the first American woman. “It was actually on the heels of the American woman who became the first I think American woman to do, she claimed to be the first woman, which was not true at all.” (Let alone not mentioning the “first woman on record” debate and asserting she said something not true at all, I felt it unfair to Cassie that her name was not mentioned but only referred to anonymously. It would have been much nicer of Jessica if she just said “It was on the heels of Cassie De Pecol who became the first documented woman to travel to every country.” Then I'd have had more respect for her.)
Ms. Lintz who has criticized Cassie severely, felt the need to correct Jessica that there are other American women. In fact, most of the other women are American ;) And to be honest, I would have expected Jessica to know that at this point.
I didn't know about all the other women until I read Stefan Krasowski's post even though I had researched extensively. That was back in December 2015 when I started considering going to every country seriously. I had read about Walsworth on the Columbia Tribune piece “Audrey Walsworth, led by curiosity, only woman to visit every country” by Karyn Spory (June 16, 2013) It's quite ironical that that article puts Mrs. Walsworth as the only woman! And that was 2013. It's even more ironical that Walsworth in turn claims it's hard any other woman will be doing it. “With the world situation, there isn’t going to be another woman who’s going to be able to do this.” Those are her exact words if we are to take the reporting to be correct. It's an unending ego game, trying to one-up yourself out of the crowd. To get attention. That's what you need to do. To try to always stay ahead of the game. Cassie, who has been criticized for going to places without really seeing anything, in turn says of other women trying to break her record “with the possibility of seeing less and less each time.” It's funny. It's darkly funny.)
Anyway, after Walsworth I got to learn of Nina Sedano when reading “Chasing 193” and then I heard about Cassie. So there were only three women I knew of until recently. I thought I might be the fourth woman to have been to every country if and when I completed my mission. I wasn't boasting about it of course, just cautiously saying “I might be...”
Then I found out about the other women almost there. “Ah, so there are many other women! Good,” I thought to myself. I was wondering where all the women were. I don't care about being the first or fastest etc. The only reason I care about such labels to be somebody is to get sponsors to promote my ideas, that's it. Otherwise, I'm just fine being a happy and content nobody.
Shall I advertise myself as the first Muslim Turkish woman? Sal Lavallo is a Muslim I suppose, there may also be some Turkish men who claim to have been to every country even though I know they count stop-overs and transits without even getting off the airplane. Anyway, definitely no woman out there who is Muslim (at least on paper) or Turkish.
Well... I claim to be the first to go out with a meaningful purpose. To abolish visas and for freedom of movement. What is travel about? What are borders? What are countries? How are borders drawn but by bloody war or bloody politics? Why do we honor them? Why do those “travellers” who go to every country profit from it? Use and abuse it to their advantage? Is that what travelling is about? Is that what we should get out of travel? What is travelling for if not an understanding of the world and humans living on this planet of ours?
* The Pissing Match in Travel