It’s been a long time coming, but this is it: Cassie De Pecol’s final destination. She steps out of the airport, breathes in the fresh air and then takes a moment. This is the last country left to visit in the entire world. And having experienced them all, the American has now decided to advise those following in her footsteps.
De Pecol holds the Guinness World Record as the only documented woman to have visited every sovereign nation on the planet. That’s a total of 196 countries, which is, of course, an impressive feat by itself. However, that isn’t the only title this seasoned traveler has under her belt.
De Pecol is not only the first documented woman to have made such an expedition, she’s also the fasted person to have done so. She started back in July 2015 and finished her trip in February two years later, according to Forbes. For reference, the entire journey lasted a total of 18 months and 26 days.
De Pecol called the epic world tour Expedition 196 – for the number of sovereign nations that she visited. It began on her 25th birthday in the Micronesian country of Palau, which is situated in an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. And De Pecol finished her expedition in the Arabian country of Yemen in record time.
Naturally, De Pecol came back from her trip with a lot of stories to tell. Upon her return, the American then decided to list the ten nations that she enjoyed the most. And some of the countries that made it onto her list may surprise you.
But what makes a person decide to leave everything behind and travel the world? According to the explorer herself, it’s something that she almost felt destined to do from an early age. De Pecol told Forbes as much in a 2017 interview where she discussed her motivations in depth.
“In high school, I had this feeling that I’d do something major in life – change the world, enhance the world, something like that,” De Pecol revealed. “I always had this yearning to accomplish something way bigger than myself and to make a long-standing, positive impact on the world.”
However, it was only when De Pecol grew into adulthood that she got the chance to pursue such an endeavor. The traveler continued, “It wasn’t until the age of 25 when reality hit me that this vision was never going to come to fruition unless I made some major moves as soon as possible.”
De Pecol said that she’d previously pursued jobs that hadn’t furthered her dreams. The jet-setter explained, “I worked odd jobs in sales, website development, marketing and childcare. While I developed great relationships with the families that I worked with and really enjoyed caring for the children, there wasn’t a future there in regards to my career.”
The explorer elaborated, “Despite all of my odd jobs, I was [barely able to] pay the bills, which is also what fueled my desire to take off on this quest as soon as I could.” But aside from De Pecol’s career position, there were also other factors that spurred her to take the plunge.
Perhaps part of De Pecol’s wanderlust came from her fairly limited travel experience during childhood. She’d visited Canada to see her mom’s family, but aside from that De Pecol had remained in the United States. The traveler only visited one other country during those earlier years – the U.S. Virgin Islands when she was 18.
“I wasn’t happy with where my life was headed, working odd jobs and not following my passion so, that, muddled with the anxiety of never knowing how much time I’ll have left, made me take that leap of faith,” De Pecol stated. “I knew that it was either [now] or never and at that point, I decided that no one was going to steer me away from this worldly vision and extravagant personal goal.”
But where does someone go to find the funding for a global expedition? To begin with, De Pecol had some personal savings to fall back on. According to MailOnline, she had amassed $10,000 just from her babysitting job.
Of course, savings alone probably couldn’t get De Pecol the kind of money she needed for Expedition 196. Thus, she had to look elsewhere for financial backing, and that’s where her planning skills came into play. De Pecol then talked to CNN in February 2017 and outlined how she’d managed to gain substantial support from various different sponsors.
The traveler said, “I had to really utilize Google and be like, ‘How am I going to find the funding to do this?’ How did other people find the funding to do this?’ So, I looked at people like Ranulph Fiennes, who is considered the world’s greatest living explorer.”
De Pecol’s online investigations turned up many potential investors for her trip – some of which came from unexpected sources. Donors ranged from an artist who paints their work on tote bags to the insurance giant American International Group (AIG). As a result, De Pecol’s travel budget increased to an impressive $198,000.
But how did De Pecol find enough time for each country? Well, she told CNN, “It all comes down to two words: time management. One could spend Saturday and Sunday chilling at home watching Netflix – totally okay, I am guilty of that at times – or traveling to five places within one country, [or] five countries within those two days.”
Though De Pecol’s travels weren’t without their challenges. For instance, her journey apparently started out with a schedule mistake and travel delays. This forced her to change her first location on the expedition from her planned choice – New Zealand – to Palau. And then there were the problems De Pecol experienced with funding.
More precisely, De Pecol’s money ran out six months into Expedition 196. She told Ripley’s in October 2018, “I was working about 15 hours a day every single day on the expedition. [I was] reaching out to sponsors or companies for potential sponsorship, going to networking events, trying to get everything – from cash, goods, and services – to help me finish the expedition.”
In addition, some of the 196 countries were just plain difficult to get visas for. Syria and Turkmenistan were among the ones that gave De Pecol some trouble to enter. In those cases, the determined traveler said that she used social media for assistance and relied on trusting in other people’s kindness.
Furthermore, political issues barred De Pecol’s way in places, as it did with her entry into North Korea. She told CNN, “The visa was like $1,000 for three days, whereas I went in with a group of Chinese tourists and their visa was like $300 for three days.” De Pecol also claimed that she was told by a North Korean soldier, “We’re going to destroy you, America.”
But alongside De Pecol’s record-breaking goal, she had another motivation for completing Expedition 196, as she explained to the North Korean guard. The traveler said, “I just like to show that we can be friends and we can kind of coexist.” For reference, De Pecol was traveling as an ambassador for the International Institute of Peace Through Tourism (IIPTT).
As ambassador, it was De Pecol’s responsibility to organize talks with foreign dignitaries with the help of tourism leaders SKAL International. Together, they opened communications with over 50 countries. Another one of her duties was educating students about how to offset your carbon footprint while traveling abroad.
De Pecol explained to CNN about how she flew sustainably during Expedition 196. She said, “If you say, [go] from Bangalore, India, to Colombo, Sri Lanka, you end up killing one tree during that flight. The goal is to plant two trees, for regenerative tourism, not just sustainable tourism.”
“It’s tough to figure out [how] to get permission to plant a tree in a lot of countries, but I’ve been trying to do that as much as possible,” De Pecol continued. So, evidently the young woman has experienced a lot after all that traveling. And she’s made a list of the ten best places to visit if you need help with your future vacation plans.
To start her list, De Pecol chose the place she’s perhaps the most familiar with. That’s right, the United States comes in at number ten, with the explorer name-dropping New England specifically. She told The Daily Telegraph in 2017, “Fall [there] is something everyone should experience.”
De Pecol revealed that she also has an emotional attachment to New England. She continued, “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.”
The beautiful country of Costa Rica seems to have also captured De Pecol’s heart and it comes in at number nine on her list. On the subject of its appeal, she simply said, “Monkeys, fresh fruit, good music and volcanoes… need I say more?”
Meanwhile, Peru is De Pecol’s eighth named must-see traveler’s destination. She told The Daily Telegraph in 2017 that it reached her list for two reasons, “The Amazon rainforest and Aguas Calientes [the gateway to Machu Picchu].”
De Pecol apparently also has personal ties to Peru; the explorer lived in the country for two months in 2011 and visited Machu Picchu. She also managed to see Cusco and Lima, but De Pecol experienced even more of Peru during Expedition 196.
De Pecol’s seventh recommended destination is the North African country of Tunisia. According to her, the appeal lies in its fascinating combination of cultures. She said that this location is a must “[if you want] to experience northern African culture with a Middle Eastern feel and an immense amount of archeological history.”
The traveler named Sidi Bou Said as one of Tunisia’s highlights. The town is only 12 miles away from the capital city of Tunis, and De Pecol told The Daily Telegraph that it “blew [her] away.”
Coming in at number six is Oman – a country that neighbors Expedition 96’s final destination of Yemen. De Pecol said you need to visit the former country “to immerse yourself in the desert and mountains, while learning from locals who live in the mountains. It’s a whole different lifestyle.”
You may recall that we mentioned how De Pecol had trouble acquiring visas for certain countries. Well, Pakistan – which comes in at number five on the explorer’s list – is one of them. In fact, it took her four months for the visa approval to come through. But that didn’t dampen her positive experience in the country.
Actually, the wait only seemed to deepen De Pecol’s appreciation of the country. She savored her time in Pakistan, which is the fifth most populous nation in the world, according to the United States Census Bureau. So why exactly does she recommend here in particular? De Pecol said that people should visit to “get a true sense of raw, authentic Asian culture, and for the food.”
The explorer’s fourth destination will take you to the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. Apparently, this tropical country enamored De Pecol on both an educational and emotional level. She said you should visit “to experience the process of how kava – a beverage comparable to alcohol – is made and to meet some of the kindest people.”
De Pecol’s third pick is a well-known popular tourist destination: the Maldives. Though its presence on her list won’t come as a surprise to those of you who have seen pictures of the stunning beaches it’s famous for. She described it as having “some of the bluest water, whitest [sands] and most stunning sand banks in the world.”
Bhutan is the explorer’s number two, and she had a lot to say on the matter. Her reasons for its inclusion are “to learn the ethics of peaceful living. The pilgrimage [to Paro Taktsang] was something out of Avatar, [it was] a dream to trek through low-hanging clouds with a harrowing drop at any given moment on either side.”
De Pecol’s number one destination has some stiff competition, but for her it has to be the Asian country of Mongolia. To this day, you can experience many of its ancient traditions and get back to nature. De Pecol said that people should visit “to be immersed in the remote wilderness and to ride the wild horses.”
So, what’s next for De Pecol now she’s finished Expedition 196? Well, she told Forbes, “A major part of me wants to just devote myself towards humanitarian aid and putting all that I have into addressing [Goal 13 – climate action] and [Goal 16 – peace, justice and strong institutions] of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, while incorporating sustainable development. And the initial plan is to continue to work with brands in their advertising [campaigns] as well as have a show – a girl has got to dream, right!?” Indeed, if anyone can do it, De Pecol can.
Sometimes, as we’re sure De Pecol can attest to, visiting a country once is simply not enough. You may end up falling in love with a place so much that you want to call it home. But it’s probably a good idea to check you can afford it first.
CEOWORLD makes that task easier with its annual list of Earth’s costliest places to live. The publication uses the cost of living in New York City as their benchmark – the famously pricey metropolis gets a mark of 100, so anything designated with a higher number than that is extremely expensive. The ratings factor in costs such as rent, internet, food and travel, so it’s a well-rounded look. Does your dream destination make the list?
20. The United States
New York may be the benchmark for CEOWORLD, but it doesn’t speak for the entire United States. By the magazine’s estimations, the U.S. gets a score of 71.05 on the 100-point cost-of-living scale. This means that the country averages a much cheaper lifestyle than one that would be found in the Big Apple.
Take rent, for example. The U.S. as a whole has a rent index of 40.32. On average, then, it’s 60 percent cheaper to lease a property outside of New York City. And in terms of purchasing power, the average American has about 10 percent more than someone living in the four boroughs. In other words, they can get more with their salaries.
Travel roughly 10,000 miles away from the U.S. and you’ll find yourself in the Seychelles. The stunning island nation actually had zero human inhabitants until the 16th century, but Europeans eventually anchored there and found themselves in paradise. Nowadays, the once-untouched country made of 115 different isles is among the world’s most expensive places to live.
The overall cost of living in the Seychelles is roughly 30 percent less than the benchmark city of New York. The island nation has much lower rent, but it’s only 15 percent cheaper to buy groceries there than in the Big Apple. Interestingly, Seychelles residents have very weak local purchasing power – they can only buy 22 percent of what the average New Yorker gets with their salary.
When you think of Belgium, one of the first things to come to mind is probably beer. But there’s more than beverage-based reasons to move to this European nation. As the headquarters of the European Union, the capital city of Brussels, in particular, has a huge international presence. Plenty of global companies have set up shop there, too.
As such, there’s a great quality of life to be had in Belgium. Rent prices are only about a quarter of what you’d pay in New York City, and groceries cost approximately 60 percent of a Big Apple food run. Where Belgium gets pricey is in its restaurants and in its overall purchasing power. You see, an average salary affords you only 86 percent of what an NYC paycheck would bring home.
17. New Zealand
A 2020 Gallup poll revealed New Zealand as the nation to which more individuals desired a move to than any other. Having said that, if everyone who dreamed of putting down roots there actually did so, the island nation would likely see its population of nearly 5 million people more than double to 11 million. That would be quite the rise!
Yet perhaps the expenses involved would give wannabe migrants pause for thought. You see, if you add up the cost of living and rent, it’s only 35 percent cheaper than it would be in New York. And your purchasing power on the islands would be 7 percent less than in the city, too.
Life in Australia will come as a breath of fresh air – quite literally. The country has a low population level compared to its massive size, which is comparable to that of the continental U.S. Meanwhile, the North American nation has roughly 280 million more inhabitants than the Land Down Under. So, you’d ultimately find yourself with a lot of space.
Not so fast, though – Australia ranks four spots higher on the list than the U.S. The country has a low rent index at about 35 percent of New York’s prices. Groceries and fine dining are only 30 points lower than what you’d find in the Big Apple. Still, your Australian dollar will go a long way, with a local purchasing power that’s seven points stronger than NYC.
A 2013 study conducted by UNICEF found that Dutch children ranked number one on the list of happiest kids on Earth. Their parents aren’t doing so bad, either, considering those in the Netherlands tend to put a bit less focus on their careers. If a work-life balance would do you good, then, you might be able to overlook the country’s relatively high costs.
The Netherlands’ overall cost of living index is 73.75, which means it’s just over 26 percent cheaper than New York. Where the country tends to be most expensive is in its restaurants, which are less than 20 percent cheaper than the City That Never Sleeps. On top of that, your euro will only go 90 or so percent as far as the U.S. dollar would in NYC.
French wine, French cheese, French pastries… do you need any further explanation as to why life is good in France? Much like the Netherlands, this country has a more even work-life balance than would be found elsewhere. Most shops and services shut down at 7 p.m. so that staffers can go home and enjoy time with their families.
You’ll just have to make sure you can afford life in France before you make the leap overseas. As the 14th most expensive country on the list, you might be surprised to find out that rent’s only a quarter of what you’d pay in New York. The problem is that purchasing power in France is 20 percent less, which means you’d have to stretch your euros for pricey dinners out or high-priced groceries.
In the wake of the U.K.’s decision to depart from the European Union, more than 100 companies set their sights on a particular place to headquarter their overseas outpost. This was the Irish capital of Dublin. It seems that Ireland’s E.U. membership and English-speaking population make it a promising proposition for businesses.
However, it’d be wise not to expect your money to go very far if you moved to the Emerald Isle. Much like in France, your euros will get you roughly 80 percent of what you could buy in New York with a dollar. Luckily, though, rent’s relatively low – outside of Dublin, at least. The capital, though, is reportedly among the priciest places for rent in Europe.
If you move to Barbados, you’re probably doing so for a life on the beautiful beaches amid perfect weather. In addition to that, though, the island country also boasts a stable economy and intends to become the smallest developed nation on Earth by the year 2025. And at first glance, the cost of living in Barbados seems low.
In many ways, this assessment would be accurate. Rent is 80 percent cheaper here than in New York, while groceries are just 65 percent of what you’d pay there. The problem is that your cash only goes half as far as it would in the Big Apple. Overall, the cost of living index is 76.02, putting Barbados in 12th on the list.
11. Hong Kong
There are plenty of pros to a life in Hong Kong. In 2018 the city’s population was recorded as nearly 7.5 million, meaning you’d be surrounded by a diverse and cultured crowd if you moved there. However, relocation websites warn that without a high-paying job, you could be chipping away at your savings for your initial months spent there.
Hong Kong ranks 11th because of its overall cost of living index, which is 77.22 percent of New York’s. The indexes for rent and groceries hover around this number, too. But while a restaurant visit would cost approximately half of an NYC meal, your Hong Kong dollar goes only 65 percent as far as the American dollar in New York.
10. South Korea
You can expect a ton of good to come from a life in South Korea. For one thing, the country has relatively few instances of crime. Plus, expats tend to find their Korean friends and colleagues to be super welcoming. But then, of course, comes the question of the cost of living.
Rent in South Korea is only 23 percent of what you’d fork over in the Big Apple. But if you want to buy groceries? Expect to cough up around 91 percent of the typical NYC bill for food. This and other factors combined makes the overall cost of living in South Korea 78.18 in comparison to New York’s 100 points.
Just five years ago, Singapore topped at least one list that ranked the world’s costliest cities. However, it has slumped down to number nine as of 2020. That’s good news for those who want to live in a place known to have excellent healthcare, business opportunities, banking facilities, political stability, tax breaks, entertainment and everything else in between.
Singapore’s overall cost of living index is at 81.1, and the purchasing power index – stuck at almost 89 – probably has a lot to do with that. The rest of the figures are relatively low, with rent costing 63 percent of a New York residence and grocery bills adding up to two-thirds of what they’d be in NYC.
Brian Blum wrote about his family’s decision to leave Berkeley, California, in favor of Israel in a 2019 piece for The Jerusalem Post. He described how life in the Middle East gave “intrinsic meaning to life.” This, he claimed, was because, “Israel as a national project began before we were born.”
To build a life like Bloom’s, though, you have to be prepared to pay for it. Israel ranks 8th overall, with its cost of living index at just over 81. Once again, rent, groceries and even dining out are relatively low-cost. The problem is the value of the shekel – it’ll only get you 78 percent as far as a U.S. dollar would in the Empire City.
Moving to Luxembourg will have you right in the middle of Europe, meaning you could explore the continent with ease. But life at home will be good, too. Luxembourg, after all, impresses its residents with lots of opportunity, a democratic system and, of course, a high level of happiness overall.
On that note, it seems money can buy you happiness, if you can afford a life in Luxembourg. Your money will get you three percent further than it would if you lived in NYC. However, restaurants cost 90 percent of a New York bill, and the rent-plus-cost-of-living index is almost at 70 percent of what it’d be across the pond.
One step onto a pristine Bahamian beach and you’ll understand why anyone would want to live here. According to the website Bahamas.com, the Caribbean country boasts the most crystal-clear seawater on Earth. What we can confirm as true, however, is that the place encompasses 700 different islands, as well as thousands of rocks and cays that dot a 100,000-square-mile patch of the Atlantic.
All of this beauty comes at a price, though. The Bahamas’ cost of living index ranks sixth at 82.51. Rent prices are just over a third of what you’d pay in New York, but that’s the lowest figure on the board. Groceries and restaurant prices slide from 60 to 84 percent of what you’d fork over in NYC. But the real kicker is that money goes half as far here, making all of the above that much pricier.
People who travel to Denmark tend to notice something about the locals – they stroll around slowly. Those who note this aren’t necessarily making a complaint, but rather realizing that they should perhaps slow down, too. The Danish supposedly take their time because they like things to be peaceful. Doesn’t that sound like a great way to live?
Obtaining the Danish lifestyle will cost you, though. Overall, the city has a cost-of-living index that’s 83 percent of that in New York City. Interestingly, though, you will pay roughly the same on restaurant dining in both cities, and your money will have the same purchasing power, too. Denmark is slightly cheaper in the rent and groceries departments, though.
Now that we’re getting to the top of the list, there’s no way around it – the cost of living in Japan is high. But residents and those who immigrate there are often willing to accept all of the expensive prices for the opportunities that the country has to offer. Many can boost their finances while living in Japan, as the country’s businesses tend to pay robust salaries.
Japan’s cost-of-living index measures in a hair higher than Denmark at 83.35. Rent costs a quarter of what it would in New York, while your restaurant bill should be slashed in half in Japan. However, the yen just doesn’t go as far as the dollar – you’ll get 87 percent of what you would if you spent your salary in the Big Apple.
In the past, Iceland has been named the most peaceful nation on Earth, the best country for kids, and the globe’s cleanest place to live. Of course, as this list has taught you already, not all that glitters is gold. That’s to say, you will have to pay a hefty price to get all of the goodness that Iceland has to offer.
From Japan to Iceland, we make a huge leap in the cost-of-living index. In the latter, you’ll find it to be 100.48. In other words, it’s more expensive overall to live here than in New York City. That’s partly to do with the fact that restaurants are around 13 percent more expensive, and also because money only has about 79 percent of the purchasing power that it would have in New York.
Norway has banked billions of dollars to put toward its people’s pensions, thanks to the oil fields discovered just off the country’s coast. If that’s not incentive enough to live and work here, though, then think about all of the natural beauty that this Nordic nation has to offer. From fjords to freshwater to mountains, it’d be tough to tire of the country’s natural beauty.
Life in Norway sounds ideal, but can you afford it? The table here reads much like the stats from Iceland. Rent’s much cheaper here than in New York, but that’s the only break you’d get. Dining in a restaurant would be ten percent more expensive, while the krone in Norway has only 88 percent of the purchasing power that a dollar holds in New York.
The Swiss get paid well in comparison to many of their European neighbors – and even some of their overseas counterparts can’t compete with their high wages. Residents also enjoy a relatively low tax rate, which means more money ends up in their pockets. However, considering just how expensive it is to live here, they need every last franc they can get.
Switzerland is leaps and bounds more expensive than New York, Norway or Iceland – it’s by far the world’s priciest country in which to live. The cost-of-living index is at a 122.4, making it a fifth more expensive than NYC. Food is a huge cost in the landlocked nation, whether you dine in or go out. Even with a currency that gets you approximately 20 percent more than a dollar does in New York, it’s still insanely pricey to make a home here.