How to put college wanderlust to good use

By Hayley Nagelberg, Columnist

I’m sure you have had the experience of showing up to a classroom, a friend’s apartment or a coffee shop on campus and not even remembering the walk there.  There is something so unique and comforting about walking around a campus you’ve come to know so well.

When you first got to campus, it probably took you a few days or weeks to orient yourself, but once you learned your way, you never turned back.

Cassie De Pecol decided that the feeling of familiarity was not something she needed when she left her comfort zone and set off on an around-the-globe expedition in July 2015.  Eighteen months and 26 days later, De Pecol became the first woman and fastest person ever to visit all 196 sovereign nations in the world.

This was not a vacation.  De Pecol was an ambassador for the International Institute of Peace Through Tourism and collected water samples for the Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation organization.  She received sponsorships from Clif Bar, Eagle Creek and Six Senses Zighy Bay.  She called the adventure “Expedition 196” and spent her time teaching sustainability and advocating for women’s rights.

Having spent my last year and a half living on a University campus, I see the merit of and immense need for each of these issues.  Thinking of what the rest of the world has been discussing on social media and arguing in political debates on world stages, hearing De Pecol’s story sent a strange feeling through me.

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I cannot imagine that De Pecol had access at all times to keep up with the 21st century media shenanigans we have all been living through, but the impact she made as an individual is arguably greater than the rest of us combined.

On YouTube, she vlogged her adventures – showing the beauty of every place she visited and enabling all of us to see just a fraction of this journey through her eyes.  She also visited war-torn countries and countries in political turmoil.  She spoke in her videos about a need to not avoid traveling to countries for these reasons, but rather go and hear directly from the people and experience every culture.

It is one thing to speak about the international community and global diversity.  It is an entirely different thing to leave the comfort of our lives at home and go see it for ourselves and challenge the thoughts we hold internally.

Instead of sitting at home preaching about why women should have equality globally, she went around and put these ideas in place.  Instead of examining different impact levels on the environment through a computer screen, she educated hundreds of students on how to truly make a positive environmental impact.

I have maps of the world all around my bedroom highlighting countries I want to see.  I have the app “been” on my phone tracking the percentage of the world I have visited.

While taking to social media or attending a rally may be a step in the right direction, we need to implement much more tangible action.

I don’t know if seeing the whole world is in my future, but seeing this path paved by this inspiring woman shows me, and all of you, that we really can do anything we set our minds to.

Hayley is a sophomore in ACES.

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