Cassie DePecol is afraid of flying.
"I'm not going to lie, even more than being kidnapped or killed, the flying, for me, is the most nerve-racking," she said.
But the anxiety isn't stopping the Connecticut-native from becoming the fastest person, as well as the first woman, to visit all 196 countries in the world.
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DePecol, who is from Washington, said she didn't travel too much until she went to college.
"I studied abroad in Costa Rica," DePecol told NBC Connecticut while she was in the Congo on Tuesday. "Then after that, I saved up about $2,000 from lifeguarding and I traveled to about 25 countries over the course of two years."
The 27-year-old said she was living the "nomadic lifestyle" by backpacking, hitch-hiking and working odd-jobs abroad.
"That’s when I realized how much I loved travel and I knew I’d find my career in travel," she said.
Now, DePecol is at the tail-end of her 196-country expedition that she started in July 2015, setting her up to become the first woman to travel the world in the least amount of time.
The trip isn't just about colorful sunsets, delicious cuisines and unparalleled selfies from atop of mountains; DePecol is a peace ambassador with the International Institute of Peace Through Tourism.
Through the organization's endorsement, DePecol is able to set up keynote sessions with students at universities in all the countries she is visiting. DePecol talks to students about a number of topics related to the environment and peace, including sustainable tourism, sustainable development, economics and entrepreneurship.
"It would be amazing to change the world in a major way and, of course, that’s my dream," DePecol said. "But I’m trying to take these small steps towards, eventually, changing the world in a more positive way — a more impactful way —for future generations."
And DePecol isn't alone on wanting to make an impact. The world traveler has dozens of sponsors and supporters who back and help fund her mission.
Europe was the starting point of her journey, as a way to "ease into traveling again."
"I hadn't traveled for a couple of years so I was a little bit rusty," DePecol said. "Those first six months were really tough for me."
So far, her most memorable experience was in the small, Oceanic country Vanuatu. The country, which is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, was devastated by a cyclone a year prior to DePecol's arrival.
Despite the residents' struggles, they welcomed the American with open arms.
"That was the first experience I was really thrown into humanity in a positive way," DePecol said. "I walked around the streets with my expensive camera slung over my shoulder and I was invited into these peoples' shack-houses and they wanted to show me their way of life and their family and how to make Kava, which is this specific drink to that region."
Vanuatu was also one of the first places that DePecol spoke to a group of more than a hundred students.
"I wasn’t really that confident with speaking and didn’t really know what I was talking about at that point, but they understood me and we laughed and we really understood each other, even though we come from completely different lands," she said.
The Middle East was another place that surprisingly resonated with DePecol, who said she feels the "safest and most comfortable" in the region.
"It’s just completely not what you see on the news all the time, all this negative stuff," she said. "It's a whole different thing that is so beautiful."
But DePecol is quick to say she is not relocating to a Middle Eastern country, or anywhere abroad, once the expedition is over.
"The more I travel, the more I realize that States is where I belong," she said.
DePecol still has 13 countries to get to before breaking the Guinness World record for fastest time to visit all countries, which was previously completed by Yili Lui within three years and three months.
According to DePecol, she is on track to break that record by finishing her travels within 16 months, making her the first documented woman to ever do so.
Up next, the explorer said she is most excited to visit Pakistan after it took four months to get her visa approved.
"I plan my travels around visas, student meetings and weather patterns," she said.
DePecol will move back to Los Angeles, where she was living previously, when she finishes her around-the-world expedition. She is planning on finishing her documentary, her book and will speak at universities in the area.
She said she already has a long list of places she wants to revisit.