Montreal woman hopes to break world travelling records

Stephanie Tavares, 22, of Vaudreuil, Que., hopes to break three world records, setting off in June to become the youngest person - and first woman - to visit every country on the planet in a single trip.

Stephanie Tavares aims to be the first woman to visit every country in the world in a single trip

Stephanie Tavares poses above the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. (submitted by Stephanie Tavares)

When Stephanie Tavares flies out of Montreal to Iceland at the end of June, Reykjavik will be the first stop in a world tour that she hopes will take her to every country on Earth over the next three years.

The 22-year-old from Vaudreuil, Que., is graduating from Bishop's University in June. Her next goal is to break not one, but three world records: to become the youngest person to visit every country in the world, the first woman to do so in a single trip, and to visit every country in the world in a single trip in the shortest time.

The current Guinness World Record holder is Yili Liu, who managed it in three years, three months and six days.

Stephanie Tavares tests out the clear waters at Glacier National Park in Montana. (submitted by Stephanie Tavares)

Tavares told CBC's Daybreak that she's been planning her route meticulously, in order to optimize her travel time.

"The more I work on it, the more I realize how intricate of a route it will be," Tavares said. "I want to make sure I'm taking the most efficient route without too many detours. My goal is to stay a minimum of one full day in each country. So not just passing through but actually spending a little bit of time."

"I'm going to travel for about three years, which I've calculated to being an average of four days per country."

Taking the safest route

Some places, she acknowledges, may be hard to get into. But North Korea isn't one of them. It turns out the country with the reputation for being closed to the West welcomes tourists – as long as it can control them.

"Simply signing up for an official tour will make the process very easy to get a visa," Tavares said.

Then there are war-torn countries such as Syria and Yemen. Tavares said she is doing her homework and will get updates from travellers ahead of her along the way.

"Right now there's one route from Beirut in Lebanon to Damascus that is safe – or the safest," Tavares told Daybreak's Mike Finnerty. "I will take the safest route."

Her one worry is Saudi Arabia, which still does not allow unaccompanied women to enter the country. She plans to either fly a male relative over to travel with her or go in with a male friend she meets along her way.

Still, she's out to prove "as a single woman, you can travel everywhere in the world," she said. "I also think it's not as hard as we believe it to be."

Visiting Portuguese roots

Tavares plans on starting in Europe and then taking a path that will cross through every capital on that continent before travelling south.

Since her mother's side of the family is Portugese, Tavares says she's particularly looking forward to visiting Portugal for the first time.

"I'd really like to go there and see it for myself," she said.

Raising money along the way

Tavares has been saving for this trip for months, but she has far from enough for three straight years of travel.

She hopes to keep financing her trip through online work and sponsorships, including Jetsetter, the Montreal travel store that has already committed to providing her with appropriate travel clothing and a backpack, and Eureka, which is providing her with a tent and sleeping gear.

While on the road, she plans on raising money for Tostan, a charity started a quarter century ago by a former American Peace Corps worker in Senegal, that focuses on sustainable development and positive social transformation in several countries in Africa.

"One of my main objectives is to empower women," Tavares said. "I want to show that we women can do anything."

Intrepid traveller Stephanie Tavares at the Hamilton Pool Preserve in Texas. (submitted by Stephanie Tavares)