Ugandan-American Jesica Nabongo has become the first documented black woman to visit all the countries in the world. She revealed her triumphant run when she visited the last country on her travel list, Seychelles.
She set out on a quest to make a visit to each and every country in the world in 2017, but before that, she had already visited 60 countries. In just two and a half years, she has toured 135 countries and her story is no mean feat but one of unbridled curiosity and enthusiasm to see what the world has to offer besides the usual narratives peddled by various media across the whole world.
Nabongo, who was born to Ugandan parents who emigrated to the United States, uses both her Ugandan and American passports. She was born in Detroit, Michigan. Her travels started at a tender age of 6, paving way for cultivating a deep sense of wanting to travel and creating history in the process. Jesica Nabongo is now 34.
In an interview with Airbnb Magazine, she said, "My parents normalized it in advance. I think this turned into wanderlust because my parents never made a big deal out of travel. It was like, 'It’s summer, we’re going to go to Mexico,' or we’re going to go to Jamaica,' or we’re going to the Bahamas.' Sometimes they left us and went and travelled. So traveling wasn’t a big deal or something to be fearful of. It speaks volumes of a young girl who was exposed to travelling at a very early age.
To make her quest come to fruition, she had to leave her full-time job as the founder of a boutique travel agency called Global Jet Black.
Speaking to the BBC, she said, "I think representation is important. We see Instagram, the travel industry and we are just not seeing enough people who look like me traveling as extensively as I am. So I think its really important for me to be doing this for other people that look like me."
In her remarks on CNN Travel, she said, "It’s about changing the perception of female travelers, and of anyone who doesn’t have the option of passing for a local in a given community. Racism is a thing. There’s nothing we can do to get around that. History has made it that way. I exist as a black person in this world and I’m not going to let that hinder me from going anywhere I want to go."
Visiting all the 195 UN member countries is definitely a story that should fill history books. It is a story that should certainly be glamourized especially in light of such success being achieved by a black woman from Africa. She mainly uses her Instagram account, @thecatchmeifyoucan to tell her stories including a blog, ‘The Catch Me If You Can,’ to raise important issues like endangered species and the harmful effects of plastic on the planet.
And in her success, she had the birthday of her late father in mind. "My Dad passed in the city in 2003. What I decided is that for my last country which is Seychelles, we’re going to land on Oct. 6 which is his birthday,” she said. “He hasn’t been here for most of this journey but we’re able to bring him in the fold by getting there on his birthday. The reason I picked Seychelles is because it is in Africa. The significance is the date."
Jesica Nabongo's vision is to help inspire other women "to feel free to travel solo."
Header image credit - Pulse Nigeria