Meet the first black woman to visit every country in the world
Written by Leah Jones on October 11, 2019
yenwen/iStock(NEW YORK) — After 195 countries in two years, one traveler has become the first black woman to visit every country in the world.
Jessica Nabongo ended her journey in the Seychelles, off the coast of East Africa — just as she said she would on ABC News’ Good Morning America back in March.
“Welcome to the Seychelles!! Country 195 of 195!” she posted to her Instagram. “So much to say but for now I will just say thank you to this entire community for all of your support. This was our journey and thanks to all of you who came along for the ride!!”
Friends and family joined her in the Seychelles to celebrate the achievement.
When Nabongo spoke to GMA in March, she had visited 157 countries so far but travel has always been a part of her life, she told GMA.
Nabongo, who lives in Detroit, traveled to Canada when she was four and, by age 18, she had also been to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, the United Kingdom and Uganda — which is where her parents are from. In addition to her U.S. passport, Nabongo carries a Ugandan passport, which she said helped her gain access to nations that aren’t amenable to American tourists.
The idea to visit every country on earth came to her in February 2017. At that point, she had visited about 60 countries.
But Nabango didn’t tell anyone her plan, at least not at first. Nabango did some research and discovered that she could become the first black woman to visit every country.
“I didn’t want anyone to beat me to it,” she said.
She went public with her quest in March 2018.
Nabongo had been writing a travel blog since 2009, before social media was so prevalent, as “a way to keep family and friends updated,” she said. Today, she documents much of her travel on Instagram, where she has almost 90,000 followers.
She said she gets asked a lot about how she got started.
“People look at a photo of me in Bali and they say, ‘That’s cool, I want to go to Bali.’ But everyone needs to ask themselves, ‘What is your why? Why do you want to do what it is you want to do?’ I hope people would be more reflective than reactive. Not just like, ‘Oh Bali, that’s a cute picture, I want to go,'” she said.
What makes it to her Instagram, she said, is “a fraction of my life. There’s a lot of really s***** things that go on behind the scenes.”
Nabongo recounted a visit to the Eastern European nation of Moldova — one of the poorest countries in Europe — and said she’ll “never go back there in my life.” It wasn’t just that she got ripped off when exchanging her money for the local currency, or that her taxi driver charged her double. She just found that the reception wasn’t that friendly.
She’s had things like that happen before. It was the general unfriendliness of the people she encountered.
“I’m [a] seasoned traveler, used to being a foreigner and people taking advantage of me,” she said. “I don’t speak the language, I get it, especially in poor countries. In poor countries, I don’t really even mind.”
More often than not, though, people tried to be helpful, especially when Nabongo would tell them what she was trying to accomplish, she said.
She ended her quest on Oct. 6. The date is significant: it’s her late father’s birthday, and Nabongo said the journey was in his honor.
“Had he not gotten a scholarship to Western Michigan,” she said, “none of this would be happening.”
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