Jessica Nabongo: ‘What a trip to each country of the world has taught me’

(CNN) – As her flight began landing in the Seychelles on October 6, 2019, Ugandan-American traveler Jessica Nabongo looked out the window, preparing herself for the crucial moment. coming.

Not only would she be a member of an honorary group made up of very few people who traveled to every country in the world, she was the first black woman written to do so.

Nabongo was accompanied by 28 of his friends and family who flew in that last flight with him.

It flew more than 450 aircraft and more than a million air miles, but it flew to every UN -recognized country in the world.

The news was exhausting – Nabongo had flown more than 170 planes in a year, and he said he was close to leaving at times.

“There were times when the panic started and I was like,‘ oh my god, is this going to end in public failure? ’” He told CNN Travel.

Epic competition

In 2019, Jessica Nabongo became the first black woman to record travel to any country in the world.

In 2019, Jessica Nabongo became the first black woman to record travel to any country in the world.

Jessica Nabongo

Nabongo has written a book, “The Catch Me If You Can,” describing his experiences of moving from country to country during the epic tournament.

Named after her popular blog, she describes her history tour, covering 100 of the 195 countries she has visited.

“I’m a geography nerd,” Nabongo said of his decision to meet the challenge, explaining that it was something he really wanted to do about a decade before he actually tried.

“In 2017, I decided I wanted to celebrate my 35th birthday,” he told CNN Travel.

So was he able to meet his deadline?

“I extended my birthday by five months,” Nabongo explains. “But I missed my father’s birthday. He’s gone [away] Two days after my 19th birthday, so it was nice to be able to take her in the bar that way. “

Nabongo, who was born in Detroit, said one of the main reasons he felt compelled to write “The Catch Me If You Can” was because there were so few blacks among the 400 or so. trips intended to visit each. Land on earth.

“We’re used to seeing the world through the lenses of white men,” said Nabongo, who used his own photographs in the book. “And this is different. The knowledge that we have, while we live on earth, is seen as a very different people.

“But, in the way I see people. I respect people. I see a big difference.”

Nabongo includes her experiences of traveling as a black woman in the book, which was released on June 14, noting that such an experience is important.

Making the gap

The travel influencer published a book, "Catch me if you can," showing 100 of the countries he visited.

The tour guide has released a book, “The Catch Me If You Can,” featuring 100 of the countries he has visited.

Jessica Nabongo

“It’s about getting used to our lives, because, yes, even in 2022, I’ll be the only black on the 300 plane,” he wrote.

“I can travel for days and I don’t see anyone at the same end of the color spectrum. My job is to create a space. Shake it up. That is to say, we are here and for us. “

He believes it’s a responsibility to point out places that don’t need tourist attractions as easily as possible to compare ideas.

“That’s important to me,” he agreed. “Tell stories about places that most people don’t go and really use my site to put these places in a better light than usual.

“I’ve found beauty in a lot of places that people didn’t expect.”

These are the places in Afghanistan, where he was received by the Shrine of Hazrat Ali, known as the Blue Mosque in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, Pakistan, where he could not get enough of street food, and Iran, where he visited the ancient city of Yazd.

Although the internet was buzzing when Nabongo embarked on a journey, it was not as serious as it is today.

The former UN founder found that having a dedicated blog with more than 200,000 Instagram followers gave him many benefits, while on the tour, but he thought hard the information she shares, recognizing that the social project is not over. good when it comes to problem areas.

“When I was on Maui [Hawaii]I found this really amazing forest, “he said.” I didn’t do a geotag [add the geographic coordinates of the location] for I know what I did to that forest. “

“As an influencer or an influencer, you have to be very careful about how you share. For me, it’s very important to take care of the places I visit.”

The impact of the influencer

Nabongo on a trip to Bali, Indonesia in 2017.

Nabongo on a trip to Bali, Indonesia in 2017.

Jessica Nabongo

Nabongo lamented the idea of ​​”going blind,” realizing that this was almost impossible in the new world.

“It’s a real thing I’m missing,” Nabongo said, telling Peru that it was one of the places he was most loved because he saw so many pictures of his faces. previous history.

“When I got to Machu Picchu, I was like,‘ Yeah, it’s like pictures, ’” he agreed. “So it was a shame.

“You think of places like Bali, and Morocco, everyone goes to the same places and does the same things. And it doesn’t interest me.

“But there are Yemen, Afghanistan and South Sudan. There are a lot of places that people don’t think are rich in terms of tourism, where I had a really amazing time.

“I hope through my storytelling, there is less concern about the Black and Brown countries.”

During one of his most difficult times on the road, Nabongo began to question whether he would go to the Seychelles, the last country on his list.

But the journey was much more than fulfilling its purpose at the time – he knew it would show his followers unexpected places.

When he reached his destination during a visit to Mali, a colony in West Africa, the words of some locals persuaded him to continue.

“One of the men said, ‘It’s not for you. It’s for us.’ “He said. “That was a great search area. Because as my audience grew and people and DMs emailed me, I knew the trip was much bigger than mine. It was Those guys really helped me down the finish line. “

Although Nabongo was aware that he had a US passport to give his privileges not granted to foreigners, he explained that he was able to travel to 40 countries on his passport. Ugandan.

Hidden weapons

Nabongo was able to obtain a visa on his arrival to visit Iran to improve his second citizenship.

Nabongo was able to obtain a visa on his arrival to visit Iran to improve his second citizenship.

Jessica Nabongo

“Getting an American and Ugandan passport really did what I wanted,” he admits. “Because it’s very difficult for Americans to go to Iran.

“And the U.S. government has banned Americans from going to North Korea[exceptionsaregranted”inverylimitedcircumstances”butIhadaUgandanpassportsoIcouldgo[uahāʻawiʻianāʻokoʻa”inākūlanaliʻiliʻiloa”akāualoaʻaiaʻukahipassportUgandanihikiiaʻukehele[exceptionsaregranted”inverylimitedcircumstances”butIhadaUgandanpassportsoIcouldgo

“That’s my secret.

His career, as well as other travels like his, has no doubt encouraged others to try to travel to every country in the world, but he wanted to point out that it was not for everyone. this goal.

Before leaving that quest, Nabongo says travelers should really ask why they want to start this challenge, “because that’s the motivation to get you to the finish line. “

She hopes her story will encourage others to follow their dreams, even though they are.

“I don’t think everyone wants to go to every part of the world,” he said. “But what I want people to know is that they have everything in them to do the things they want to do in life.

“And if I could go to every country in the world, it’s wild. I think I can have everyone’s dream.”

World Wide Web

Nabongo's thirst for travel was intense from the fact that all the lands of the world were off his list.

Nabongo’s thirst for travel was intense from the fact that all the lands of the world were off his list.

Jessica Nabongo

In “The Catch Me If You Can,” Nabongo tells the various stories of visitors who loved him dearly on his journey, with a tour guide named Maha in Jordan giving him a cloak to symbol of their relationship.

“I have friends from all over the world,” she said, before expressing her excitement at the way writing the book helped her connect with many of her subjects. met on the road.

“It’s a really good thing,” he said. “Every time on my WhatsApp, there are probably conversations going on between 20 countries.

“People, of course, always start out as strangers.

“For me, home isn’t about the people. I think that’s why I’m so close to the people when I go.

Although he knew the process of visiting every country in the world was difficult, Nabongo said it was even more difficult to write “The Catch Me If You Can” in “hands down . “

But she hopes the book will inspire more generosity in the world, explaining that she has seen a change in people’s attitudes as they go, since the early days of the disease. .

“Love and kindness, then it goes crazy,” he said. “Now you see people fighting on planes and it’s kind of serious.

“So, I think, no, that first lump of love and humanity that we had in four or six months is gone.”

Nabongo admits this has changed his mind at some point.

However, he was encouraged by his own knowledge of human kindness and continued to seek beauty in the world wherever he went.

Now that he had visited every country, Nabongo’s interest in travel had grown stronger.

At the time of writing, he was about to travel again to Senegal, which he described as his “happy place,” and later plan to choose a different destination. visit every state in the US.

“I have six left,” he explained, before trying hard not to hurry, and finish this special activity, “if I can.”

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