Jessica Nabongo Becomes First Black Woman to Visit Every Country In The World

A woman from Detroit is the first Black woman to visit every country in the world. In 2016, Jessica Nabongo, a former United Nations employee who became a blogger, made it her mission to visit all 193 countries and arrived at Seychelles, the last stop on her list, on October 6, according to her Instagram page. She has also visited two non-member observing states — Palestine and the Vatican — during her travels, CNN reported.

“Welcome to the Seychelles! Country 195 of 195!” Nabongo wrote on 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!”

Nabongo, whose parents are from Uganda, has traveled the world since she was four-years-old and has always been a geography nerd, according to WDIV . At the time she decided she wanted to visit all 193 countries in 2016, she had already visited 60 countries.

"The thing about traveling a lot and especially being off the beaten path is about being positive. Because when you're very positive you bring good things to you. And it's about trusting strangers."

Making her final stop on October 6 in Seychelles was important because it was her late father’s birthday. He died in 2003 and she wanted to include him in the end of her journey.

"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 October 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."

There have only been about 150 people known to have visited every country, with a majority of those traveling being white men with European passports, according to CNN. Nabongo told WDIV her favorite places to visit were the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, Iran, Jordan, Yemen and Palestine. One of the most important things she has learned is that most people in the world are good.

"I'm not afraid of strangers," she told the news station. "I'm a good person so why would I assume you're a bad person just because I don't know you? I've never used a hotel safe. Not once. And I've never had anything stolen from me."

To fund her travels, Nabongo founded the company Jet Black, a boutique travel agency that encourages people to travel to countries in Africa. As an Instagram influencer, she also worked with hotel and hospitality brands as well as accepting donations on a GoFundMe page. Sometimes, Nabongo said, traveling can be difficult as a woman of color.

"Navigating the world as a woman can be very difficult," Nabongo told CNN. "I've had a pretty wide range of experiences. I've been accused of being a prostitute. I've had men chase me before. I've been assaulted on the street."

She also faced discrimination while traveling in Africa, saying she was forced to wait behind white tourists in line or forced to pay bribes so she could cross borders.

"The discrimination that I faced in South Africa was ridiculous. Not only from white South Africans, which many would expect, but also from Black South Africans," she said.

To stay safe, Nabongo said she stayed in hotels with a 24-hour front desk, and she sometimes brought friends on her travels. The world traveler told CNN that places like Senegal and Ghana treated people the same.

"Senegal, it's amazing. You don't see them privileging white people over Africans. They treat everyone the same. Same in Ghana," she told the news station.

Her new goal is to talk about how harmful plastics are to the world. Nabongo told WDIV that using plastic is a global issue, and while traveling, she uses a refillable water bottle and makes sure to take her own cup to use on planes. "Plastic is really an issue. It's really a global issue. We have national borders but at the end of the day we all live on the same planet. It's damaging the ecosystem," she told the news station.

"Even though it may not seem like it is an issue in your neighborhood, your city, your state, it is a huge issue globally. We are going to have some reckoning to do if we don't all do our part," she continued.


About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.