She Did It! Jessica Nabongo Is the 1st Black Woman to Visit Every Country in the World

Jessica Nabongo during New York Fashion Week on September 07, 2019 in New York City.
Photo: Donell Woodson (Getty Images)

The last time we saw world traveler—no, adventurer—Jessica Nabongo, it was this past July in New Orleans at the 2019 Essence Festival. But while NOLA is an undeniably exciting city (and Essence Fest the annual convention of #BlackGirlMagic), it’s likely not the most exotic location Nabongo has visited as of Sunday, Oct. 6, when she completed her goal to visit every country in the world.

The accomplishment makes Nabongo the first black woman to travel to all 195 countries, an ambition she made public in March 2018, reports ABC News. However, as she disclosed to us in June of that year, the idea first came to her in February 2017 while visiting Bali, Indonesia.

As Nabongo told ABC, traveling the world is more than just a whim.

“People look at a photo of me in Bali and they say, ‘That’s cool, I want to go to Bali,’” she said. “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.’”

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With an initial goal to end her travels in May of this year, Nabongo, a Detroit resident who holds dual citizenship in America and Uganda (which helped her enter certain countries more easily), completed her goal on a much more meaningful date: her late father’s birthday.

“Had he not gotten a scholarship to Western Michigan, none of this would be happening,” she told ABC.

What was Nabongo’s final destination? Her journey ended in the Republic of Seychelles, the 115-island archipelago off the coast of East Africa where she held a glamorous celebration with 54 members of her family and friends at the H Resort Beau Vallon Beach.

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“So much to say but for now I will just say thank you to this entire community for all of your support,” she wrote on Instagram. “This was our journey and thanks to all of you who came along for the ride!!”

Still, as aspirational as Nabongo’s feat may seem—and as enviable as her Instagram feed, cleverly named @thecatchmeifyoucan looks—as she told ABC, like most of our lives, the visuals are “a fraction of my life. There’s a lot of really shitty things that go on behind the scenes.”

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And yes, that means that despite her tremendous and history-making accomplishment, there are places Nabongo has no desire to return to, like the Eastern European country Moldova, or others where she wasn’t received warmly. Still, when asked what countries were safest for black women, in particular, to travel, she was frank:

“If you can survive moving around the United States of America, I assure you, you can survive nearly any other place on Earth.”

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About the author

Maiysha Kai

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. Minneapolis born, Chicago bred, New York built. Nuance is her superpower.