A Detroit woman of Ugandan descent has broken a world record. Jessica Nabongo became the first black woman to travel to 195 countries, ABC News reports. Nabongo got an itch to start traveling after quitting her job in the pharmaceutical industry, before deciding to teach English in Japan.
She’s also lived in London where she studied at the London School of Economics. Later, she obtained employment with the United Nations where she resided in Italy and Benin.
Nabongo’s feat of touching down in 195 countries came to fruition when she visited Seychelles, a country in East Africa. There are 150 people who have reportedly been to every country—the majority being white European men. While this has been a dream come true, Nabongo advises to dig deep and ask yourself why you’d like to travel to certain places.
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Welcome to the Seychelles 🇸🇨 !! Country 195 of 195! 😝😆😏🥺😩😳🤯🤗😎 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!! Thanks to the 54 people that are here celebrating with me in the Seychelles with the gorgeous backdrop of the @thehresortseychelles with the planning expertise of @vividvibeseventplanning! Last night was unreal and I’m so so grateful. My heart is full!!! 👗 : Sho via @neimanmarcus 👠 : Yeezy Season 8 via @mytheresa.com Earrings: @84gem 📷 : @christa.shoots #catchmein195 #catchmeinseychelles #catchmeintheseychelles
“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.’”
In an effort to help fund her travels, Nabongo is a social media influencer and exchanges social media posts for swanky hotel stays. She’s also created Gofundme pages. Scroll through her Instagram and you’ll see a beautifully curated montage of images captioned with insightful information of her experiences in any particular region of the world.
During her stay in Pakistan, she reflected on visiting a Muslim country as a woman, and the misconceptions the western world has on the Middle East.
“When I arrived to check-in for my flight to Pakistan, there were only men in line and I felt slightly uncomfortable, it had nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. Fast forward and I’ve been blown away by the kindness and respect that Pakistani men have exhibited, some of the best treatment by men in all the countries I’ve visited,” she wrote. “While standing waiting for my luggage a man brought me a trolley without me asking. Men have often stepped to the side and keep a healthy distance which has made me feel super comfortable as a woman traveling solo in this country. “
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TRAVELING SOLO AS A WOMAN When I arrived to check in for my flight to Pakistan, there were only men in line and I felt slightly uncomfortable, it had nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. Fast forward and I’ve been blown away by the kindness and respect that Pakistani men have exhibited, some of the best treatment by men in all the countries I’ve visited. While standing waiting for my luggage a man brought me a trolley without me asking. Men have often stepped to the side and keep a healthy distance which has made me feel super comfortable as a woman traveling solo in this country. So far I have traveled to 85 countries solo spanning six continents! My first time traveling solo was in 2007 to London, Paris and Madrid. I reached the cities on my own then met friends. Paris chewed me up and spit me out, but that’s a story for another time. My first full solo trip was Costa Rica in 2009. I recall not really knowing what to do on my own. I spent time walking around, reading, journaling and sitting in parks. I joined a group tour for a day trip to Arenal and asked strangers to take my picture as I still do today. People often ask me the best countries for solo travel and I think that anywhere in the world is fine for solo travel depending on your level of comfort with the culture. If you are American you may be comfortable in places that someone from the Middle East may not be and vice versa so to give a list would be doing a disservice to the huge diversity of my followers. The only place that I personally will never travel to alone again is India. I simply do not feel comfortable alone there, the men make me very very uncomfortable. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t. There are plenty of women I know that have done repeat solo trips to India. We each have to have our own experiences! Tips for solo travel: 1. Go somewhere you will feel comfortable, because when you’re comfortable you can be confident and when you’re confident you don’t look vulnerable. 2. Trust your intuition, she’s probably right!! Have you ever traveled solo? Which do you recommend or not recommend for solo travelers? Any other tips? 📷 @projectfairplay
However, Nabongo admits she’s experienced racism in other countries, even in Africa. “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.
Still, some experiences were better than others. “Senegal, it’s amazing. You don’t see them privileging white people over Africans. They treat everyone the same. Same in Ghana.”