Jessica Nabongo is redefining global perception of Black travel

“Airports are my second home; I hate being in airports,” Jessica Nabongo jests with a paradox. However, once she’s in the air, she’s at peace. “It’s this meditative space,” she confides. Given her travel history, it’s fortunate that she finds tranquility in transit. In 2019, Jessica Nabongo made history as the first Black woman to visit every country in the world. That’s an impressive tally of flights, with her pre-COVID annual total nearly touching 200.

Despite the significance of her achievement, Nabongo is remarkably casual about it. “It means more to other people,” she acknowledges. She appreciates that she serves as a role model, particularly for other Black women, in a travel space where few people look like her. However, for Jessica, she’s just being her authentic self. “I’ve been wanting to go to every country since my early 20s and I decided I wanted to do it by my 35th birthday.” Mission accomplished.

These days, Jessica considers more than just airports her second home. Each touchdown is a new homecoming. Through her book, The Catch Me If You Can: One Woman’s Journey to Every Country in the World, Nabongo aims to present the countries she’s visited in the light they deserve. She remembers, somewhat horrified, opening the Lonely Planet guidebook and turning to the page about her family’s native Uganda. “I remember reading about Uganda and seeing this picture of this little boy who was dirty,” she expressed, frustrated. “We have so many things – beautiful culture, you can see the big three [animals], but there was this singular image of my country that they put in this book!”

 “I’m not trying to run away from reality, but I think we’re so biased in one direction that a little positive bias is okay.”

Her book, published by National Geographic, brings her talent as a photographer to the fore. Her dedication to depicting often overlooked places in the world has garnered near-universal praise, with discussions about incorporating the book into public school geography curricula. “I want to tell stories of beauty, dignity, and the humanity of these places, particularly African countries and countries in the Middle East,” she asserts. “I’m not trying to run away from reality, but I think we’re so biased in one direction that a little positive bias is okay.”

Born in Detroit with Ugandan roots, Jessica Nabongo is a dreamer dedicated to broadening cultural awareness and aiding others in viewing unvisited countries in a positive light. As a travel writer, photographer, and entrepreneur, she strives to make travel more accessible and inclusive. Moreover, Jessica is deeply passionate about environmental stewardship and advocates for the use of reusable containers in place of single-use plastics.

Follow www.jessicanabongo.com

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