(CNN) — As her airplane started its descent into the Seychelles on October 6, 2019, Ugandan-American journey influencer Jessica Nabongo peered out of the window, making ready herself for the momentous event about to happen.
Not solely was she about to turn out to be a member of a prestigious membership made up of the only a few individuals who’ve traveled to each nation on the earth, she’d be the primary Black lady to have documented doing so.
Nabongo was accompanied by 28 of her family and friends, who had flown in to journey on that final flight along with her.
It had taken greater than 450 flights and over one million air miles, however she’d made it to all 195 UN-recognized nations on the globe.
The expertise was exhausting — Nabongo took greater than 170 flights in a single yr, and says she practically give up on a number of events.
“There have been quite a lot of occasions the place panic set in and I used to be like, ‘oh my god, is that this going to lead to public failure?'” she tells CNN Journey.
In 2019, Jessica Nabongo grew to become the primary Black lady to doc touring to each nation on the earth.
Named after her standard weblog, it recounts her record-breaking journey, specializing in 100 of the 195 nations she visited.
“I am a geography nerd,” Nabongo says of her choice to tackle the problem, explaining that it was one thing she’d been eager to do at the least a decade earlier than she really tried it.
“In 2017, I kind of decided that I wished to do it by my thirty fifth birthday,” she tells CNN Journey.
So, was she capable of meet her deadline?
“I overshot my birthday by 5 months,” Nabongo explains. “However I ended up ending on my father’s birthday. He handed [away] simply two days after my nineteenth birthday, so it was good to have the ability to convey him into the fold in that manner.”
In keeping with Nabongo, who was born in Detroit, one of many key causes she felt compelled to write down “The Catch Me If You Can” was because of the truth that only a few Black persons are among the many 400 or so vacationers thought to have visited each nation on the earth.
“We’re so used to seeing the world by the lens of white males,” says Nabongo, who has used her personal photographs within the e book. “And that is totally different. There’s clearly some uniqueness within the experiences that now we have, as we exist on the earth, as very totally different individuals.
“But in addition, simply when it comes to how I see humanity. My respect for humanity. I see an enormous distinction.”
Nabongo touches on her experiences touring as a Black lady within the e book, launched on June 14, noting that such illustration is massively necessary.
The journey influencer has launched a e book, “The Catch Me If You Can,” showcasing 100 of the nations she visited.
“It’s about normalizing our existence, as a result of, sure, even in 2022, I’m usually the one Black particular person on a airplane of 300,” she writes.
“I can journey for days and by no means see somebody on the similar finish of the colour spectrum. My mission is to create area. To shake s**t up. To say, we’re right here and we belong.”
She feels a duty to symbolize locations that are not essentially vacationer hotspots as sensitively as attainable to problem preconceptions.
“That is actually necessary to me,” she admits. “To inform tales about locations that most individuals could by no means journey to and actually use my platform to place these locations in a extra constructive gentle than we often see.
“I discovered plenty of magnificence in plenty of locations that individuals in all probability would not have anticipated.”
These locations embody Afghanistan, the place she was entranced by the Shrine of Hazrat Ali, also referred to as Blue Mosque within the northern metropolis of Mazar-i-Sharif, Pakistan, the place she could not get sufficient of the road meals, and Iran, the place she visited the traditional metropolis of Yazd.
Whereas social media was actually round when Nabongo first started touring extensively, it wasn’t fairly as influential as it’s at the moment.
“Once I was in Maui [Hawaii], I discovered this actually superb forest, ” she says. “I did not do a geotag [add the geographic coordinates of the location] as a result of I do know what that would have completed to that forest.”
“Being an influencer or somebody of affect, you must be extremely cautious with the way you share. For me, it is actually necessary to make sure the preservation of locations that I am visiting.”
Nabongo throughout a visit to Bali, Indonesia in 2017.
Nabongo is wistful concerning the notion of “touring blindly,” noting that this has turn out to be virtually not possible within the fashionable world.
“It is undoubtedly one thing that I miss specifically,” Nabongo admits, citing Peru as one of many locations that she felt barely underwhelmed by just because she’d seen so many photos of its historic sights beforehand.
“Once I bought to Machu Picchu, I used to be like, ‘Oh, it appears identical to the images,'” she admits. “So it was disappointing.
“You concentrate on locations like Bali, and Morocco, all people’s going to the identical locations and doing the identical issues. And that is simply not attention-grabbing to me.
“However there’s Yemen, Afghanistan and South Sudan. There are such a lot of locations that individuals do not suppose are precious when it comes to tourism, the place I had a fully superb time.
“I actually hope that by my storytelling, there is a discount in bias about Black and Brown nations specifically.”
Throughout a few of her hardest moments on the highway, Nabongo started to query whether or not she’d make it to the Seychelles, the ultimate nation on her record.
However the journey had turn out to be about way over simply reaching her goal by then — she knew she was showcasing locations her followers would seemingly by no means have thought of visiting.
When she reached her breaking level throughout a go to to Mali, a landlocked nation in West Africa, it was the phrases of some locals that satisfied her to maintain going.
“One of many guys stated, ‘It isn’t for you. It is for us.'” she says. “That was actually an enormous turning level. As a result of as my viewers was rising and other people had been emailing and DMing me, I used to be realizing that the journey was changing into a lot greater than me. These males actually helped get me to the end line.”
Whereas Nabongo notes that having a US passport grants her privileges that are not afforded to vacationers of different nationalities, she explains that she was capable of journey to over 40 nations on her Ugandan passport.
Nabongo was capable of get a visa on arrival with the intention to go to Iran because of her twin citizenship.
“Having each an American and a Ugandan passport actually labored in my favor,” she admits. “As a result of it is tremendous exhausting for Individuals to go to Iran.
“That was my secret weapon. If I solely had an American passport, I in all probability would not have completed once I did.”
Her success, together with that of different vacationers like her, will little question have impressed others to aim to journey to each nation on the earth, however she’s eager to level out that this specific objective is not for everybody.
Earlier than jetting off on such a quest, Nabongo stresses that vacationers ought to actually query why they need to embark on this problem, “as a result of that is the motivation that is going to get you to the end line.”
She hopes her story will encourage others to go after their desires, no matter they may be.
“I do not suppose everyone seems to be excited by going to each nation on the earth,” she says. “However what I do need individuals to know is that they’ve the whole lot inside them to do no matter it’s that they need to do in life.
“And if I may go to each nation on the earth, which is wild, I really feel like everybody’s dream is attainable.”
Nabongo’s thirst for journey has remained robust since ticking all of the nations on the earth off her bucket record.
In “The Catch Me If You Can,” Nabongo shares numerous tales of strangers who’ve been notably form to her throughout her travels, together with a tour information named Maha in Jordan who gave her a costume as a logo of their friendship.
“I undoubtedly have associates from everywhere in the world,” she says, earlier than expressing her delight at how writing the e book has helped to place her again in contact with lots of these she’s met on the highway.
“It has been actually nice,” she provides. “At any given time on my WhatsApp, there’s in all probability conversations going throughout 20 nations.
“Folks, after all, will at all times begin out as strangers. However should you’re open to it, you possibly can rapidly make associates and in some instances, even household.
“For me, house is not about individuals. I feel that is why I really feel so carefully related to individuals once I journey. As a result of it is like I am constructing little homes everywhere in the world, if you’ll.”
Whereas she discovered the method of visiting each nation on the earth grueling, Nabongo confesses that writing “The Catch Me If You Can” has been tougher “arms down.”
However she hopes the e book will encourage extra kindness on the earth, explaining that she’s seen a shift within the conduct of others, notably whereas touring, for the reason that early days of the pandemic.
“It was all love and kindness, after which it grew to become insanity,” she says. “Now you are seeing individuals combating on planes and being simply actually imply.
“So, I feel sadly, that preliminary bump of affection and humanity that we bought within the first 4 to 6 months has dissipated.”
Nabongo admits that this has left her feeling slightly disheartened at occasions.
Nevertheless, she stays inspired by her personal experiences of human kindness and continues to search for magnificence on the earth wherever she goes.
And now that she’s visited each nation, Nabongo’s ardour for journey has solely grown stronger.
On the time of writing, she’s about to take one other journey to Senegal, which she describes as her “completely satisfied place,” and ultimately plans to tick off one other objective. visiting each state within the US.
“I’ve six left,” she explains, earlier than stressing that she’s in no rush, and can full this specific activity, “once I get to it.”