The first black woman to visit every country in the world
2019-10-11 14:17

(CNN) — Some people set records by jumping the highest or running the fastest.


But for Jessica Nabongo, a UN employee turned travel blogger, it's by becoming the first black woman to visit every country on Earth.


She set out to visit all 193 countries in the world in 2016, and on October 6 arrived the last on her list, Seychelles, according to a post on her Instagram page. She also clocked up a couple of what the UN calls "non-observer status" territories, taking her total to 195.

根据她在 Instagram 页面上的帖子,她打算在2016年走遍世界上193个国家,并于10月6日到达她名单上的最后一个塞舌尔(Seychelles)。她还会去参观两个联合国观察员国,使环游的国家总数达到195个。

"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!!," she wrote.


Born in Detroit to Ugandan parents and holding two passports, Nabongo's epic odyssey hasn't just been about getting her name in a record book.


She's hoping to pave the way for women and people of color to do the same.


Although she felt like she'd achieved "the American dream" by landing a six-figure job at a pharmaceutical company after college and buying her own place in the Motor City, the work didn't satisfy her.


She began renting out her condo to make money, then hit the road -- first, teaching English in Japan, then grad school at the London School of Economics, followed by a job at the United Nations that took her to Benin and then Italy. But that wasn't enough to sate the travel bug.


But simply being able to afford a ticket doesn't mean that travel is easy or seamless.


Nabongo's experience traveling the world undercut many of the exhortations travel brands have to "live like a local," being able to seamlessly blend in anywhere simply by changing clothes or ordering coffee a certain way.

纳邦戈环游世界的经历削弱了许多旅行品牌必须“ 像当地人一样生活 ”的规劝,只要以某种方式换衣服或点咖啡,就能无缝融入任何地方。

Often, as the only person of color in a crowd, she stood out whether she wanted to or not. Nabongo also has dark skin and shaves her head.


To date, there are about 150 known people who have been to every country, the majority of whom are white men traveling on European passports -- the ones who have the option to "blend in" in more places.


As of April 2018, there were 193 recognized countries in the United Nations, plus two with "non-observer status."

截至2018年4月,联合国共有193个公认的国家 ,另有两个“联合国观察员国”。

Nabongo visited them all. Her passports have stamps from places as far-flung as Nigeria, Cuba, Turkey and Laos.


To support her travel habits, she founded a company called Jet Black, which organizes custom itineraries for small group trips in Africa, plus sells travel gear like branded T-shirts and passport covers.

为了支撑她的旅行,她成立了一家名为Jet Black的旅游公司,专门组织小团体非洲行,并通过出售诸如品牌T恤和护照保护套之类的旅行装备来获取收入。

As an influencer, she also works with hotel and hospitality brands, some of whom offer up free stays in exchange for social media posts. She also accepts donations on a GoFundMe page.

作为一位在社交媒体上拥有众多粉丝的旅游达人,她还与一些旅馆和酒店品牌合作,用为酒店宣传换取免费住宿。此外,纳邦戈还在 GoFundMe 上进行公开募捐。

"Navigating the world as a woman can be very difficult," Nabongo told CNN Travel in 2018. "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."

2018年,纳邦戈在接受 CNN 旅游频道(CNN Travel)采访时说:“对女性而言,环游世界非常艰难。我的经历非常丰富。我曾被指控为性工作者、曾被追捕、曾在街上遭到袭击。”

In one particularly horrible incident, a driver/fixer Nabongo had been working with and had grown to trust invited her to an "Easter orgy" just before he was due to pick her up to go to the airport. "That is something a man will never have to deal with."

在一次尤其可怕的事件中,一个司机/修理工(纳邦戈曾与他共事并逐渐对他产生信任),在要送纳邦戈去机场之前,邀请她参加“复活节狂欢派对”。 “这是一个男人永远不会遇到的事情。”

An American African in Africa


jessica nabongo detroit

Nabongo kicks up her feet in her native Detroit.


Courtesy Jessica Nabongo


And despite being a self-identified African, that didn't mean everything was smooth sailing when Nabongo traveled around Africa.


A few times, she watched in frustration as she was forced to wait behind white tourists or forced to pay bribes in order to cross borders that should have been open to her.


"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.


However, some countries 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."


Adding to the challenge of seeing the world is the fact that Nabongo often travels solo. She generally eschews Airbnbs for hotels, where she can count on a 24-hour front desk to keep her feeling secure. She prefers to bring friends along to share the experience when possible.


The unelected ambassador


jessica nabongo cartagena

Nabongo soaking up the scenery in Cartagena, Colombia.

纳邦戈在欣赏哥伦比亚卡塔赫纳(Cartagena, Colombia)的风景。

Andre Perry

Andre Perry

Sometimes, though, the tables turn and Nabongo finds herself abroad speaking on behalf of Americans. This is particularly likely in countries that have warned their citizens against traveling to the United States or have concerns about gun violence.


"While I've been abroad, I've had people ask me about how safe is the US, especially for people of color," Nabongo said.


"And you know, I have to tell them, 'Yes, there is a high risk for you in particular in urban areas. But then also in rural areas because you're a minority.' It's a very strange and difficult thing to navigate."


Still, comments and questions like those only emphasize the importance of Nabongo's work.


While she does not identify as an activist, sometimes her mere presence is enough to make a difference or cause a person to see things differently. This is a common sentiment echoed by many women of color: Simply being who you are is a statement.


Whether counseling a person of color who's afraid to travel or a local who thinks it's okay to try and touch her head without asking, Nabongo serves a cultural ambassador role that may not be visible behind those colorful shots she posts on Instagram.

无论是给害怕旅行的有色人种做心理辅导,还是给一个认为不经询问就可以摸自己头的当地人做心理辅导,纳邦戈都扮演着文化大使的角色。在她在 Instagram 上发布的这些色彩斑斓的照片背后可能看不见这种角色。

Speaking of Instagram, Nabongo has some words of caution for travelers who use African people as objects, props or backdrops in their photos, something she encounters way too often online.

说到 Instagram,纳邦戈经常在网上看到非洲人被当作照片中的物品、道具或背景。对于拍这些照片的旅行者,纳邦戈有一些忠告。

"Instagram is great. I love it. It's obviously given me a platform so that I can educate people about different places in the world," she said.

她说:“ Instagram 很棒。我很喜欢它。很显然,它为我提供了一个平台,使我可以向人们介绍世界上不同的地方。”

"But it's also a very dangerous and disgusting place as well because a lot of people want a bigger following. They want the likes. They want pictures that go viral. So they're willing to use anybody and anything."


"We cannot negate the optics of whiteness in Africa. We can't," she said.


Ultimately, Nabongo says her quest was not just about crossing countries off a list. It was about changing the perception of female travelers, of travelers of color and of anyone who doesn't have the option of passing for a local in a given community.


"Racism is a thing. There's nothing we can do to get around that. History has made it that way. I exist as a black person in this world and I'm not going to let that hinder me from going anywhere I want to go. Namely, everywhere."


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