Jessica Nabongo is on a mission to be the first black woman to visit every country in the world.
(NEW YORK) — Jessica Nabongo is on a mission to be the first black woman to visit every country in the world.
And she’s getting close. So far, she’s hit 157 countries. In the next seven weeks, she’ll add another 11 to that list.
Nabongo spoke to ABC News’ Good Morning America from her home in Detroit as she was packing to head out on the next phase of her adventure. In the next two months, she’ll visit, among others, Myanmar, Iran, Iraq and Oman.
Travel has always been a part of her life, she told GMA.
“I’m looking at Canada right now,” she said. She visited for the fist time when she was four. “We would always take family vacations.”
Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, London were on the list of places she visited before she was 18. Also on the list: Uganda, where her parents are from.
In addition to her U.S. passport, Nabongo carries a Ugandan passport, which she said helps her gain access to nations that aren’t amenable to American tourists.
She first had the idea to travel to every country in the world in February 2017. At that point, she had visited about 60 countries.
But Nabango didn’t tell anyone her plan, at least not at first.
“I didn’t want anyone to beat me to it,” she said.
Nabango did some research on who else may have conquered this feat, and came to the conclusion if she were to visit each country, she would be the first black woman to do so.
She went public with her quest in March 2018.
Nabongo had been writing a travel blog since 2009, before social media was so prevalent.
“It was a way to keep family and friends updated,” she said.
Today, she documents much of her travel on Instagram, where she has almost 90,000 followers.
She said she gets asked a lot how she got started.
“People look at a photo of me in Bali and they say, ‘That’s cool, I want to go to Bali.’ 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,'” Nabongo said.
What makes it to her Instagram, she said, is “a fraction of my life. There’s a lot of really s***** things that go on behind the scenes.”
Nabongo recounted a visit to the Eastern European nation of Moldova, a place she’ll “never go back there in my life.” It wasn’t just the fact that she got ripped off on her money exchange, or that her cab driver charged her double. She’s had things like that happen before. It was the general unfriendliness of the people she encountered.
“I’m [a] seasoned traveler, used to being a foreigner and people taking advantage of me,” she said. “I don’t speak the language, I get it, especially in poor countries. In poor countries I don’t really even mind.”
More often than not, though, people try to be helpful, especially, Nabongo said, when she tells them what she’s trying to accomplish.
She plans to end her quest on Oct. 6 in the Seychelles with family and friends on hand to celebrate. Her mom will be there. The date is significant: it’s her late father’s birthday. Nabongo credits him for her journey.
“Had he not gotten a scholarship to Western Michigan,” she said, “none of this would be happening.”
And what will she do once she’s reached her goal?
“I’ll probably go to Uganda right after,” she said.