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And off she goes by Merle Wilkening | 2nd December, 2022 | Playground

In 2019 Jessica Nabongo became the first Black woman to visit every country in the world. In her first book, she shares her experiences.

How did you come up with the idea of traveling to all 195 UN-recognized countries in the world?

I have been traveling internationally since I was 4 years old. By the time I was in high school, I had been to eight countries. Later on I lived in Japan, the U.K., Benin and Italy. Every year, I counted the number of new countries I went to on my blog The Catch Me If You Can. I was in my early 20s when I knew I wanted to visit them all. In Bali in 2017 I had heard about an American woman who had achieved this goal and started to research it. Since no black woman had ever done it, I wanted to be the first.

How did you feel when you arrived in your last country, the Seychelles, in October 2019?

It was amazing because my whole family was there, my sisters and my mom and some of my friends – 55 of us in total. I finished my journey on my father’s birthday, he had passed suddenly in May 2003. I picked his birthday because I felt that in some way he had become a part of this journey. It was really emotional.

What turned out to be your favorite destination?

I was really excited to go to Mali and Iran, and Bhutan was pretty high on my list too. I was so curious because instead of the GDP, they use the Gross National Happiness Index to measure the country’s success. A lot of my curiosity was based on my academic background.

What did traveling teach you about daily life?

One of the biggest lessons I learned was that most people are good. I trust people and I think that just makes life lighter. I’ve travelled solo to 89 countries and that was only possible due to the kindness of strangers.

What is your main goal in publishing your book?

By sharing my experiences, I want to get people to think differently about the world and to believe in the kindness and goodness of strangers. And to get people to stop vilifying certain countries just because of where they are located geo- graphically. Give everybody a chance!

IssueGG Magazine 1/23
Photography„The Catch Me If You Can“ von Jessica Nabongo, National Geographic Books