For most, touching down in the Seychelles would signal the start of an epic vacation. But for Jessica Nabongo, the moment wasn’t about the beginning of something, but the end.
In February 2017, with 60 countries under her belt, Nabongo started a two-and-a-half-year journey to travel to every country in the world. The Seychelles—where she landed in October 2019—was her last stop on the journey, making her the first black woman to visit every country in the world.
To put it more plainly: Nabongo, who runs The Catch Me If You Can site, is used to being on the move. But like so many of us right now, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s been forced to reconsider some of her travel. But that doesn’t mean she’s stopped putting her travel experiences to good use.
For one of her latest initiatives, Nabongo called on friends and contacts around the world to chime in and encourage travelers to stay home. (“No matter where they are, no matter their age, no matter the language, the message is the same,” writes Nabongo.) The end result? A video that spans 84 countries and includes 75 languages, from Urdu to Malay.
In February, for AFAR, Nabongo wrote about her experiences traveling the world and what she learned about race and the kindness of strangers. Her final piece of advice is fitting for all of us, especially as we think about getting back on the road in ways that feel right:
“After visiting every country in the world, despite the hurdles that I’ve faced, I can confidently say that anyone—no matter who you are, no matter what you look like—should feel free to travel the world as you see fit,” she writes. “You don’t need permission. You don’t need a blueprint. All you need is a plane ticket and an open mind. The world will be waiting with open arms.”