In October of 2019, Jessica Nabongo made historical past because the first Black woman to go to each single nation on the earth. Jessica documented her travels by way of her Instagram web page and has amassed an engaged viewers of virtually 200,000 followers who’ve watched her journey all over the world. By her travels, Jessica broke down obstacles and stigmas about many international locations, significantly people who individuals are afraid to go to. With extra individuals touring to Asia and Europe (Bangkok, Paris, and Singapore topped the record of the most visited cities on the earth), Jessica was capable of spotlight international locations which are usually unseen and neglected. Jessica sat down to debate her journey, what she has discovered after visiting 195 international locations, and the way the journey trade can foster extra variety and inclusion.
Janice Gassam: Might you share just a little bit about your background and the way you bought to the place you might be immediately?
Jessica Nabongo: I used to be born and raised in Detroit to Ugandan-immigrant mother and father. I’ve been touring internationally since I used to be 4…I’ve labored within the non-public, public and governmental sectors. I did my undergrad at St. John’s College in New York and I did my grasp’s diploma on the London Faculty of Economics…I left my job in company America in 2008 and determined to go to Japan to show English. Following that I lived in London…and Benin, in West Africa, the place I labored for an NGO…Rome, the place I labored for the United Nations for a number of years. In 2015, I used to be working in Washington D.C. at a consulting agency…it was not a job I used to be thrilled about and so finally, I left and at the moment I made a decision to really begin my very own boutique journey company known as Jet Black. The main target of my company is—nicely, after we launched the targeted was to extend tourism to Africa, central and South America and the Caribbean. Now we do curate group journeys and personal journeys to the complete world, due to my expertise having visited each nation on the earth…to that finish I say that I turned an unintentional influencer over time…previous to my journey to each nation on the earth…I had traveled very extensively. It was in February 2017 that I made a decision to set a deadline…a objective that I’ve had since my early twenties [was] to go to each nation on the earth, so I set that objective…and at that time I had already visited 60 international locations…in October 2019 I visited the Seychelles which was my 195th nation.
Gassam: Might you share extra about your organization Jet Black? Why was it necessary so that you can concentrate on journey to Africa, the Caribbean, central and South America?
Nabongo: The explanation I targeted on these areas is as a result of, outdoors of the Caribbean…for North People the Caribbean is a vacation spot that individuals have been touring to for a very long time however on the whole…tourism may be very Eurocentric. There’s clearly the concentrate on individuals eager to backpack in…Paris and Rome and…there’s an increase of tourism to East and Southeast Asia however African tourism has lengthy been overlooked of the dialog, in addition to a lot of central and South America. A part of that’s the narrative round a lot of these international locations…a part of it’s a lack of sheer advertising and…the shortage of perceived accessibility, each by way of perceived security and the perceived value…if we take into consideration what is generally marketed, which is safaris, many instances you’ve gotten businesses…that supply journeys which are tens of 1000’s of dollars…I used to be seeking to disrupt individuals’s ideas on international locations in all of those areas and in addition due to my background working in worldwide growth, I noticed it as a chance…to extend financial entry to individuals residing in these international locations by rising tourism. In lots of of those international locations, tourism is an trade that may impact so many sectors in society…it’s taxi drivers, it’s artisans who’re working in markets, it’s so many individuals affected by tourism.
Gassam: What are some precious classes you’ve gotten discovered since touring to each single nation on the earth?
Nabongo: I believe the 2 key classes for me, is that most individuals are good…we’re residing in a time of the 24-hour information cycle and we’re always inundated with tales from all over the world which are usually detrimental and form the best way that individuals see different international locations, particularly, Black and brown international locations and non-Western international locations. I believe a number of instances…individuals grow to be prejudiced in direction of the residents of these international locations somewhat than simply important of the governments of the international locations. For me, after visiting each nation on the earth, it’s blatantly clear that most individuals are good…lots of people are trepidatious about visiting sure international locations…I’m like ‘why are you afraid of individuals as a result of they don’t appear to be you?’ The opposite factor that I’ve discovered is that we’re extra comparable than we’re totally different. On the finish of the day, in the event you pull again and take away pores and skin colour, ethnicity, nationality, we’re all simply individuals…we’re blood, we’re bones, we’re all simply human beings and whereas we could have some cultural variations between us, we’re nonetheless method extra comparable than we’re totally different.
Gassam: Reportedly solely about 40% of People have a passport. Touring performs a critical role in dispelling our prejudice, bias and racism. In your opinion, what’s the biggest barrier to extra individuals touring?
Nabongo: That 40% quantity is up from about 27% roughly 10 years in the past. I consider the rise is definitely [due] to imagery that they see on social media…and because of the truth that People used to have the ability to journey with out a passport to Canada and the Caribbean and now we will’t. I believe what nonetheless hinders lots of people from touring is the perceived value of journey. Lots of people assume that journey is one thing that may be very costly and past their attain…perceived security, or lack thereof, which I believe is fueled by American media which causes People to be very insular of their pondering. I simply assume it’s only a normal lack of awareness…additionally an absence of trip days. The USA, I believe, is the only country within the Western world that doesn’t have mandated trip days…I believe there’s additionally lack of paid day without work for many individuals.
Gassam: So, for the readers who’re interested by exploring the totally different international locations with you thru your boutique journey agency, how might they get began?
Nabongo: There’s a variety of methods [to get started]. We do a few group journeys per 12 months. This 12 months, we’re doing Jordan in April, which is already offered out and we’re doing Georgia in October, which I’m tremendous enthusiastic about…it’s our first concentrate on meals so it’s a meals and wine culinary tour. If individuals are , they’ll go to the website and apply for the spots for the group journey…we solely have 10 spots after which I host it and there’s all the time knowledgeable photographer and the explanation I designed it that method…I just like the smaller teams as a result of it’s extra intimate…it’s simpler to maneuver by way of a rustic and be capable of go to smaller native eating places and issues of that nature…additionally it permits individuals to really domesticate friendships…I really need individuals to benefit from the expertise and totally bask in it and I would like them to take a look at the international locations we’re visiting by way of their very own eyes somewhat than by way of their cellphones…in order that’s why we convey a photographer so on the finish of it individuals have these stunning photographs they usually’ve not missed out on the expertise as a result of they’re attempting to photograph it.
Gassam: How can we create extra variety and inclusion within the trade?
Nabongo: So far as variety and inclusion within the journey trade, we nonetheless have an extended methods to go. Firms akin to American Specific and 4 Seasons are doing an ideal job by way of…various illustration of their adverts, [and] the influencers that they’re working with. I nonetheless assume we’ve an extended option to go significantly because it pertains to luxurious advertising. I nonetheless assume not solely are Black individuals largely being overlooked of the advertising but additionally Asians. I believe by way of advertising, a number of instances we have a look at it as very black and white however I believe it must be consultant of the worldwide inhabitants…I nonetheless assume we’ve an extended option to go by way of illustration, so far as advertising and outreach goes. I’d additionally prefer to see advertising and illustration extra mainstream. You’ll be able to’t converse to Black individuals within the Black neighborhood solely throughout Black Historical past Month…everybody ought to be capable of be utilized in mainstream advertising. We’ve to cease taking a look at mainstream advertising as White and skinny and delightful.
My function as an influencer of types…I’m always selling totally different African international locations and one factor that will get me actually excited—I used to be in Ghana in December…a woman got here as much as me and stated, ‘the one cause I’m in Ghana is due to you.’ My following on Instagram, many individuals have advised me…have despatched me DMs and emails saying, ‘I deliberate my first journey to Africa due to you.’ Persons are additionally like ‘I need to go, the place can I begin?’ I’m all the time saying that Africa is the one crucial. I’m actually excited…by way of Jet Black not solely exposing individuals to the continent but additionally utilizing my private account on Instagram.
When you’d prefer to be taught extra about Jessica and her boutique journey agency, click here.
This interview has been lighted edited for readability and brevity.