On October 6, 2019, then barely over 35 years old, Jessica Nabongo landed in the Seychelles, accompanied by her friends and family who had come for the occasion. The trip is indeed special: once out of the plane, the young woman will have officially visited the 195 countries recognized by the UN.
It was in 2017 that the young woman, a former United Nations consultant, challenged herself to succeed in ticking the entire list of countries in the world. And all this before his 35th birthday! To succeed, the young woman took more than 450 flights, including 170 in the same year. A frantic pace, which almost pushed the young woman to give up. “Many times, panic took hold of me and I thought, ‘Oh my God, is this going to end in public failure?‘” she told CNN Travel.
Finally, it was therefore in October 2019 that the young woman succeeded in the challenge, or almost. “I passed my birthday by five months”admits Jessica Nabongo. “But I ended up finishing on my dad’s birthday. He died two days after my 19th birthday, so it was nice to be able to get him involved in that way.”
The travel influencer has thus joined the very closed club of people who have achieved this feat. A little extra: she is the first black woman to have documented it. Indeed, the woman who has dual Ugandan and American nationality has written a book, named after her blog ‘Book The Catch Me If You Can’, covering her adventures in 100 of the 195 countries visited. A pride for her. “We’re so used to seeing the world through the lens of white men.”, she says, explaining that she used her own photos to illustrate the book. “And that is different. There is obviously a uniqueness to the experiences we have, because we exist in the world, as very different people.”
What about CO2 emissions?
But if it can make you dream, such a world tour represents a significant amount of carbon emissions. In January 2020, the young woman confided in her carbon footprint in the Women Who Travel podcast. “I have not found a solution to offset my carbon emissions“, she admitted. Jessica Nabongo also assured that it was impossible for her not to travel by plane. “I’ve been traveling by plane since I was young, largely because my family lives on two different continents.“
She then continued by assuring that it was rather the airlines to be careful. “There are flights I’ve been on that were only 30% full, you know, and they’re still flying. This is proof that some of these air routes need to be reduced.” And to assert: “We’re fixated on theft right now and we’ll fixate on something else tomorrow, but I think there’s a larger conversation to be had about how capitalism is putting us all at risk and putting the planet at risk. “.
Two years later, has the young woman changed her mind? Now 38, Jessica Nabongo now advocates a completely different style of travel, promoting diversity and sustainability. She claims to have witnessed first-hand the problems facing the planet, ranging from discrimination to waste management in the poorest countries.
In an interview given to National Geographic, she assures that travelers should show humility rather than traveling to distant lands to confirm what they think they already know. It invites us to develop a “inclusive and curious mindset” and encourages support for diversity, “what makes traveling so rewarding in the first place“.”Travel helps show us that we are more alike than we are different.”