First Black Woman to Travel to Every Country on Earth Dishes What It’s Really Like to Travel Abroad

by Xara Aziz
Credit: Instagram @jessicanabongo

A 38-year-old American who has been dubbed the first Black woman to visit every country on Earth says the title sounds glamourous, but it’s been one heck of a journey to get it.

In an interview with Mirror, Jessica Nabongo explained that traveling around the world has been a riveting experience, giving her the chance to meet people from all walks of life. But some moments have been quite terrifying.

“In Paris someone tried to grab my phone and in Rome a taxi driver tried to kiss me,” Nabongo said. “But it was in Miami that a police officer put a gun in my face because they thought I was trying to break into my friend’s house. My parents are immigrants so we don’t have gun culture, so I’d never seen a gun. The first time I saw one it was in my face.”

She said she tried her best to remain calm because she didn’t want to be shot in the face and explained that she was heading to the beach and was in a swimsuit, so it was obvious she was not there to rob anyone.

It was “the most traumatic thing,” she lamented.

She further explained an account in Pakistan when she was accused of being a drug mule.

“They put me in a proper X-ray, a medical one, I was alone, it was 2am, I remember them saying ‘people keep drugs in their stomach.’ When I later went through regular security as well the woman was just groping me. It was so horrifying.”

But all in all, she has “been welcomed in most countries.” It’s the border control that has been where some of the wildest experiences have taken place. Nabongo, born to Ugandan parents in the U.S., said that she carries two passports. When she uses her American passport, border agents think it’s fake and when she uses her Ugandan one, they “think I will overstay my visa.”

On positive experiences, she said she’s had an amazing time in places like Belarus, Moldova, Iran and Uzbekistan.

“In Belarus I went to this really beautiful library and Moldova has the biggest underground wine cellar in the world.”

She added: “Iran and Uzbekistan were so welcoming it was overwhelming. They were so warm. Uzbekistan there was no language in common, but lots of smiles and laughs and hands. People welcomed me into their homes. In Iran I was having these really beautiful conversations about the complexities of being Iranian,” adding that “the global image of their country is only because of their government. Everyone I know whose been has loved it. The people are so warm and welcoming.”

For those who are considering becoming a jetsetter like Nabongo, she gives this nugget of advice.

“My biggest piece of advice is just go. As black people living in the world, we’re made to think ‘how will I be received? What form will racism take in this country?’ I’m very grateful to my parents because I didn’t grow up feeling that way. I don’t go in thinking about my blackness.”

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