Two Adventure Divas set out to be the first black woman to travel to every country in the world. 55-year-old Woni Spotts did it without sharing it on the internet, while Jessica Nabongo is still very much in the throes of her own adventure but closing in on the finish line (visiting country 189 of 195 as I write this) and sharing it online.
Both of these women are deliciously present in every way that counts. Why, then, was there such a ruckus about one doing it unplugged?
If your adventure isn’t documented on the internet,
did it really happen?
In an age where we’re often guilty of believing anything just because it’s on social media, why do we suddenly become so skeptical of even the most joyous things that happen beyond its reach?
Because it’s a first, and a big one in ways that will escape many Adventure Divas not walking in those shoes. To be the first woman to travel the planet alone holds a weight of its own; but to do it alone as a black woman, where culture clashes and racism add a level of peril, makes this an act of daring many might struggle to comprehend.
Where Jessica shares this act as an invitation to engage with her on an armchair adventure, part of a global social media caravan, Woni completes it as a private pilgrimage, decades in the making, leaving many curious about the reasons for that choice.
Why not share it on social media? Woni’s Journey.
Gabby Beckford made it her mission to understand that but was the only person who had reached out to Woni to ask for an interview as she celebrated her landmark trek. What unfolded was an interesting case of “Adventure Diva Interrupted.” she had visited nearly 165 countries while still a teenager. Her family had roots in Los Angeles and a friend of her father cast her to star in a travel-themed TV show called Passing Through. After a few years of travelling non-stop with a production crew documenting the journey, the momentum fizzled out. Woni went to college, started a business and travelled domestically, but 20 years later, in March 2013, she set out to explore the remaining 30 countries. On September 28, 2018, she set foot in the last, making her the first black woman to visit every country and continent in the world.
This year in April, the Traveler’s Century Club verified Woni’s status, but with virtually no online presence (now dipping her toes in on Instagram and Twitter), she is still struggling to prove her claim elsewhere. To date, says she’s presented more than 400 pieces of supporting evidence including passport stamps, photos, letters, receipts, plane tickets, and tour guide company contacts as proof of her claims.
So why more than 40 years with virtually no online presence? In her interview with Woni, Gabby Beckford was able to gain some perspective…
Take time to ▶ read Gabby’s Beckford’s article ◀ where she unravels the intriguing tale of an Adventure Diva with virtually no online footprint and addresses the reality of the biases we have that make this such a valuable moment to consider what it means to “be seen.”
It’s worth checking out Gabby’s other shares on the Matador Network. A college student who says she was “born with a passport in one hand and a journal in the other,” she’s an Adventure Diva herself!
The case for sharing. Jessica’s Journey.
Jessica Nabongo describes herself as a wanderlust, writer, entrepreneur, podcaster, public speaker and travel influencer. She says that she is a dreamer looking to craft a life and career that interconnects her passions and talents and that she wants to use her story to educate and inspire others to travel and experience the world around them.
A first-generation American, born and raised in Detroit, Michigan to Ugandan parents, Jessica had a storied path before deciding to embark on her world tour. While earning her undergraduate degree in English literature, she started a career in pharmaceutical sales, eventually moving to Japan to teach English, and then on to complete a graduate degree at the London School of Economics. As Jessica’s tale unfolded in each new locations, she captured her experiences along the way, honing her photography skills, and an Adventure Diva was born.
Jessica realized that travel, writing and photography continued to show up as vehicles of self-expression and were essential parts of her life, so she wove them into the creation of a website called: The Catch Me If You Can. Jessica uses her blog to share her story and build a community. She also created Jet Black, a boutique luxury travel company that hosts group trips and curates itineraries to countries in Africa, Central and South America, the Caribbean. Her work as a travel writer and entrepreneur has led to speaking opportunities around the world.
Perhaps one of the most compelling arguments for sharing your journey through social media can be made through the way it has helped Jessica finance her adventures. Explaining that you can always find ways to pay for travel, she offers travel tips to help other women find creative ideas for funding their own treks, including those looking to make a career of it. ▶ Take time to immerse yourself here! ◀ Jessica shares a virtual feast from her own journeys and offers practical, detailed and exciting ways of underwriting your next adventure.
Here’s an excerpt from Gabby Beckford’s article on the Matador Network about her interview with Woni Spotts:
IT’S LIKELY THAT all black American women who travel have, at some point, felt that exploring the world is more difficult than it is for other demographics. We are stopped at airports because of our hair, both fetishized and ostracized because of our African features, and there is no lack of stories of other forms of outright racism. And that’s just for being black. As women, our safety is always somewhat compromised, and when we’re navigating the world solo we have to take every precaution when simply calling an Uber, let alone when we face a clash of cultures. It can sometimes feel that travel as a black woman is anything but leisurely. It’s hard to think about how life must have been for a black American woman attempting travel 200 years ago, or even 50 years ago.
So, imagine the significance it would hold to be the first of us to visit every country on the planet. This is what 55-year-old Woni Spotts is claiming to be — the first black woman to travel to every country in the world.
However, to understand Woni Spotts’ story one must gain context of her significance by knowing another black female traveler named Jessica Nabongo or — most notably — @thecatchmeifyoucan on Instagram.
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Welcome to Mongolia 🇲🇳!! Country 189 of 195! Mongolia is the 18th largest country in terms of land mass and is snuggled between Russia and China. With only three million people it is the least densely populated countries in the world. There are more sheep and goats than people here!!! Home to the Genghis Khan, the Mongolian-Manchurian Steppe and the Gobi Desert there is tons to explore. I had the pleasure of exploring the country with @goyotravel who tailor-made my itinerary. They also host group trips so definitely check them out. Head to my stories for all the adventures. Here I am standing in front of two gers/yurts owned by the nomadic family that we stayed with. They move about four times per year based on the weather. No running water but thanks to solar power they’ve got some electricity!! Also spent two hours horse back riding which felt a bit too long. 🤣🤣🤣 Have you been to Mongolia?! #catchmeinmongolia
- How would you answer the question:
“Are you more likely to share the joy of your adventure on social media or be in the moment offline?”
- What would you ask Woni and Jessica if they were sitting beside you at the kitchen table?
- Is there anything you’re inspired to do after reading about their adventures?