My Journey to Every Country in the World
There are two groups of people in the travel space, those who count countries and those who do not. I am in the former group. And I recently completed a journey to visit every country in the world, so I have to keep count! Upon completion, I became the first documented black woman to travel to every country in the world.
I started counting countries a few years back because of my lifelong desire to travel to every country in the world, meaning I needed to keep track of where I have been. I have been traveling internationally since I was a child; I boarded my first transatlantic flight with my family in 1991. We first visited England which was my third country (the US and Canada being the first two), to visit family, on our way to Uganda to visit more family. By the time I graduated high school I had visited eight countries and territories.
My travel intensified between 2009 and 2011. I zigzagged across Europe and traveled to far flung outposts such as Fiji. By the time my 30th birthday rolled around I had visited 46 countries and territories.
How many countries are there?
This is the most common question when I mention my goal to people and it is not always easy to answer. The United Nations has 193 member countries which are those that are recognized by the vast majority of sovereign nations in the world. There are also two non-member observing states – Vatican City and Palestine. Kosovo and Taiwan remain disputed territories that are only considered sovereign nations by some UN member countries. So the easy answer is 195.
What are territories?
Territories are places in the world that do not have sovereignty and still “belong” to the country that colonized them, e.g. Martinique = France, Canary Islands = Spain, the Cayman Islands = United Kingdom and Curaçao = The Netherlands. I have been to 9 territories.
Why visit all the countries in the world?!
This journey that I am on is about breaking stereotypes and experiencing different cultures. When I travel to countries that are “off-the-beaten path” I rarely see any black people, not American, nor African. Because of this, people are often shocked to see me. Part of this goal for me is about normalizing blackness and letting people all over the world know that black people travel as well. Beyond that I am just curious about the world. I always have been. I love learning how we as human beings are more alike than we are different. Even with language barriers you can still laugh with a stranger. You can still learn from a stranger and it is a beautiful feeling.
Countries Visited By Year of First Visit with Links to Proof of Visit
6. The Bahamas
14. Costa Rica
21. Czech Republic
26. Vatican City
43. Saint Lucia
77. San Marino
84. El Salvador
86. Sri Lanka
91. South Africa
100. Antigua and Barbuda
102. Dominican Republic
107. Côte d’Ivoire
113. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
130. Papua New Guinea
131. Solomon Islands
133. Marshall Islands
142. North Korea
146. Saudi Arabia
150. South Sudan
156. Burkina Faso
157. Trinidad and Tobago
170. Cabo Verde
173. Equatorial Guinea
175. Republic of Congo
176. Democratic Republic of Congo
179. Sierra Leone
183. New Zealand
188. South Korea
Entered With Ugandan Passport
Antigua and Barbuda
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Traveled to Solo
Central African Republic
Congo, Republic of
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
São Tomé and Principe
United Arab Emirates
That is a great mission ! As a black woman Who Also love travelling i can relate that we are not that visible in thé travel industry. I have lived in Ivory Coast Which has so Many beauties to offer ( Abidjan , assinie , San Pedro , jacqueville , parc de la comoe, basilique of yamoussokro , korhogo). in your list i have Also visited Nigeria, Likoma Island ( which belongs to Malawi), Israël and Cracow in Poland. You can find all that trips on my ( french) blog dedicated to my travels around thé world : http://www.journaldunpigeonvoyageur.com . Hope it helps ! Ivy
Merci beacoup Ivy!!! Je suis impatient de visiter ces endroits.
#teamcatchmeifyoucan member right here! Have you done Antarctica or the Arctic (Svalbard)? These are more territories than they are countries but should definitely be experienced. I was lucky enough to go through my job as a chef on a expedition ship! That way you will truly have touched all corners of the globe!! Rooting for you all the way!!!
I have not done either of those yet and because they are not countries I am not prioritizing them during the next 14 months, but I certainly do intend to visit them once I am finished with this goal. Thanks so much for your support!!
Hello ! I’m French and currently living in the DRC!
If you come to visit please don’t hesitate to contact me !
DRC is not an easy country for tourism, but there is so much to see ! I think this is the most beautiful country in the world ! All Africa in one country !
Thank you so much. I am really looking forward to visiting DRC. Where in the country are you based?
I live in Kinshasa ! The most incredible and crazy town I’ve ever seen 😆.
Hello! My family is from the Ivory Coast. I was born and live in the USA currently. I can provide a list of places to visit in the Ivory Coast and even help you with accommodations as my aunt owns a hotel in Bassam a popular beach town! Please contact me for further details. I would love to be of assistance for this part of your journey. 🙂
That is awesome! Thank you so much. I will definitely reach out!! Ivory Coast is definitely one of the countries that I am really looking forward to.
I have been following you and you are quite inspiring. I am currently in India and I must say I added Jaipur to my trip because I saw you come there.
Keep on keeping on and hopefully will bump into you soon.
Thank you so much! And I am glad that you added Jaipur to your list! I love it. Hope you enjoy India!!!
This is a beautiful mission, it is in fact my lifetime mission 🙂
l currently live in Burkina Faso, do not hesitate to reach out to me when you are here.
My tips for Burkina would be to go to the Grand Bani mosque in the Sahel region, visit Tiebele Royal Court it is very photogenic, a bit overrated and a bit rundown, but they need our support, so you should definitely go. The ladies will tell you all about how they decorate their homes by painting designs on the exterior walls of their houses, using colored mud and chalk. They’ll also tell you what each design means. Ah and don’t wear anything red on the day of your visit t the Royal Court.
You should go to Bobo Dioulasso too, and check the Grand Mosque, the train station, and generally the traditional Sudano-Sahelian architecture. After Bobo, you could go to Banfora, and the Karfiguéla Waterfalls, where you can take a dip in the natural pools. Do not miss Fadebougou domes and my all time favorite Sindou Peaks, there is something mystical about these places.
l am part malian, Mali is a beautiful country, but due to the current security situation it’s becoming less and less easy to travel in-country. lf it’s still possible, l’d suggest to sail the Niger river in Mali. Go to Segou and meet the amazing artisans who continue to produce the most beautiful bogolanfani mudcloth. There was a deadly attack in Bandiagara this week and Timbuktu is not 100% safe but these places are so unique, you can’t miss them. l think you could still go. Mopti, Djenné…The people, the languages, the music…Oh how l miss Mali 🙂
l was born an grew up in lvory Coast, soooo l can help with that too. When in Abidjan, you must definitely go to the Bushman Cafe this place is very unique, they also do B&B now, the restaurant service can be a bit slow…You can visit a couple of nice art places, Fondation Donwahi, La Rotonde des Arts, Galerie Cécile Fakhoury…Outside of Abidjan, there are beach places but l don’t find them unforgettable, specially if you’ve been to places like Colombia, Brazil….And the weather is always unpredictable and grey. Ah you coud go to the Basilique in Yamoussoukro, it’s huge, it’s an imitation of the Vatican holy shrine built by the first president of the country Houphouet Boigny. lf l’m not mistaken it is the world’s largest basilica. He even included himself in one of the stained glasses with Jesus and the apostles this says it all about the first president of Cote-d’lvoire!
Don’t miss the western region, maybe on your way to Guinea, near Man you can go hiking, Mount Toura, Mount Tonkoui and Le Dent de Man.
For Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Malawi, Sao Tome this is my all time favorite, Gabon, Somalia, South Sudan, Lebanon, Myanmar… There is still so much to say, l’ll send you an email!
l’m so happy you are doing this! l’d love to feature you on FlELDS MAG, sending you an email!
Thanks so much for reaching out. This is a ton of information and I will definitely reference it once I am planning these countries thanks for sharing all of the tips. I will await your email. And I will certainly reach out when I make my way to Burkina.
Greetings Jessica! Congrats to you on this amazing travel journey! I too love traveling and began my love for it as a kid being raised in the military.
From your list, I lived in Venezuela for my Master’s research in African diaspora studies as my focus was on African descendants there and the rise at the time (2008) of Black consciousness and Black empowerment in the country. I’d be happy to share a good time to go, the majority Black areas of the country, fun things to do and Black festivals to attend. Please feel free to contact me. Sending well wishes & good luck!
Thanks for your message. I would absolutely love to connect with you on Venezuela and any people you can connect me with on the ground to learn more.
Anytime you want to visit Cape Verde let me know. I am from there but live in boston. I just started my travel journey also. Would love to connect with you.
thanks so much for the offer! I can’t wait to visit Cape Verde!!
Love following your journey! If you go to Sierra Leone you have to spend time at River Number Two Beach arguably the best beach in the country and enjoy fresh lobster on the beach! And also theres a beautiful beach resort at Tokeh beach called The Place, ive heard great things about although i havent been…Sierra Leone is tough but its slowly building up..theyre trying!
thanks so much for the tips, I will add them to my itinerary.
Where can I find a list do the countries you have been to? 🙂
Here it is! https://thecatchmeifyoucan.com/destinations
Let me know when you are planning to go to Venezuela so i can put you in touch with family and some friends. I have been to 46 countries so far and a fellow LSE Destiner so would love to give you a hand when you are in my home country. I am currently in Istanbul if you pass by here again! I also have a goal to visit every country but I am giving myself until retirement to tick off all of them 🙂 Melissa
Thanks so much Melissa! I am hoping to visit Margarita in Venezuela.
Gabon – back in NYC but i lived in gabon for over 10 years …. would highly recommend the Loango Lodge Resort … and Pointe Denis as well as La Lope … and not too much time in LBV …
Thanks so much Ellen! I will add these places to my list.
When you visit the Marshall Islands, try to go further than just the capital atoll Majuro–the outer islands can be harder to travel to because they are not set up for tourism, but they are so worth it, especially if you want to really experience the culture. Arno Atoll is the easiest to get to and has a small hotel!
Thanks for the tip! I have heard a lot about the Marshall Islands and I definitely will try to visit the outer islands if I am able to schedule it properly. Fingers crossed!
I really cannot wait for you to finish this goal so we can all throw a huge party. It’s amazing! I’ve lived in China for 4 years (I’m Ugandan) and for tips for what to do, I’d say whatever suits your fancy there are so many amazing places to see in China. I’d say though that knowing how visa fees pile up some tips from my budgeting self would be, to visit South Korea, there’s an amazing island that is visa-free for most nationals it’s Jeju amazing destination for Korean beauty enthusiasts, and amazing air, Seoul does have the Korean vibe though and is also visa-free ish for American passport holders. Hong Kong and Macau aren’t mentioned as territories for you so if getting into China is hard for you, you could do those as your China trip, as they’re visa-free for most passports. I will say though that recently many American passport holders do get 10 years multiple entry tourist visas when they apply to visit china so it’s worth it applying to get into mainland china. Also it’d be advisable to do Russia and Mongolia when you do China because it’s not too difficult to connect there and is much cheaper from China. Another tip is that for the World Cup this year, Russia is offering a visa-free entry for fans to visit. But it’s also likely that you already have your summer planned out.
Thank you so much Angela for all of the tips! I am definitely going to go to mainland China. I have already been to Hong Kong and loved it, but for me I would never count that as visiting “China” as they are culturally distinctly different. Looking forward to getting through the rest of these countries!
Well done, Jessica. What an inspiration! As for the remaining spots on your list, I spent a summer in Jordan years ago – be sure to visit Jerash and of course Petra. I randomly also visited Syria and the beautiful city of Damascus. I fell in love, especially the ancient market. However, I’m not sure about the security at the moment. For Ecuador, I’m sure you will want to hit the Galapagos Islands, however I really appreciated the cloud forest outside of Quito, and Cotopaxi (an active volcano you can hike around). I’m based in France, although looks like you have ticked it off your list. Let us know when you are in Andorra, it’s nearby! And love you are from tha D. Whaddap doe!?
Thanks so much for your recommendations. I am really looking forward to getting to those countries. Andorra is coming up this summer which is when I will finish the remaining European countries. Haha. I love that there are so many people from Detroit out in the world!
[…] Nabongo, get to know the name, as she is on a mission to become the 1st black woman to travel to all the countries in the world. As of today, she has been to 106 out of 195 countries, and she has 13 months to go to finish this […]
You should definitely visit Trinidad & Tobago for Carnival! Such a fun time, it’ll be well worth it. This is usually is February or March
Hi Emily! That is definitely the plan. I cannot wait!!
Congratulations on your travels and I look forward to seeing more from you.
Just a point of clarification, the following aren’t considered part of north america, that covers US and Canada (especially since historically they belonged to the British). The below islands are part of the West Indies and/or Caribbean
3. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
4. Trinidad and Tobago
Thank you so much for your comments! The Caribbean is actually consider part of North America, as is Central America. There are 23 sovereign countries in North America, not just the United States and Canada.
Hi Jessica I am loving following your journey! For Malawi there are loads of great things to do. Lake Malawi is beautiful- the Cape Maclear area to the south of the lake is a great place to stay. There are huge tea plantations in the south of the country- Satemwa produces great tea and coffee. This is near to Zimbabwe, a busy city in the south and also near to Mount Mulanje. Liwonde National Park is an amazing safari location and is even good for just one nights stay. There is a small area called Dedza about halfway between the lake and the capital where beautiful pottery is made and a great small business where a local guy collects all waste paper from schools and businesses in the capital and recycles it all by hand to make amazing patterned and textured paper that is made into cards and notebooks. I have family that live in the capital Lilongwe and I can’t wait to return to visit them again and to visit more of the country- Malawi is affectionately known as the warm heart of Africa and you truly feel this when you are there x
Sorry not Zimbabwe obviously! (Autocorrect problems) the city is called Zomba x
Hi Isabella, Thanks so much for the Malawi tips. I am super excited to get there in the next few months. And it is bonus that I actually have friends in Malawi as well!
On the Africa list .You forgot to add South Africa , you were here last year . You are indeed halfway there and what amazing achievements so far . Shoutout to the photographer(s) your images are always ,always amazing .
Hello Didimalo! Thank you for your comments. I did not forget South Africa. This is the list of countries that I have remaining to visit! Thanks so much for following my journey.
I told u before when you go to Ecuador in South America goes to esmeraldas at north these place majority population is black ecuadorian they will feel very good to see u, because there are discrimination and you can help to feel proud
Thanks so much! I will definitely try to check it out when I reach Ecuador.
I am such a fan!! I enjoy following you on IG. My husband and I have two kids and we totally relate to your stories of being a black traveler. We are often the only ones in sight. We are currently exploring New Zealand as part of our summer travels. Shout out to Elton for the awesome pictures!!
Thank so much for following along!!
Hi! I’m a British Nigerian living and working in Kuwait. Feel free to contact me if you need any recommendations or even someone to show you around 🙂
Thanks so much Nneka! What are you doing in Kuwait? How long have you been there?
I am Ugandan as well, and I love the fact that your doing this and breaking down all these barriers and you know that the hardest boarder to cross is the US boarder but thank you for showing the world that we are all the same the lines in our head Also thank you for helping Uganda share the glory with the US it’s not everyday that happens
Hi Eric! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! So happy to be able to share my journey!
When you go to China, it is a magnificent and diverse country. Of course, there are the regular tourist sites such as Beijing, the Great Wall, Shanghai, Macau, and Hong Kong, but there is so much more to discover being the largest country in the world. In Beijing there is a large and beautiful plaza with shops and numerous museums and historical buildings, such as the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. In Xian there are the terracotta warriors. There is the Wudang mountains, with majestic temples and the spiritual home of kung fu and tai chi. The Zhangjiajie National Forest Park have unique natural formations that are like no other. In Chengdu there are panda sanctuaries where you can visit pandas. There is also the Grand Canal, a man made canal that is the longest and oldest of its kind. There are the Four Sacred Mountains of China with beautiful Buddhist temples. Wudanlianchi has a mountain with a lake at its peak. Da Hinggan Ling has beautiful and majestic valleys. Hainan has beautiful beaches. Yinxing is the first capital of China and is also worth visiting. Danxia has very colorful mountains that you will se nowhere else. The Helan Mountains have prehistoric carvings. The Tien Shan Mountains and the Himalaya Mountains are among the tallest in the world. The Huangshan Mountains have a unique hiking trail that are attached to the side of the mountain itself. The Gobi Desert is also worth visiting as it contains the western end of the Great Wall of China. The eastern end of the Great Wall known as the Shanhai Pass is where the Great Wall meats the ocean.
Be sure to visit Xinjiang and Tibet, majestic parts of China that are often unseen.
Xinjiang is the Turkic region of China, and has a separate culture of its own, inhabited by the Uyghur peoples. The cities of Kashgar and Urumqi have a feel that is of the Near East, with numerous historical buildings and markets resembling Central Asia and Turkey. Nearby are the Jiaohe Ruins and the Thousand Buddha Caves, also worth visiting. In between Kashgar and Urumqi there are more historic places. North of Urumqi there is Altay, situated by the large crescent shaped Kanas Lake.
In Tibet there is Lhasa, where the Poatala Palace, the former home of the Dalai Lama is located. There is also the Chinese side of Mt. Everest where there are beautiful monasteries.
If you go to China during the winter, be sure to go to Jilin as you will see unique tree formations.
There is simply too much to describe all of China, so I suggest you go to China and experience the wonders yourself!
Wow. So many amazing suggestions. Thank you for taking the time to share them all!
Hi Jessica, I’ve been following your journey on IG and loving all the posts and stories that go along with them. Are you planning to visit territories at some point? If so, check out Bermuda, it’s the oldest British Overseas Territory. It’s where I live, and anytime between end of May – beginning of Sept are the best times to visit. Happy traveling!
Hi Schinel! I do not have any immediate plans to visit every country in the world but should I decide to I will definitely make my way to Bermuda!
I just discovered you and i am simply shocked how hardworking you are! You already are a historymaker and i wish all the best for the journey! I am from Georgia (country) and i hope you come here soon! I’d be glad to meet you too. Trust me this country has just started to mark its name. Fascinating nature and culture, post soviet lifestyle, mouthwatering national food…. i guess i’ll never finish. You will love this country the moment you enter here…because that’s the country that loves you back. We Georgians are looking forward to your visit asap.
Thank you so much Tako! I do not know when I will be in Georgia but I am very excited to visit as I have heard amazing things!
[…] I interviewed Jessica Nabongo, she was just four countries away from being the first documented black woman to have travelled to […]
[…] Attribution: This Article’s feature photo is used from Jessica Nabongo’s blog post on finally travelling to every country in the world. […]
[…] Attribution: This Article’s feature photo is used from Jessica Nabongo’s blog post on finally travelling to every country in the world. […]
Wow Jessica, its amazing journey so far, How many total countries you have visited so far? I am also a travel lover like you and want to visit this whole world. Love to have people like in my journey…Thanks
I have been to every country in the world! They are all listed and numbered above!
Tell me your experience in Pakistan and would you suggest other travellers to visit Pakistan???
I love Pakistan. You can read more about my experience on Instagram by searching #catchmeinpakistan!
You are amazing!! I have read everything I can find that you have written.
I’m wondering if you have time for some quick advice or a recommendation. I’m just beginning the launch of my brand. I do not yet have unlimited time or capability for the world travel I intend.
If I were to have two month long opportunity blocks over the course of the next eight to nine months for documented world travel, is there a particular area you found to be easier to navigate multiple countries on one extended trip?
I’m thinking difficult countries, as Europe would be easier for me to arrange in either short bursts or an extended road trip. I love road trips through varied countryside and I’m also not opposed to one “trip” encompassing multiple, short 2-3 day mini trips worth maybe even hop flights in between.
I was thinking maybe a Silk Road tour of the Stani’s. Is there another area along those lines in Africa you might recommend? Or from your experience does most of Africa deserve lengthy stays in one place to fully appreciate?
Any thoughts would be MUCH appreciated!!!
Thank you so much for your kind words! As far as helping you to do travel planning, this is a service that I offer via my travel agency Jet Black. You can email email@example.com and we can help you plan your next adventure!
Hello did u visited 195 countries? But aren’t they 197? Can u explain a little bit how did u get in does countries bande for turists? A lot of us want to get in does countries but we are not allowed. Maybe do u have any special passaporte?
If you reread the article, I address the number of countries in the world under “how many countries are there?” There are no countries in the world that are closed to tourists and no, I do not have any special passports.
[…] one that I admire and envy. She takes gorgeous photos all over the world and you can read her blog post about when, why and how she traveled to every country. You can follow her adventures on Instagram […]
Wow, 2017-2019 were extremely busy.
Amazing. There aren’t many people who have actually visited every country in the world. That’s a dream 🙂