CULTURE

Jessica Nabongo’s ‘Catch Me If You Can’ Personal Tales and Unreal Adventures

The first black woman to travel to every country in the world flips the script in her memoir, showing that off-the-radar destinations can be just as welcoming, safe, and remarkable as tried-and-true favorites

By Amulya Hiremath, edited by Hamzeh Alfarahneh on 06.14.22

From playing dominoes with men on the streets of Havana, Cuba, to a late-night adventure that involves a border crossing in Guinea Bissau, travel expert, writer, and photographer Jessica Nabongo knows a thing or two about travel. 

Her travel memoir, The Catch Me If You Can: One Woman’s Journey to Every Country in the World, covers popular destinations like Japan — where she learned how to make traditional Takoyaki — to little-known spots like Tuvalu, South Sudan, and even hard-to-access countries like North Korea. Jessica flips the script, showing that off-the-radar destinations can be just as welcoming, safe, and remarkable as tried-and-true favorites.

The Catch Me If You Can book, out on June 14th
The Catch Me If You Can book, out on June 14th
Travel writer, blogger and entrepreneur Jessica Nabongo | Photo Credit: Justin Millhouse
Travel writer, blogger and entrepreneur Jessica Nabongo | Photo Credit: Justin Millhouse

“My goal is to expand people’s understanding of the globe and make it more accessible to everyone,” explains Jessica. “This book is a collection of countries that make my heart smile. I hope my stories make you laugh, cry, and ultimately think differently about the world in which we live.”

Did you know that she’s the only black woman on record to have traveled to every country in the world— including Nauru, the world’s least-visited country? Following suit from her popular blog Catch Me If You Can, the book is a wanderlust dreamer’s manual and a realist guide to the world. But, above all, Jessica’s stories highlight the kindness of strangers, from those who supported her journey on social media to those who have opened up their homes, tables, and hearts to her.

Jessican in Cuba where she played dominoes on the streets of Havana | Credits: Jessica Nabongo/National Geographic Books
Jessican in Cuba where she played dominoes on the streets of Havana | Credits: Jessica Nabongo/National Geographic Books

Born and raised in the US by Ugandan parents, Jessica’s journey, like her travel tales, is inspirational. After finding success with her blog, Jessica also started Jet Black, a boutique luxury travel company that curates group trips to countries in Africa, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

The Catch Me If You Can features stunning original photographs by Jessica | Credits: Jessica Nabongo/National Geographic Books
The Catch Me If You Can features stunning original photographs by Jessica | Credits: Jessica Nabongo/National Geographic Books
Jessica is shifting the narrative on who gets to travel and how | Credits: Jessica Nabongo/National Geographic Books
Jessica is shifting the narrative on who gets to travel and how | Credits: Jessica Nabongo/National Geographic Books

Anecdotes and tips aside, what indeed echoes till the last page is that, whatever corner of the world you might be visiting, it is the people that make it all worthwhile. “The biggest thing I’ve learned is that most people are good. I’ve traveled to 89 countries solo, and I’ve remained completely safe. We have to readjust our thinking to understand most people truly are good,” she said in an interview with AHL.

Grab a copy of  The Catch Me If You Can to learn where Nauru is, plus many other stories. The book hits stands on June 14th. 

Jesica is the only black woman on record to have visited all 195 UN-recognized countries | Credits: Jessica Nabongo/National Geographic Books
Jesica is the only black woman on record to have visited all 195 UN-recognized countries | Credits: Jessica Nabongo/National Geographic Books
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