4 Jet-Setting Black Women Who Have Each Traveled To Over 100 Countries Give Their Best Advice
Jessica Nabongo
Everyone is addicting to seeing the world these days, and passport stamps, exotic locales and Instagram-worthy photos are just a few of the requirements one must have to truly gain a seat at the Black travel movement table. But like any other lifestyle, there are levels to the jetset mindset. The most die-hard travel enthusiasts set big goals for themselves, like visiting over one0hundred countries, and they’re willing to put the miles and time in to get there. On that level is where you will find four amazing Black women whose travels have taken them each to more than 100 different countries around the world…and counting. From Antarctica to Zimbabwe, these women have collected more once-in-a-lifetime experiences (and stamps!) than most travelers could even imagine, making them major wanderlust goals and true travel experts. And trust us, 100 never looked so good. Jessica Nabongo If you don’t already know her name, you better learn it fast. This 34-year-old Detroit native and founder of travel site The Catch Me If You Can, is on a mission to be the first Black woman to visit every country in the world. Jessica is more than halfway to her goal. Since visiting South Africa in November, her 100th country, Jessica has now traveled to 125 UN member countries and her 141st Traveler Century Club country. She estimates that she will hit her final and 193rd country by May 2019. So far on her journey Jessica has gone whale watching in the north of Norway, taken a dip in the Devil’s Pool in Zambia, indulged in her favorite Japanese, Thai and Italian cuisines, discovered peaceful, yet vibrant hidden gems like Suriname and Uzbekistan, and fallen in love with countries like Kenya, Colombia, Indonesia and Cuba over and over again. And to think, she’s just getting started. Best trip planning advice: “Sign up for all of the flight deal websites (i.e. the Flight Deal, Secret Flying, Airfare Spot, etc) and let the flight deals guide where you travel to” Staying safe while solo traveling means: “I trust my instincts, stay at four or five star hotels or Airbnb’s with Superhosts.” Country with the friendliest people: “Nepal. Everyone is super nice and helpful. I asked a taxi driver if I could use his phone and he didn’t even hesitate.” Traveling to 100+ countries has taught you: “That no matter the race, religion, language or location, people are just people and the vast majority of people are good!” Arleta Craig So you thought travel influencers were the only ones about that jetset life? Think again! A Chocolate City native turned 8-year Italian expat, Arleta’s passport has a very big ego, even if the 38-year-old Bennett College alum herself prefers to play it cool. When she’s not working in emergency management as a contractor, Arleta has managed to fill her passport with experiences she’s collected in 119 countries, including stamps from a 5-day road trip in 2016 through Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia and her 100th country, Kosovo. Her travels to Tunisia were a pleasant surprise with its eclectic mix of North African culture and Mediterranean vibe, and where the sincerely friendly Tunisian people often mistook me as one of their own. A self-proclaimed lover of experiences over things, thrilling adventures like walking with gorgeous lions in Zambia and humbling moments like sitting on the snow in Antarctica (her 7th continent) watching the sunset over the mountains of ice, are memories near to Arleta’s heart. Best trip planning advice: “Like many people, I’m short on time off, so I travel fast, often I’m in a country 1-3 days. I wish I had the leisure to visit certain places for weeks, but duty calls. So, to make sure I maximize my trip I often search short itineraries. “1 or 2 days in Sydney,” I pick the things that interest me and do them. This ensures I can tick off all the touristy things I want to see first and still have a little time to roam, explore and relax.” Best tip for traveling light: “I’m not one of the ladies who travels light, I always check a bag. I like to have options and space to bring home local treasures. But to minimize packing too much, I pick 2-3 pairs of shoes and coordinate my outfits based on them. In case of lost or delayed baggage, I always carry a change of clothes, toiletries, makeup, and electronics in my carry on.” Favorite foodie destination: “Thai food is my favorite food and there is no better place to eat it than in Thailand. The food is so fresh and inexpensive. The flavors are amazing and the variety of food is seemingly endless. On my next visit I’m going to take a cooking class so I can bring that culinary magic home!” Traveling to 100+ countries has taught you: “That at our core we are more similar than we are different. We all crave love, a secure place to live and enjoy our families, great food and the freedom to indulge in those things which bring us joy and happiness.” Oneika Raymond What happens when a Toronto native moves across the world to teach, blogs about her travels, finds a German hubby in Hong Kong, quits her job and moves to New York? Ask Oneika and she’ll probably tell you all about it – in between filming her two Travel Channel series of course. The 35-year-old never dreamt that when she left her hometown for global pastures and created her blog Oneika The Traveller, that it would lead her through 107 countries and straight into her dream job, but it did. From exploring underrated landscapes like the Uyuni Salt Flats and Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and eating her way through Thailand, to staying with two nomadic families in a yurt in Mongolia, Piranha fishing in the Amazon and marking the small nation of Andorra as her 100th country last July, Oneika has done it all with no plans on slowing down. Best trip planning advice: Be flexible with your destination and dates of travel. You will save so much money on tickets and accommodation! Favorite countries to repeat: Hong Kong, Brazil, Thailand, France. Country with the friendliest people: “Mexico. The culture is extremely warm and open. I lived there for a year and was welcomed with open arms.” Traveling to 100+ countries has taught you: “That I love traveling solo. There is more than one way to live your life. We are more alike than different.” Davita McKelvey

At 40-years-old, Davita knows a thing or two about living life on your own terms. With her super supportive husband Chad by her side, Oakland native and NYC resident Davita has quit cushy positions in corporate America more than once to travel the world in pursuit of her true purpose. Her solo nomadic adventures have led her to travel faves like Singapore, Vietnam and La Serena in Chile, where she hopes to live one day if she can ever convince Chad to leave New York. This month the Editor-in-Chief at Griots Republic and Co-Owner of BlackTravel.com visited her 100th country when she landed in beautiful Brunei. Though she’s found Jordan to have the friendliest people (she cried all the cute Black girl tears when an elderly shop owner in Aqaba closed his shop to walk her miles to the bus when she was lost), it is Belgrade, Serbia that she finds to be an underrated gem most American travelers overlook despite its beauty and affordability. So what’s next for this Thai food loving nomad? Country 101 of course. Best trip planning advice: If you ever find yourself planning an around the world trip (aka RTW), then make sure to call your favorite airline or utilize sites like Airtreks.com for Around the World Tickets and/or Multi-Stop Flights. Travel in one direction, book your major stops with them, and travel overland to your next destination and you will save thousands and see far more of the places you’re visiting. Three travel must haves: If you ever go through my backpack, you’ll always find three things: rubber door stops, a large lock, and a travel sheet with insect shield. Door stops are just added security for shady locks and/or people with keys. A large lock is good for random lockers or when you need to secure your gear in a rush. A large lock placed correctly could also knock someone out! I’m just saying. As far as the insect shield travel sheets, I’m not a fan of bugs and some of the best hotels in the world have bed bug problems. Favorite bucket list activity or memorable moment: Twelve of my aunts, uncles and cousins decided to join me on a day trip to Yunessun Spa Resort in Hakone, Japan, while we were vacationing in Tokyo. At that time, Yunessun Spa didn’t get many western tourists and they certainly didn’t see Black people regularly, if ever. We were rolling deep though, so every situation from the tattoo ban in the spa to Asian sized robes was complicated. My family, however, can turn any situation into a comedy routine and all of our difficulties was just kindling for the fire. Until that trip, I had never laughed so hard or appreciated my family’s ability to roll with the punches. Traveling to 100+ countries has taught you: “That people will often scare you and make you feel like a country’s politics, religion, or history are reasons to fear traveling there. However, the heart of country is not in its governments or institutions. It’s in the people just trying to live, just trying to feed their families, and just trying to carve a piece of happiness for themselves. Stepping foot on their soil and simply saying, “Hello” in their tongue is the first step to truly connecting to people.”                  


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