I am so pleased to introduce you to Woni Spotts, who has been traveling the world with grace and charm. She isn’t big on The Gram, and doesn’t travel for likes. She is doing it for the sheer pleasure of experiencing what each country has to offer.
She has said that she is the first black woman to visit every country in the world, and has documentation to back up her travels. However, Jessica Nabongo, who is currently seeking the same title, has disputed Woni’s claims. There is now a debate in travel circles as to who the title belongs to.I sent Woni questions via e-mail, and all answers are her own.
Before we get into your historic accomplishment, was travel part of your life growing up?
Yes, my parents traveled for entertainment. Travel seemed to always be a part of my life.
When did you take your first international trip?
I traveled as a baby to the Caribbean, South America, and Asia.
Was going to every country in the world your goal when you started traveling? No. My father’s friend produced a documentary with that goal. I was the best choice to accompany him because I had my college funds to cover travel costs and I was in a school program that allowed more freedom.
What did your family think about all of your travels?
My mother was always worried. My father thought it would build character.
What happened with the documentary? The documentary was called “Passing Through 1989” and was filmed from1979-1982. It ran out of money and the crew had other obligations. The producer Nolan, decided to use the footage “as is” but before post production, he became ill. I never knew the fate of the film. He died before the film was released. Some company I don’t know about released it in South Africa.
What year did you start your quest to be the first Black woman to visit every country? I guess you could say 2018. In 2014, I decided to visit the remaining countries that the documentary didn’t visit. I also revisited countries and went to many territories. I had no idea I would be the first.
Sometime in 2018, I heard about a male traveler that was asking if any black person had ever visited every country. I searched the internet and found thecatchmeifyoucan. At this point, I was a few countries away from traveling to every country.
How did you decide the order of countries to visit? Did you conquer a continent at a time? The documentary decided. We visited each continent at a time. In 2014, when I began to travel again, I was all over the map.
What do you do for work? Do you have sponsors for your trips?
I have an eCommerce business. I fund my own travel. I have no sponsors.
Out of all the countries you’ve been to, were there any that you thought, “Oh I could live here”. Yes. Monaco, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Santorini, and many places in the Mediterranean area.
Why didn’t you document your travels on social media? I’m shy. I posted pictures for my family and friends on facebook but I didn’t think anyone else was interested in my travel. I used facebook as a way to share pictures. I did try to join a few facebook travel groups and submit pictures from Antarctica. The pictures were never accepted.
When did you first hear about Jessica Nabong’s quest to be the first Black woman to visit every country? I’m not sure of the month but it was early 2018.
Jessica recently sent a press release to everyone that has written about you, in an effort to discredit your achievement. How did you hear about that press release? Several media outlets contacted me, asking for my response but they also called it a “smear campaign”. Obviously, Jessica Nabongo can’t erase everyone’s travel history during Soviet times. The owners of the travel clubs would lose their ranking because they are older travelers.
What was your reaction to her accusations?
The travel clubs count Soviet and Yugoslavian controlled countries as separate countries. In short travel clubs go by the map not by politics. Jessica Nabongo is a self-proclaimed “geography nerd” so she should know that Latvia’s capital Riga was founded in 1201. Latvia’s history began around 9000 BC. Latvia still existed under Soviet Control.
Jessica Nabongo visited two countries before they changed their names. In February 2019, Macedonia became North Macedonia. In April 2019, Swaziland became Eswatini. Should I request she revisit those countries?
My status with Travelers Century Club reflects that I traveled to every country, every continent, and many territories. Jessica Nabongo’s obsession has driven me to investigate her claims.She claims to be supportive of black women travelers, an authentic travel expert with verified travel.
Jessica Nabongo has never been supportive of me and is now waging a public attack. Jessica’s travel club was founded in 2011. Her travel club does not count passing through the airport(which she did) as a visit and they give a quiz on a few countries, not every country.
Jessica’s club has no authority to check anything. Jessica does not have every country posted on Instagram. No authentic traveler tours in stilettos on cobblestone streets. People just take her word because they are impressed by the number of her followers.
Jessica Nabongo claimed she “researched” if a black woman had ever traveled to every country. Travel clubs informed me that they don’t know the race of their members unless they upload pictures or go to meetings. One club that she cited, denied speaking to her. Her “research” claims are 100% false.
How did you verify your travel accomplishment?
In April 2019, I joined Traveler’s Century Club, organized in 1954, the gold standard for travelers. The company’s list of countries and territories is widely accepted among the travel community. I also validated my claim with a history archivist and encyclopedia submission writers using passport stamps, photos, letters, filming permits, filming locations, receipts, plane tickets, tour companies, certificates, itineraries, and more.
Jessica Nabongo has stated my documentary was fake and Nolan Davis the producer is made up. The documentary is 100% real. IMDB requires a film be released before it’s submitted.
Nolan Davis, the producer of the documentary is real. He was the author of Six Black Horses and well thought of as a journalist and producer. He’s a writer on my father’s album Tongue.
Nolan Davis also served in the United States military.
Who was the first person you told that you had visited every country in the world?
Niva Ruschell. My father’s best friend and now my best friend.
Now that you have visited every country in the world, what’s next?
I planned to continue with my normal life but circumstances force me to pursue interviews until the controversy ends. I will always travel. I am also writing a book. The book will be 1/3 memoir, 1/3 real history, and 1/3 travel guide.
Whatever the outcome, both of these women have achieved something amazing that needs to be celebrated. Let’s hope that this situation can be rectified in a way that brings happiness, honor, and dignity to all involved.
So what do you think? How would you handle this situation?
Do you love buying travel products? I’ve got some dope ones for you! Check out my passport covers, I’ve got six different options, my Black girl note cards and my Black Girl Travel Stickers!
Feel free to follow Woni on Twitter and let us know what you think of her interview in the comments!