Traveling With A Purpose: Jessica Nabongo aka The Catch Me If You Can
Jessica Nabongo isn’t one of those wanderlusts who will demand you quit your day job on the spot and travel. The 34-year-old Ugandan-American is one of the rawest and most authentic travelers on social media which is why her advice is a little more realistic. She’s been to over 142 countries and 9 territories and she’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not easy nor is it cheap. What also sets Jessica apart from the hordes of digital nomads is that she travels with a purpose. She has a clear mission and has been open about it from the beginning of her journey.
That mission is to show that no matter where you’re from all people are the same. Although there are many atrocities happening at the hands of horrific people, traveling has helped her not lose hope in humanity. She has seen how vast this world is and refuses to generalize people based on the actions of a few misguided folks.
Traveling has also taught Jessica that the beautiful world she admires so much is in danger. She shared that growing up in her hometown of Detroit she lived in a bubble of sorts. She didn’t realize the damage that people were doing to the environment because on the surface everything looked great. When asked if there was anything she would like us to promote she didn’t mention her upcoming talk in Brooklyn. Instead, she warned of the dangers of plastic and climate change. She’ll be adding environmentalist to her long resume but is coy about the details.
On her website and YouTube channel, she’s anything but shy about how she sustains her lifestyle. Don’t expect useless tips and an abundance of sponsored posts because Jessica’s content is anything but performative. She left her corporate job at 23 to teach English in Japan.
After her time in Japan, she traveled around the US, the South Pacific, and Central America before landing a job with the United Nations. She moved back to the states when she turned 30 to be closer to her family but couldn’t get the thought of traveling out of her head. A light bulb went off for Jessica after helping a friend plan their honeymoon who told her it was the best trip he had ever taken. She decided to start a travel agency called Jet Black. Currently, she vlogs, writes, hosts a podcast, runs Jet Black, and is a public speaker.
Her experience has made her a role model which is something many influencers don’t handle responsibly. They promote unrealistic goals and are usually living behind a facade. But Jessica shares the reality of travel with her 65,000+ fans. She opened up about the hardships and ignorance she faced while traveling. Like the time she was asked to provide a permanent resident card after showing her passport to a United States customs official while traveling through Amsterdam. She’s also had a tough time during her stay in Benin with her boyfriend. Residents assumed she was a local woman and sex worker because she was living with a white man.
But for every sour moment, there have been 10x more great experiences to make up for it. So many that when I asked Jessica to name her favorite destination she could not. We settled on her top 5 destinations that she’s visited in 2018 which include Suriname, Uzbekistan, Colombia, Bolivia, and Jordan. Every restaurant has been on her dime although she’s been hosted by many wonderful hotels. She’s also had a hand in curating several trips for her self as well as many satisfied clients through Jet Black. When it comes to travel, Ms. Nabongo is someone you can trust.
JESSICA NABONGO has a wide variety of resources for aspiring wanderlusts on her Instagram, website, and YouTube channel. She will also be a guest speaker at a series titled ‘Let’s Talked Travel’ at Kinfolk 90 in Brooklyn on Tuesday, October 30th at 7:30 pm.
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If you are in NYC please join @glographics and I for our meetup in Brooklyn at @kinfolk90! We will be talking all things travel, so if you’re in NYC you don’t want to miss this FREE event. Let me know below if you will be joining us! And tag your NYC-based friends, we don’t want anyone to miss out! #catchmeinnyc