Is it Safe to Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic? Jessica Nabongo Helps Us Understand

Jessica in Casablanca, Morocco  Photo credit Elton Anderson
Jessica in Casablanca, Morocco Photo credit Elton Anderson

Jessica Nabongo has traveled internationally since the age of 4. By age 6 she traveled to Uganda, her parent’s native country for the first time, and went there multiple times during her childhood. She is the first Black woman who has traveled to every single country in the entire world. When she speaks about travel, we lean in. 

She is like a travel life coach who has a following of nearly 200K on Instagram. She owns Jet Black Luxury Travel Experiences where she and her team curate destinations everywhere with a focus on Africa, Central and South America, and the Caribbean to promote tourism primarily to these regions to help change the narrative and show that many, if not most, countries in the African Diaspora should be at the top of your list for beaches, food, nightlife, mountains, outdoor activities, spas, culture, and history for starters. 

They offer trip hosting with a local guide, an action-packed itinerary that connects explorers with smaller, quaint locally-owned businesses and payment plans. Jet Black offers authentic, very localized experiences with a well-thought itinerary. They deliberately choose area people, local vendors, non-chain restaurants so that travelers have the opportunity to forge authentic connections with local residents. They also plan customized trips for clients to their tastes and preferences. 

This may feel like a really bad record scratch at a dope party but why are we talking about travel during a global pandemic? Because many want to know what the new rules are and we’re here to share. 

Jessica in CotedIvoire
Image via Jessica Nabongo in CotedIvoire

Jessica Speaks

Is it safe to travel internationally during a pandemic?
It is because safety is the highest priority to Jessica that even though other countries are slowly opening up to Americans, she believes, “…we are not being good global citizens to travel to those places…” Only slowing down her global travels because of the pandemic she does not promote international while COVID-19 is present. She considers it “bad behavior”. “As Americans, we need to stay home [because of our number of infections and new cases is so high].” We are not widely welcome right now in the larger global community which is why she is promoting local travel through the lens of rediscovering our own nation. 

Jessica has been to every country on the planet, to continue doing what she loves in this current situation, she is goal-setting to snap a photo in front of every state capitol in all 50 states. With only 14 states to go Jessica was on a road trip during the pandemic – she dedicated three weeks to visit New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, Delaware, and Maryland. Road trips are where it is at for her and when the only Black woman who has traveled to every country advises, we listen.  

Black Women, Fear Not

In her experience, African-Americans can tend to carry a lot more fear when thinking about traveling abroad than many others in the Diaspora. 

Through her social media educational offerings, she receives notes of thanks for encouraging followers who as a result of her sharings may have taken their first solo trip, journeyed outside of the country for the first time – or may have followed their newly found overall feeling of empowerment to go anywhere in the first place. 

Jessica in Tunisia
Image via Jessica Nabongo in Tunisia

A word from Jessica on traveling while Black and accusing a whole country of being racist…

Someone shared with Jessica that a Black man was killed in Greece and someone said to her and narratives like that tend to go viral on socials, that Black folk shouldn’t go to Greece. “Thousands of Black people have traveled to Greece. We have to take negative experiences with a grain of salt”, especially when we do not know the facts around the situation. 

“I’ve traveled to every country in the world, and of course I’ve had some bad experiences. But the fact of the matter is people are racist, not a place. I just haven’t been anywhere in the world where I’ve encountered as many racist people as I have in America. 

So what I hope that Black people get out of my journey is that you can feel free to go anywhere you want to go. Something may happen. It’s more likely that nothing will happen. And even if you know somebody who had a bad experience, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to have a bad experience. It’s super important to travel with positive energy because if not, you’re going to attract all of that negativity.

It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy where you say, ‘I knew that was going to happen’, where it really only happened because you were negative.”

Image via Jessica Nabongo Esfahan, Iran

That Time of the Month Stuff Included Every Time

Jessica travels with everything she needs because she travels for such long periods of time. Feminine products included. If your cycle comes while traveling and you just so happen to not be stocked up, “…the great thing is there are women everywhere in the world. You may not find your favorite brand or they may be thicker than what you’re used to, or the tampons may not have applicators…” but she assures that you can find something anywhere, typically found in pharmacies. She has found that to be true pretty much everywhere. 

Jessica’s 4 Hot Travel Tips for When the Pandemic is Over

  • Bring a VALID Passport.
    Sounds obvi but make sure you physically have your passport. Double and triple check this or else international travel will come to a disappointing halt. Be sure that it’s valid for at least six months, a standard requirement in most countries. On her way to celebrate her birthday in Barbados, her friend discovered that their passport expired that day, and could not go. “It cannot hurt to have a copy of your passport”, in case it gets lost or stolen as well, Jessica advises. 
  • Set up your ride to the hotel beforehand. Jessica firmly believes in minimizing stress by pre-arranging her ride from the airport to her hotel before she arrives. Unless it’s in a place where she knows she can readily get rideshare (which are in a lot of countries). After a long flight and factoring in the time changes, language barriers, you want to land, see your name on a sign and get to your accommodations without any issues.
  • Fight the urge to live behind your camera every single second. In this oversharing age, we have a constant desire to capture everything on camera or on our cell phone because of the social media age of posting. She advises living in the moment, enjoying the trip with your own eyes, not only from behind your camera, 
  • Post to your stories or your feed during downtime, not in real-time. More than trying to show people who aren’t there what you’re doing, post when you’re in the hotel room not doing anything, don’t detract from your actual experience. Take in your new surroundings while you’re there. Be present. Don’t miss moments to post on a story or timeline that will be there long after your trip is over. 

Two Goodies in Her Bag Now

La Mer’s The Concentrate starting at $200 This no-nonsense serum packs a potent barrier for skin that’s stronger, more stable and visibly soothed with Concentrated Miracle Broth™—a super-potent form of La Mer’s powerhouse elixir—helps reduce the appearance of visible signs of inflammation and helps visibly calm skin. 

This summer she fell in love with Shiseido’s Ultimate Sun Protector Lotion with SPF 50+. It’s for face and body. It’s light and she’s been using it as a moisturizer on her face. She likes the texture and that it doesn’t leave a residue on her skin, and it smells oh so good. The most luxurious $49 you will spend on sunscreen. 

The more we know. Stay up-to-date with CDC travel notices here

Who knows when this pandemic will end. In the meantime stay inspired by Jessica on her road trip mission and surprise, delight, and plan your own by following her on Instagram



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