“I want to shift people’s mindsets about what a successful life looks like.”
Name: Jessica Nabongo
Occupation: Travel entrepreneur
“My parents—immigrants from Uganda to the United States—created a life without limits for me. I grew up thinking that I could do anything I wanted to do. I first traveled internationally when I was four, and we went on vacation as a family every year.
When I was in college, I visited my school friends in London, Paris, and Madrid without my family, which dissipated any fears I might have had around traveling.
After that, I moved to Japan for a year to teach English; I just packed my bags and went. For nine months after that, I traveled around the world. That’s when I launched my blog, The Catch Me If You Can.”
At the end of that period in 2009, I’d been to 40 or 50 countries. And I was still traveling. So, at age 25, I set the goal to visit every country in the world by age 40. It was just something I wanted to do; I didn’t know “country counting” was a thing. There was no Instagram, and no black travel movement back then.
In February 2017, I learned about a woman who won a world record for traveling around the world the fastest. So, I decided to become the first black woman to travel to every country. And then I just did it.
My luxury boutique travel business Jet Black came about because I suggested to my famous rapper friend that he go to Africa for his birthday. He asked me to plan the trip. I’d done group trips with my friends before, so I knew how to negotiate with hotels and vendors.
Part of Jet Black’s original mission was to promote tourism that supports local economies. I knew charity wasn’t the way to accomplish that—and neither was voluntourism. For my trips, I try to avoid foreign-owned places and make sure I’m using local vendors.
As Jet Black grows, we’re able to help more people. But scaling it is hard; I’m pretty much the only one who can host trips.
The Catch, my ecommerce site, started because people were always complimenting items I wore—my personal style is like a walking passport.
I work with artisans to make things for me, I pay them more than the market rate, and then I sell them to Western audiences at a profit, which means I’m able to give more money back to the artisans on the back end.
Now, I’m working on a book and I’m looking forward to creating more partnerships with brands. I have a Jet Black trip to Jordan coming up, and Colombia as well.
And I’m still traveling. I’m always going to travel, that’s just my MO. In December 2019, I visited five countries.
It’s funny because entrepreneurs leave corporate jobs because we want more freedom, but I’ve never worked harder in my life.
I do what I do because I think it'll be impactful for both my customers and people living in developing countries. I’m a woman who’s passionate about getting the most out of life, and I want to shift people’s mindsets about what a successful life looks like.
In the past 35 years, I've crafted a life that I don’t need a vacation from—mostly. I hope my life will inspire others to create the life they want to live, and live deliberately.”
Korn Ferry empowers ambitious individuals and businesses to Be More Than: Seize opportunities. Embrace new perspectives. Never stop learning. Be ready.