The Powerful Lessons She Learned From Visiting Every Single Country, With Jessica Nabongo (Episode 59)

Melyssa Griffin

35 min

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I’m a former high school teacher turned entrepreneur who loves few things more than a good hug, hopping on a flight to anywhere, and teaching people like you how to live an abundant and limitless life.

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If you could travel to every single country in the world, would you? 

For Jessica Nabongo, the desire to do so came from one single thought; that she had never done anything unique

If you’re unfamiliar with Jessica’s story, she’s a Detroit-born Ugandan-American who is on a mission to make the online travel space more inclusive. In addition to sharing her travels online, she’s also the founder of Jet Black, a boutique luxury travel firm, and The Catch, which features physical goods that Jessica acquired during her global adventures. 

Jessica became the first black woman to ever visit every country in the world in 2018 (89 of which she traveled to alone!), and what she learned along the way are some of the most beautiful lessons. 

This conversation inspired me so much, and I had so many questions that Jessica so brilliantly answered. Like, how did it feel as a single woman? And why is it particularly significant that she did it as the first black woman in history? Don’t you worry, we get into ALL of that in today’s episode! 

As you’ll discover in today’s conversation, Jessica believes in spreading cultural awareness and in helping people to think more positively about other cultures and people you may encounter. 

Her limitless outlook on the world and the wisdom she shares with us is such a gift. If you want to live a more unstoppable, adventurous, and positive life, then this episode is for you.

Listen to the episode below:


This episode discusses topics like…

  • How Jessica helps others view the world differently
  • The reason she was looking for moreand something unique to dedicate her life to
  • What guides the decisions Jessica makes each day in her life
  • The significance of being the first black woman to visit all countries
  • Honest conversations and choosing authenticity
  • The big takeaways that Jessica has learned from all of her travels
  • Why gratitude is important in feeling the power of positivity
  • Steps to begin letting go of the fear so that you can live your best life 

By the way, I created an entirely free, 5-day at-home digital retreat called Limitless Entrepreneur. It’s all about creating a new income stream in less than a week, as well as reprogramming the beliefs that are keeping you from a no-limits business and life. Click the image below to sign up, it’s free!

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Did this episode help you expand what’s possible for your life or business? Do you think your social media followers may learn something, too? I’d be forever grateful if you shared it on social media. 🙂 If you do, tag @melyssa_griffin and @limitlesslifepodcast so I can repost you! Woohoo!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode. Are you craving a unique adventure in your life? What does that look like for you?

Thank you SO much for being here, sweet friend. I’m honored to walk this journey with you. See you in the next episode!

xoxo
Melyssa

Read the Episode Transcript Here

Melyssa
You know, when you connect with someone, you just get each other right off the bat. That’s how I felt while I was chatting with Jessica and as a travel lover myself, I was super eager to chat with her and just learn more about her travels. Like what did she learn from visiting every country on the planet? And how did it feel as a single woman? And why is it particularly significant that she did it as the first black woman in history? Don’t worry, we get into all of that in today’s episode, but first in case you’re unfamiliar with Jessica’s story, she’s a Detroit born Ugandan American who is on a mission to make the online travel space more inclusive. And in addition to sharing her travels online, she’s also the founder of jet black, which is a boutique luxury travel firm, and the catch which features physical goods that Jessica acquired during her global adventures. Now, as you’ll discover in today’s conversation, she is a firm believer and spreading cultural awareness and in helping people to think more positively about them. other cultures and people that they may encounter out there in the world. And we had a great back and forth discussion in this episode. So I’m just really excited for you to listen, I think you’re gonna really enjoy our conversation. And this woman as a lot of wisdom, I feel like we had some very similar perspectives on things. I feel like we just got each other. So I just seriously appreciate her limitless outlook on the world. And if you want to live a more unstoppable, adventurous and positive life, then this episode is for you, too. Let’s dive in.

Hey, Jessica, welcome to the show.

Jessica
Thanks so much for having me. I’m really excited.

Melyssa
Me too. I just find you so fascinating. So being somebody who also likes travel. I mean, I’m trying to get on your level, maybe one day, but I’m just really fascinated about your story and why you came to the decision that you wanted to travel to every country in the first place. So what was that moment You decided to do that. And why’d you choose that?

Jessica
Yeah. So honestly, I think since my early 20s, I wanted to visit every country in the world. And it was something I always said, by my 14th birthday, I’ll visit every country in the world, like that was sort of a thing in my head. And in February 2017, I was in Bali, and I was there with a friend. And we were just chatting sort of like reviewing life. And I was going through all of the things that I did professional accomplishments and things like that. And I just wasn’t really satisfied. And at this point, I had started my own business jetlag, which is my travel agency, and it was going well, but I didn’t know if I was like fully in for it, you know. And around that time, I had read about an American woman named Cassie J. Cole, who received the Guinness record for visiting every country the fastest. And so and at the time, she was Eventually, she said she was the first one on record to visit every country in the world. But when it first came out, she was said that she was the first woman. So I started doing all this research because I didn’t know about the counting country community, which is a thing. And so I found myself in this rabbit hole, like, Whoa, like, there’s Guinness records, and just all of these different things. And in that research, I found that no black woman had ever visited every country in the world. There’s one black man who has flowers, matory, and that was it. And so and at that time, less than 150 people in history have had ever done this.

Melyssa
That was insane. By the way, when I read that, I was like, wow,

Jessica
yeah, like, Huh, I want to I didn’t I don’t think I understood the magnitude of it. Now I do. And so yeah, so then at that point, I decided, well, I want to be the first black woman should do this. And as a matter of fact, let me just do it by my 36th. Because I knew a lot of other black women in the travel space, and there were definitely at least three I knew that were in front of me like way in front of me. So I never mentioned it, because I was traveling a lot anyway. And so I just continued to travel and no one thought anything of it. And then finally, because I was getting a lot of press before this anyway, just for like travel, like travel expert things. And so finally in March 2018, I actually said publicly, like, this was my goal. So yeah, so my goal was to finish on my 35th birthday. So I basically pulled up my lifelong goal by five years, and I missed it lightly, but I finished five months after my 35th birthday, and I actually ended up finishing on my dad’s birthday

Melyssa
No way, was that planned?

Jessica
Yeah, it was plan so my dad passed in 2003 and him and my mom or, of course instrumental in bringing travel into my life. Because by the time I graduated high school, I’d been in seven countries and one territory. And you know, that was thanks to my parents. And so it felt like a way to sort of bring him or tying him into the journey. Um, when I realized I couldn’t do it by my 35th without dying. I was like, Oh, my boys move out. Lawrence over.

Melyssa
That’s really cool. That gave me chills, actually, when you’re talking about finishing on his birthday. That’s just a really special way to wrap it up. I’m curious. Now, you said that your parents really instilled that love of travel inside of you from a young age, from visiting different countries when you were so young. And then now in your 30s, visiting every country? Are you looking at the world in a different way than you were then? Because you’ve visited so many more places?

Jessica
Oh, that’s really interesting. I actually think I look at it kind of similarly, because I think as a child, you don’t have much context, right. So I’m 13 going to the Bahamas or Jamaica, I don’t really have thoughts about what Jamaica or the Bahamas is gonna be like, I’m just like, okay, family trip, whatever. Whereas the all you can eat buffet. And so, you know, I went into it without expectation. And that’s pretty much still how I travel. I don’t go in with expectation. Someone was just asking me about Saudi Arabia yesterday and asked me what did I think it was gonna be like? And I’m like, Well, actually, I felt like I had no clue. But for me, I was going into it thinking I have no idea what this is going to be like. And it’s the same with places like Yemen and Afghanistan and North Korea. Those are the places people asked me about a lot. And so I think, from that perspective, I’ve remained as open minded now as I was as a child, I think maybe now my open mindedness is much more conscious. Whereas as a child, it isn’t. But yeah, I think I’m actually kind of disappointed. Learn in some way.

Melyssa
I love that it’s almost like a visiting every country sort of brought back that child like that purity, the way that you look at the world is from just this very pure loving place.

Jessica
Definitely. Absolutely. That’s beautiful.

Melyssa
And what also struck me about how you decided to do this whole thing, this whole trip in the first place was you were doing a review of your year and your goals with your friend. Do you do that often?

Jessica
No, this was sort of it’s funny because my friend like we talked about it met like a year or two later. And she was like it was because I found I wanted Oprah to interview me and my friend was like, why would Oprah interview you know, I don’t know. I’ll figure something out. And I think what it was, was that I was like, well, I’ve never done anything unique. You know, like I had a great professional career, working at the number one pharmaceutical company getting promoted two times in two years, and I was actually up for another promotion when I quit. You know, I taught English in Japan, I did my master’s degree at the London School of Economics and finished with great marks. I worked for the UN, I worked for an NGO. And then I consulted with USA ID. And so, you know, if a lot of people look at that life, they’re like, this is valid. I’m proud of my business. It was written up in boards and all of these things. But I said, well, anybody can do, surely. And so that’s how I sort of decided I wanted to do something that was unique. But no, I don’t think I typically sit down and review my life goals with my friends, in particular, because I don’t value career that much. So when people say, Where do you want to be in five years or 10 years? I’m like, I literally don’t know where I will be in one year. So I can’t answer that because I don’t have like these career markers or anything like that to sort of guide my life in that way. So it’s definitely not something that I do very often. I’m,

Melyssa
I’m really interested about that now. So Without the like, here’s where I need to be in one year, what guides the decisions that you make?

Jessica
That’s a good question. A lot of it is what I want to do and feel like doing honestly. And I say that jokingly, but it’s true. Because what I’ve realized through all of my life is the most important thing to me is my freedom. And that is location independence. I always want to be wherever I want to be when I want to be there. It’s control of my time, like I set the time when I’m going to do everything. Obviously, when I do speaking engagements or something like that. It’s a bit different, but it’s still a choice, you know, so I just decided I wanted to be very deliberate with how I live my life. And that’s really what guides me. And then I think there’s like the ethical part of me that certainly is a capitalist in many ways, because I own multiple businesses, but the other part of me that believes in like so So sometimes I’ll say, well, maybe this is too expensive. Maybe we shouldn’t price it like that. And people on my team have to be like, you can sell it for more money. But I’m like, Oh, I don’t know if I want to sell it for more, you know, because that’s like my internal guidance, my own personal ethics, where I’m like, well, but I could do it for that, you know. So I really just think I’m guided by Yeah, like some internal ethical compass, as well as my desire to always want to only do things that I want to be doing. So I think what that means is, could my businesses be more successful? Absolutely. But sometimes I don’t want to do what it would take to make, you know, $5 million, because like, money isn’t a marker for me. And so for me, it’s like, well, I’m happy with it where it is. Am I prepared to do what it will take to take it to the next level? Maybe not today? Maybe not in six months? So that’s what guides me a lot, huh?

Melyssa
Well, I first of all agree with me. Everything that you said, and I really love the way that you explain that. And I like that you’re bringing up the money conversation too, because I think a lot of people, especially in the business world, the goal is like more and more money, more and more followers more and more clients. And it’s like, well, your life is gonna change. If you have a $5 million company versus a $500,000 company, for example, like so much will change, you’ll have more people to manage more to do and what it would take to get it there is like, do you want that lifestyle? And so I love that you brought that up?

Jessica
Yeah, exactly. And I think, you know, we talked about more money, more followers to what ends so like, what is the ultimate end goal? to just continue to get more followers and to continue to get more money for me, I just, I personally there is no value in that for me. So the end goal for me that I think about probably on a daily basis is what makes me feel good, what makes me happy. What will give me the money and time to spend time With my friends and family, and you know, be able to cover the costs where I can, those are the sorts of things that I think about Because ultimately, I want to life where I’m spending time with my own forms community. And like as my family, friends, that is what drives me and everything that I do to create time and space to spend with the people that I love the most. So what can I do in my daily life to continue to do that? Now, as far as business, what are my goals? My goals are to change the narrative about a lot of countries in the world, a lot of countries that people look at negatively. My goal is to change the narrative. And my goal is really to inspire people to create the life they want to live and to live deliberately. I think that and I obviously been in this place, but you know, we do so many things on autopilot, and I don’t want to live on autopilot. And that’s what really changed my life. And so much of my, the businesses that I run is about getting people to not be on autopilot getting people to think about, you know, if you’re buying a basket, like I have an e commerce, if you’re buying a basket, know where that basket came from know how it’s benefiting the person who made that basket. So thinking about things like that, I don’t just want to do like a mass market product, which I could, you know, make millions of dollars on like, what, whose life? is it changing? How, why? Those are some of the questions that I think about from a business perspective.

Melyssa
Mm hmm. Yeah, that’s brilliant. And you use the word deliberate a couple times. And I really see that in the choices that you make of just how can I live a life that’s deliberate, that’s intentional. that’s by design and choice instead of just what’s been handed to me or what I think I have to do or should do, or what standards I feel like I have to live up to you. It’s like, you can actually choose that everyone can.

Jessica
Yeah, exactly. Plan, I think it’s about awareness. I’m not saying don’t build a $10 million company. I’m just saying, What is your WHY? Mm hmm. And I think when people start asking why for everything in their life, number one, it causes them to pause and think like, Why? Well, why do I want that? And if you can answer that question, you know, move forward, I think, but it’s really about everything. It’s about working out. Why do I want to work out, okay? Why do I want to eat this? Why do I want to eat that? I just think that we have to really be intentional about every single thing. It’s not just about your business goals, or like choosing a partner, choosing friends. It’s like, every decision you make in your life, you have to be intentional about that decision, no matter how small it may seem, because it affects you and it probably affects other people.

Melyssa
Right, right. And when we’re not making decisions from a actual aligned place from our y And we’re doing it then often because we think we have to, or other people want us to, or Yeah, there’s so much that’s layered underneath that. So I appreciate you having that conversation. By also by the way, I remembered when you said that you taught English in Japan. I did that too. Did you do it through jet per chance? No,

Jessica
I was working for EM.

Melyssa
Okay, I remember that went to awesome.

Jessica
I met a lot of people who were with jet Oh,

Melyssa
yeah. Where did you live in Japan?

Jessica
Sushi and she can so like 19 minutes from Kyoto station. Oh, nice. And you

Melyssa
I lived in Originally, I lived in the kita which is like Northern Japan. And we’re very rural rice fields. super beautiful. And then I lived in Tokyo for a year and a half after that. Oh, yeah. Yeah. And I live

Jessica
it.

Melyssa
I know. I do too. I actually had tickets to go to the Olympics in Tokyo in a couple of months, but now it’s postponed to 2021 so I’ll be back soon. I got a brush up on my Japanese though. Yeah. So you’re the first black woman to visit every country? Why is that so significant?

Jessica
So, well, I think, you know, number one, I think people assume a lot of people do it. We’re still around, I think maybe 300 or so there’s no like specific person keeping record, but like in terms of the community, people have been trying to count so probably around 300. So it’s something not many people in the world have done. But people who’ve done it the most is Northern European men, particularly Denmark, Sweden, Norway, for some wasting its Viking heritage, I have no clue. And so and I think at this point, certainly less than 40 women have done it. And the reason I think it’s important for me having done it is number one, because when it comes to the travel industry, which I’ve been working in for many, many years, There’s not a lot of representation, right? Typically what we see is thin, white, happy people. Like that’s pretty much what you see in every marketing campaign for any destination, whether it’s an Africa, whether it’s the Caribbean, whether it’s Europe, that is typically what we see. And so I think by me doing this, a world of possibility opens for a lot of other people. And let me say this, I can reflect on this now, and I can reflect on why it’s important now, but when I was in it, for me, I was just doing a thing that I wanted to do my whole life, you know, I wasn’t doing it thinking, this is gonna be really inspirational to people or people are gonna find this really fascinating. I was just like, I want to do this thing. But as my following began to grow and press began to pick up and people started dming me and emailing. I was seeing the effect But it was having on people, of course, black women and black men, but everybody, you know, I would get messages from people in Europe, from people in Asia. And people just saying, like, wow, there’s so incredible. You’ve inspired me and like, Oh, I just went and got on a whole lot of planes. You know, for me, I’m like, that’s all I did, and then spend all of my money to do it. But the reason I think it’s important is because, number one, people when they see Africans in particular, so I travel on both the Ugandan and American passport. And I hope your listeners see a picture of me somehow. But when people see me they, like assume I’m an African period. It doesn’t if I don’t open my mouth if they never see my passport, that is the default assumption not just that I’m black, but that I’m an African. And so whether I’m using my US passport or my Ugandan passport, I have challenges using both in terms of difficulties with immigration. Even when the US immigration and I’m a born American citizen. And so the reason that I think that primarily It was important because it sort of changes the narrative. And I use my Ugandan passport to go into 48 countries. And even when I could have used my American passport, and I did that so that the immigration officers would think differently, like, oh, here’s a Ugandan passport holder who’s just here for tourism, even though we’re going to question her for 45 minutes, because we don’t believe it. Eventually, they can come to believe it. And it’s annoying because sometimes I even have to say, just google me like it, which is so ridiculous. But it gets to the point where I just am like, I want to get out of the airport and get into my car. And so I think it did change the narrative in a lot of ways. And I think it encouraged a lot of black people in general and Africans specifically to get out and travel more and to have that courage to travel. Which, you know, for me, it’s unfortunate and it makes me sad that people feel like they couldn’t One of the number one questions that I get is which countries are safe for black people? And it is a question that I hate. I absolutely know where it comes from. But it makes me so sad that people have suffered racism so much that they only want to go to places where they feel like there won’t be any racial incident. Like where they can almost guarantee it, which you can’t guarantee it anywhere, quite frankly. And I always tell people, look, I’ve been in every country, the most racist situations I’ve been in are definitely in the United States of America. So you have to just go with an open mind. If you go thinking something’s going to happen, then you’re going to pull that to you. And then you’ll say, Well, I knew it. It’s like No, just going with an open mind. Every time someone acknowledges your race doesn’t mean it’s racism. It’s curiosity, because a lot of people in the world have never interacted with a black person in person like in real life. They just haven’t so they may see black people on TV. But seeing one in front of them can be like shocking for many people shopping is a good word for many people. So I think it’s just important. People seeing images of me with my very dark skin and all over the world. And, you know, making that normalize like making people feel comfortable and just getting them used to seeing black faces all over the world.

Melyssa
Hey, limitless listener. We’ll get back to the show in just a moment. But I wanted to take 20 seconds to invite you to the free at home digital retreat that I created just for you. It’s called limitless entrepreneur and it’s all about helping you to create an abundant, fearless mindset, all while growing your online business. You want to join just visit limitless entrepreneur retreat.com to register. It’s totally free. That’s limitless entrepreneur. retreat.com. All right friend. Back to the show.

Yeah, and I love that because I think regardless of what anybody’s goal or mission is to do, it’s like, if somebody hasn’t done it before, don’t use that as a reason why you shouldn’t do it, use it as an opportunity, why you can actually inspire and help so many people to also do it or just to think in a more possibility minded way about anything that they want to do in their life. like making that choice to visit every country is now probably inspired thousands and thousands of people to get outside of their city and to go to new places and see the world then, especially from a representation standpoint, like thinking about how empowering That is, if more people of color are able to go out and visit different countries and like gain the knowledge of seeing the world and bringing that back and incorporating that into their life like that can change so much. So I think that’s really important. I love how inspiring that is to some people

Jessica
Yeah, I love it. And I think for many people, in particular people who don’t typically see themselves represented anywhere, I think a lot of people feel like they need permission, or they need assurance. So I mean, moving beyond race, I think a lot of people who may hold particular passports I have a friend who has a Yemeni passport, but she travels a lot. And so she shows people like look on a Yemeni passport, I don’t know, maybe she’s been in like 30 countries or something. But that’s a lot, you know, for anyone. And so she’s showing that I have another friend, chubby diaries, he’s very heavy. And he’s showing people who are in larger bodies that hey, you can travel to you can do this, that and the third, and I think you know, I’m so grateful to see all of to be able to see all of these people and I think that’s the beauty of social media is that it really can create community around anything. There’s another guide curb free Corey, he’s in a wheelchair. He got to Antarctica before. You know, like, there’s he’s been to so many countries and it’s like, wow. Now other people who are in wheelchairs will feel like, if Cory did it, then why can’t I do it? You know, so I think a lot of the people who become the first or people who, you know, somehow gain, like more publicity may not have started out to do it to inspire anybody else. They did it because it’s just what they wanted to do. And I think piggybacking on that thought is that everything you do in life, be authentic, you know, because even if you do something that somebody else has done, you haven’t done it. So you can start something new and be authentic as you do it, like some other black woman will visit every country in the world, our journeys will not be the same. And it doesn’t matter that I did it first. Like you can do it and you can do it in a very different way. And it can also inspire the people as long as you’re authentic, and how you do it. And I think that’s it Really important, like, we don’t all need to try to find something that we can do that no one else has done. We can do something that you know we’re passionate about, and do it well. And it can have a powerful impact if you’re authentic at your core about how you go about it. Hmm,

Melyssa
I love that advice. And the word authentic really speaks to me too. What does that look like when you’re thinking about like making an authentic choice and doing something because it’s authentic versus some other reason? What does that look like?

Jessica
I think for me, a lot of it is tunnel vision. It’s not looking left and right. It’s not thinking about who your potential competitors are. Pepsi, still makes Pepsi. Coca Cola still makes Coca Cola you know what I mean? And they make different products and whatever. They try to enter new markets. But I think for me, it really it’s that tunnel vision, and it’s also those conversations that you have with yourself like if you don’t have My business partner, I think it’s honest conversations. And, you know, I also think it’s about being inspired, but not being a copycat. Mm hmm. You know, so it’s like, you can allow yourself to gain inspiration from something, but you have to make sure that you don’t then go out and try to mimic it. Exactly. You have to bring who you are to it. I mean, for me, I think we’re living in such a beautiful time in the age of social media, where I feel like being exactly who you are as being celebrated. It doesn’t matter if you have a million followers, you can have a community of 5000 people, those are 5000 people that are completely in love with who you are. Now, you know, if you’re like pretending to be someone else, and that’s what you’re portraying on Instagram, like, you know, and so, so that’s a completely different story. But I think that you know, just start small and just build and build and build but we are Like the planet is full of 7 billion unique people, even if you are an identical twin, everyone is experiencing the world differently. Everyone who listens to this podcast will experience it differently based on where they are in their life based on every single experience that they’ve had. And that’s a beautiful thing. And there’s so much wisdom in it. So you can’t create a product or business even if it’s your personal brand. You can’t create it from a space of trying to copy what someone else is doing. You never can do that. You will never be that person. You will never be able to do a carbon copy of what they’re doing. It is literally impossible, because that person has had so many life experiences that have brought them to the point of them creating their aesthetic, them creating you know that product, every single thing is unique to that person, even if it’s a big company. There’s different pieces. That are putting everything together to make it happen. You can never mimic that. So I think you have to find your authenticity so that you can create the thing that you are uniquely supposed to be doing.

Melyssa
Amen. I could not agree more. And I love the way that you put that of like how your unique experiences in your life which nobody has ever experienced, even your siblings, your family, people that you might be super close to. They have not experienced the exact carbon copy life that you have experienced. So you’re bringing something fresh and new that the other 7 billion people in the world have never had. So why would you want to water it down by trying to be somebody else? why not bring the fullness of who you are and all those experiences you’ve had? I love that. So I want to talk more about you traveling the world and I’m just curious, like, Are there a couple lessons or takeaways that stand out specifically that maybe even surprised you?

Jessica
Well, The two biggest lessons that I think about a lot is number one, most people are good. I think, you know, we’re living in a time where I wish there was no 24 hour news cycle, where you know, you have a world that’s becoming more conservative, you have governments that are continually trying to pin people against each other based on things like religion, race, gender, economic class, all of these different things. And so you can start to feel very down about things like Oh, these evil companies and all this and but honestly, that’s not the majority of people. The majority of people aren’t misogynist, or racist or homophobic or transphobic or fat folks, that’s not the majority of people on the planet, period. It’s just not. And I think in traveling and meeting strangers and having strangers open their homes, to me having strangers You know, just do very kind acts, being in Japan asking for directions and the person walks you to where you’re trying to get to, you know, all of those little acts of kindness that will never be repaid. You know, I’m a foreigner in these countries, I can never repay these people. And they’re not asking me for tips, even though they may need $1 they would never think of it because it’s just, it’s a kind act. It’s a generous act. And that has made me you know, unafraid to travel. I’m not afraid of people. A lot of people will say, like, I’m naive and like, I don’t prepared and I shouldn’t be like, I should care more about my personal security. And I’m like, but not many bad things have happened to me in my life. When I look back at the last three years. I can’t say like, I’ve had that many bad things happen at the hands of a stranger. So why am I afraid of strangers like you know, it’s the people close to you who can Like hurt you in many ways, if you think about sexual assault, most women are sexually assaulted by people they know. So why are we so preoccupied with the fear of sexual assault when you’re traveling to a foreign place, it’s actually less likely to happen to you being on holiday than it is to happen to you being at home just because of the statistics. And so learning, like learning that are concluding that for my travel, I think as you know, it brings me one. But it’s also something that I keep saying to people, because I think we expect people to do things that are not good. We expect people to do bad things when we should start to expect the good you know, we’re surprised when we are on the receiving end of an act of kindness from a stranger Why are we surprised when we are you know, I think about it as I’m a good person. Why should I assume that you are not a good person that it doesn’t even make sense, you know, for me, and the other lesson, I would say Say that I’ve taken out of it is that we are more similar than we are different. Again, I think the powers that be whomever they are constantly, you know, we have Islamophobia. We want to think of the Muslim as the enemy, the terrorists and all of that we, we have specific thoughts or negative imagery about certain countries and continents, we vilified the poor. We don’t really care about the homeless. But why we are all more similar than we are different. We’re all just people. I don’t care if you’re black, white, purple, yellow, I literally do not care. Of course, I understand like the social dynamics of race, but I don’t care because at the end of the day, you cut me, I bleed, I cut you, you bleed. You want to have enough money to support your children. You want to see your family happy. You want to be in community people like now. I’m home alone for an extended period of time. I want to be with my friends and my family because that is a natural human inclination. You know, solitary confinement is the worst punishment because humans should not be alone. All humans, it’s not like we’re going to confine black people in this way and white people in this way like no solitary confinement will hurt anyone. It doesn’t matter, your race, your language, your your religion, it’s bad for everyone. Because we’re all more similar than we are different. Of course, there’s different culture language, but none of that really matters at the end of the day. And so that’s one thing I think. I hope that people get out of this, because it’s like the lottery of birth. I have over 106 first cousins.

Yeah, many of whom live in Uganda. And well, the vast majority of whom live in Uganda, and I was there in February and I was in my mom’s Village. This is a village with no running water, no electricity. This is like my mom’s siblings are there my first cousins are there? And every time I go home, I’m just like, oh, man, this is so crazy. How did I get the opportunity to be born in America? How is it that my dad met my mom, and that egg sperm situation works out and I was produced, and I had the opportunity to be born in America, when I have at least 100 cousins that were born in Uganda, many into you know, like systemic poverty, abject poverty, and that lottery of birth we can’t take for granted. So who am I? to then say, No, we don’t want immigrants in America. You can’t come through our across our border. Why? I’m just lucky I was born here. So who am I to deny someone else the opportunity What if I was born in Uganda, I would want the opportunity to be able to come the same way my parents got the opportunity So I can never get behind any government that’s trying to ban people from entering their borders. Because it’s literally a lottery of birth. Some people are born into royal families. Some people aren’t, you know, and we It has nothing to do with us. It’s luck.

Melyssa
Right? Right. It’s so fascinating how that even works. And to think it kind of does come from this very entitled place, the immigration debate of like, Well, I was lucky enough to be born where I was born, so I’m not gonna let other people and it just like you said, makes no sense. And let’s see, there’s so much to unpack in what you just said. As per usual, I’m just so entranced with your wisdom and love everything that you have to share. What struck me about the takeaways that you got from visiting every country on planet Earth, is that the things that stood out to you are things that everyone can take away from just walking around the city we live in right now that people are good, and that the things that we put on people, the stereotypes They don’t have to be true that you can actually expect the good and people and they will show it to you. And I just said, so beautiful that it’s not something like you have to go visit every country to discover. You can just open your heart a little bit more, be a little open minded and look around your city. And I love that you said expect the good I like want that tattooed on my forehead. So good. The good, like what would change in your life, for anyone listening? If you went into your day, if you went into the rest of your life expecting the good and instead of looking for where things are not working out the way you want them to? I think your entire life would change.

Jessica
Yeah, and I so one thing that I try to do daily is a gratitude journal. And I don’t always do it, but I always come back when I’m feeling very negative. Because I am like, there are at least five things that I can be grateful for. And I remember sometimes struggling to do about forcing myself to do it. And sometimes it’s like, I don’t I’m grateful that I have two fully functional legs. Hmm, something you can take for granted. You know, you’re thinking about the world is coming down and there is not you have nothing and no one is like, Can you see? Can you hear? Can you taste like those little things? There are people who don’t have that. So I think coming back to gratitude, in your darkest hour is what can help you to begin to climb out of that, or at least that’s what helped me, huh?

Melyssa
Yeah, I actually I was doing a little research on gratitude a couple months ago, and I found this study of people who I think they were depressed, like clinically depressed, and they had three groups. One group had a gratitude journal, and they kept it for like, a couple weeks or a month or something. Other group had no journal and they didn’t do anything. And then the other group, I forget what they did, but the group that didn’t do anything, and they just persisted with their depression, they felt really bad. after it was over. nothing had changed and the people who had just the only change that they made was keeping a gratitude journal and looking at places where their life was going? Well, they actually had this huge improvement in their well being. And it’s just so fascinating, even from a clinically depressed standpoint, and thinking about people who don’t have mental health struggles and how that can impact you, too. Like, there’s so much that gratitude can just change about our entire life because now we’re looking at our life from the abundance and joy of it instead of the limitation and the scarcity. So love that you brought that up, too.

Jessica
Yeah, like that’s it abundance versus scarcity. And that doesn’t just mean like money. Yes, everything like, now I think, yeah, it’s, you know, do you have food in your fridge? It’s all of those little things, just little tiny things that we take for granted every single day. That can bring you back to center. And it has to be obviously specific to your life, but I think it always can bring you back to center and sometimes push you to a positive. Mm hmm. Yeah. I love that.

Melyssa
Well, one thing that you said in your title talk that I really loved. He talks about how you are a big feeler and believer in energy. And kind of like what we were just talking about. But you said that you consciously went into every country with positive energy. And you felt like that made a huge difference even in places that are, quote unquote dangerous or that people think is risky to go to, especially as a female, by yourself. So what does that mean to you go to a country with positive energy?

Jessica
Yeah, so let me just go back a few years. So in 20, December 2012, I was living in Rome, and I quit my job at the UN, because I was just unhappy and I was just like, this, ain’t it? I don’t know where I’m going with this is that it? And my team gave me three books, one how to find fulfilling work to how to stay sane, and three, the keys for success and happiness. And it was that third book that changed my life by Suzy pearl. And that January, I remember I was in the airport in Rome. flying home, I was like checking in at the airport and I was texting a friend and Windows itis. And I booked my flight to go to South America for like six weeks. And I used to have very negative energy. I was not you know, I was a Debbie Downer in many ways. And that book really helped me to see the importance of positive energy because I wasn’t a believer. It’s like when people were talking about the secret like, Oh, just visualize it. And it happened. Okay. I was just I wrote it all off for you. I was like, whatever. And then really changing my mindset and becoming positive and seeing how many things came into my life. I was like, wait, but that’s all it takes. And now that I’m mostly positive, when I start having negative thoughts and feelings, and then it starts spiraling, I literally talk to myself, and I’m like, Jessica, no, we’re not doing this and get it together, which is what I did like several days ago to sort of bring myself back to center, but what it means for me to travel with that positive energy is I feel like it’s a force field of protection. And it’s also a magnet. And so you know, I remember I was leaving all mine. So I was at the airport in Oman, and I was going to Pakistan. And so I’ve traveled to 89 countries solo, Pakistan was a country I was going to solo. And I remember getting in line at the airport, there were only men and I’m like, Oh my god, okay. Because as women, we’re really socialized to feel unsafe in situations where it’s all men. All right, like we’re just like, my little spidey senses are going crazy, not because the situation is unsafe, but because of like how we’ve been socialized. So I get in line and I’m like, Okay, well, so I asked the guy checking in and I’m like, Hey, is it possible for you to give me a roll by myself? Because I just don’t want any issues. Also, Poppy Stein is incredibly concerned. Like a pretty conservative, like Muslim country, and I just didn’t want any situation on the plane for anyone to feel uncomfortable because of me being a woman literally that was it. Because I’ve been to a lot of Muslim countries and so he did it. So you know, whatever, like, I got on the plane and I covered my head and everything. And so I was sitting alone. And it’s funny because every checkpoint in the airport, they’re like, wait, why are you going to pocket now? Why are you going to park and I’m like, I’m just going for tours. And I’m like, whatever. So I get on the plane and it’s fine. A guy like a young boy kind of came and sat not I was on the window. He sat in the aisle for whatever reason. And when I landed, same situation, there’s like, almost no women and I’m like, oh, wow, okay. But then this guy, so I didn’t have a negative thought about it. I was just sort of like, Okay, this is a situation. I don’t want to offend anyone. I kind of want to be on my own. But I’m still pretty like this is gonna be awesome. I’ve seen pictures. Foxconn is beautiful. So this guy comes up to me He saw I was traveling alone. He’s like, what are you doing here? I was like, Oh, I’m here for tourism, whatever, I’m going to Islamabad and my horn. He’s like, Oh, okay. And he’s like, well, if you need anything like, let me give you my number, just you know, and not anything, you know, on tour, it was very kind. So I’m just sitting there waiting for my luggage. He brings me a luggage cart. I’ve been asked for it. And you know, it was sort of like, he just saw me alone and felt like he should take care of me. And what I find really interesting is I feel like people, vilify these countries and in particularly vilify Islam, but I’ve had better experiences in Muslim countries as a woman that I have had in some Christian nations as a woman. And I think the comparison of my experience in India and Pakistan is the most glaring because people travel to India all the time. And as a woman, I felt uncomfortable in India traveling with a man in Pakistan. I never felt uncomfortable as a woman, not one time and I linked up with photographers. Guys, I went to a ton of places with Pakistani men and it was fine. Sure some places people stared at me because they’re like, there’s this black woman. This is out of context. And another thing about positive energy is I always say My stomach is coated with positive energy. I’ve never had food poisoning ever in my life. And I’m reckless.

So I was actually in Lahore, and I saw these like lentils and roti. And I was like, Oh, I want to try that. And the guy. He’s like, don’t eat that, like it would destroy my stomach. You definitely can’t eat and I was like, but other people aren’t eating it. So what makes me different, like so I got it, and I had it and it was delicious. And I was fine. And so you know, I eat a lot of street food, and I never expect it to make me sick because I’ve never been sick before. And even like, in 10 years, I didn’t have diarrhea and I got it at a hotel in Angola. You know, that was Tarzan. But other than that, I you know, wasn’t street food that caused it. So I think it works in all ways. Like, you know, you can’t look at a cup or a plate and say, Oh, I don’t know if I drink this, I’m going to get sick. Because then you’re bringing you’re willing that sickness towards you. For me, I’m just kind of like, Oh, I want to taste it, it’s probably good. Why would it harm me if other people are eating it and it’s not harming them? That’s just the place that I come from. Yeah, like I think that positivity. Again, it’s like expecting the good like, I go out and people invite me into their homes. When I was in Venezuela. My tour guide and his mom invited me to their home, they said they’d never had anyone in their house like a client and they invited me into their home. And I think it really is about positive energy that takes your travel experiences to the next level. Mm hmm.

Melyssa
Yes. I like this a lot too. Because it’s like if you go to a country and you expect people to be mean to you to hurt you to steal from you to be suspicious. All the things that you’re looking for where that’s going to take place, and when you’re looking for something to happen, you probably will find it. When you’re looking for people to good. And you’re showing up with that energy of like, you’re just another human being. You’re my brother from another country or my sister from another city, like we are all connected and doesn’t have to be that I’m expecting the worst. Like, why not just expect the good like even saying, I just love that and what a different experience that would create in our entire lives. Yeah, completely different. So kind of backtracking to our conversation about traveling as a woman you said, I think you said you went to 89 countries as a solo female by yourself. I actually I do love to travel to I lived in Japan in the US and I recently asked my community, like, What questions do you have around traveling by yourself or living abroad alone in a new place or even moving to a new city? And I was so shocked that there are tons of questions from people who just have wanted to travel by themselves or wanted to move to a new place and they’re so terrified about a being a female and traveling alone, and be like what they would even do in a country by themselves or even just going on a vacation by themselves. A lot of people I think, have that fear around doing anything alone, whether it’s like going out to dinner by yourself or traveling on a vacation by yourself. So

Jessica
what are your thoughts on that? Oh, that’s so good. So what I think is interesting is, I wonder if this is because I’m black in America, but I’ve never thought about being unsafe, because I’m a woman. Hmm. Like, I think maybe I think about it more now more because of the narratives that are happening. And even though negative things have happened to me because of my gender, I think as a black person, a lot of times like race came before gender. So I my first solo trip was to Costa Rica in 2009 I had previously like flown over the Atlantic by myself and like got into like London and Paris on my own, but I was meeting friends. And I didn’t have any fear. I wasn’t like, Oh, I’m traveling alone as a woman is this unsafe? I literally never had that fear. But I definitely have a What am I gonna What do I do by myself? Like that was a big thing like, okay, okay, I went to eat that I would like sit in the park and just kind of write and people watch and then I decided to go on like a group trip to right now which is amazing volcano. So there was definitely that like, I don’t really know what to do alone. Now obviously, I’m quite comfortable on my own. And I think for people who are looking to do it, number one, release the fear around gender like I truly do not believe there is any logical reason to be afraid to travel as a woman. I do not believe that. Again, in terms of sexual assault. It’s more likely to happen to you at home because you You’re more likely to be sexually assaulted by someone you know, do bad things happen? Yes, bad things happen. have women been killed on vacation? Yes, they have 10s of millions of women have not been killed when they are on vacation. So I think you know, the way we take positive stories with a grain of salt, we should also take negative stories with a grain of salt because there’s even less of them, you know, I think Be conscious and be, you know, aware and safe. But Please, I’m begging you, everybody listening to this, please release the fear around traveling alone because of your gender. Now, if there’s other things, we can talk through that but for your gender, let it go. Like there’s literally no reason to have that fear. Because I’ve been to you know, and even people think a lot about the concern of going to Muslim countries. And we talked about this on one of my posts on Islamophobia. And I was so happy because so many women jumped in and said, Nope, I’ve had these positive experiences and Muslim countries. Were their negative experiences. Yes, can we find a negative experience and everything we can so I think If you’re looking to sort of get started and you feel uncomfortable, start with taking yourself out to dinner. Start with going to see a movie alone. do little things close to you start with a short little road trip, rent a car, take your car, drive 100 miles, go to a museum by yourself, you know, go to a little concert by yourself. Like, I think if you’re uncomfortable to do it overseas, start at home, that’s the best way you’re going to train yourself to become comfortable. I think people fly alone pretty often and don’t think about it. It’s like you just get on even if you’re going to see someone on the other end. You just get on the plane because you need to go and see someone on the other end. So it’s like take that same casual approach to everything like it’s okay, take a book, you know, sometimes I feel like we need armor when we go out. So if it’s you sitting at dinner with your phone, but fine if that’s what you need as a crutch. I would say take a book, but you know find little things that will make you come find yourself training wheels, right? So find your training wheels that you’re going to need as you start to get out and do things solo and then you build up maybe then you go to the next city over you go to a state by yourself for two nights, you know, and it’s just build slowly build up. So if you have that much fear that you’re terrified, just build up to it, because fear is not real. Literally not real. It’s just your brain playing a trick on you. Mm hmm.

Melyssa
Yes, so true. I like that tip about putting on your training wheels too. I talk a lot about just instead of thinking of the big thing that you want to do, like go on a two week vacation by yourself. It’s like think of the smallest most aligned action you can take like you’re saying, go to the movies, go to a park by yourself, like do something really small and just build the momentum muscle until you get to that point where it feels doable. So I love that. He said, I just adore you. I think I have so much wisdom to share and just I can just feel your your positive radiant energy, you know So, I do have one more question that I want to ask you. And it’s something I’ve

Jessica
been loving this, by the way. So thank you for doing this. I love it. No, yeah, that makes me so happy.

Melyssa
Well, I asked this to all of my guests because it’s really the whole ethos and mission behind this podcast. So what is one piece of advice that you’d give to our listeners on how to live a life with no limits?

Jessica
Whoo, whoo, one piece besides being positive? I think getting rid of fear and that sounds probably difficult. But I think for me, okay, I’ll tell you, there were two situations where I was paralyzed by fear. One, I was in California with my friends. It was like 13 dudes in me and they’re all super fit and we had to walk like, I think it was like a mile or two to get to this cliff to jump off of. So we get there and I’m like, right, I’m like, and they’re like jogging. And I’m like, I’m gonna die great. And I’m like, I’m on jumping off of a cliff. And now you came all the way here and you’re not going to do I was like No, not like that. No, that’s zero interest to me. And finally, they’re like, just do it, do it, do it. So I get up there and I am pair, I’m shaking. I’m like, Oh my gosh, like, I just don’t want to do this. And what I did to talk myself out of it was I said, Hmm, I’m not going to die. And I jumped. Because I think so much of fear and getting on the other side of it is, well, what are what are the worst thing that could happen? Like, let’s write down a list of what are the worst things that can happen if you do said thing? Okay, your business fails. All right? Well, that’s fine. If depending on your investment, I don’t know like there. You just need to really unpack it by saying what’s the worst that could happen? Now, when you do that, start thinking about what is the likelihood that these things could happen, right. And then I think as you start to work through that you’re like, Okay, yeah, no, the chance of that happening is very unlike Oh, yeah, that probably can’t happen. And as you sort of walk yourself through those thoughts, I think you can really get on the other side of fear. I think a lot of my fear is tied to like physical injury. Because the other times that I was paralyzed with fear was in January last year, I’d gone to Canada with a friend of mine, and we went to Alberta, which is absolutely phenomenal. And we were skiing near Lake Louise and Banff National Park. And I didn’t like it was so I hadn’t been seen in a while. So I started on the bunny Hill the day before. The next time I didn’t go on the easiest one because I’ve skied before, but the easiest one there I swear it was like a triple black diamond. Maybe not, but it felt like that to me. So I start to go and I pick up so much momentum that I’m like, I’m a bullet and then finally like I just fall because I’m just so scared of just going that fast on the mountain and my friend is like, Oh my God. What? I’m so scared to get back up, I’m literally crying and shaking on this mountain. And I’m like, there’s no way I’m going to get down from here. Because how, like, they’re not going to just come and get me and I’m like, too far away from the top, too far away from the bottom. And for 15 minutes, my friend was so kind, he said, he was like, on the phone, and we were sitting on the side of this huge mountain and people are flying by. And I again, I had to talk to myself and I’m like, okay, just like what? Because the mind is so strong, it causes feelings, right? And so fear is a thought that causes a feeling that can like paralyze you physically. And I really started thinking like, what Okay, could I break my leg? Yeah, probably not. I had been in a skiing accident before and I came out pretty unscathed. And so I was like, the chances of me dying are like slim to none. There’s just not really highly likely that I’m going to die here on this mountain. Because there’s all these other people who are doing it like as long as my friends. I just talked And so you can like reduce the momentum, like, Okay, and so I finally got up the courage to get up, and I started doing it. And so all I was thinking was okay, turn, turn, turn, turn, and I fell again. And I was like, This is so hard, but I got up faster. And I was like, Alright, just get back up, do it again, turn, turn, turn. And by the time I got to the bottom, I was so okay, that I got up to do it again. But then when I got to the top, I was like, Am I doing that again? I roll the chair, the ski lift back down. But you know, it’s like, what was I think, you know, but you know, it really is you you have to find what will motivate you to get past that fear. And I think for me, it starts with what is the worst that could happen and unpacking from there, and chances are, you’re not going to die. So I think that’s the most important thing that you can’t let that paralyze you.

Melyssa
Such good advice and good stories too. It’s like, like, if you think of the worst that can happen, and then you think of like, if that actually happened, you’d probably be okay. Like, it’s taking a bet on yourself. Even if you did make a choice in your business failed and all these terrible things happened. It’s like, do you bet on you enough that you’d make it out? Okay. I think you probably

Jessica
would. Yeah. And also, if you never try, then you have that like, resentment towards yourself. And that’s not fun, because you’re always going to think, what if I did? Oh, I wish I wish you can’t replay it. A lot of times that there’s an opportunity that passes and there’s no redos. This is like we have one life to live like YOLO as a philosopher Drake says. So it’s like, you know, you you just take that opportunity to take that chance, push past fear because what is on the other side of fear paradise, and it’s magical. It’s magical. You want to get there you are are responsible for getting yourself there.

Melyssa
Yes. You are responsible for getting yourself there. Yes. I love it. Thank you so much. You’re amazing. Where can people go to learn all about you and your story and follow you and all the things?

Jessica
Oh, thank you so much. So you can find me online at the catch me if you can. So YouTube, my website, Instagram, Twitter everywhere the catch me if you can.

Melyssa
Awesome. And I know you have some businesses too.

Jessica
Yes, also. Thank you. So Jet Black is a luxury boutique travel agency. And we specifically we specialize in travel to Africa, Central and South America in the Caribbean. But now we do trips to everywhere because obviously I have knowledge of everywhere. And we do some group trips as well, but we do mostly private trip planning. And then this is the catch calm. So the catch is a lifestyle brand. And it came about because I travel a lot. And people often ask Where did I get my rings or my clothes Like, Oh, I got it in the market here and there. And so the catch came about because of that. And so the items you buy there are typically there’s only one. And there are things that I picked up during my travel and from artisans around the world. And so when I am there, when I’m in the markets, I pay above market rate for the goods, so that you know, they can benefit because a lot of times, like when I was just in Uganda, there weren’t a lot of tourists. And so I bought, I spent a lot of money in the market. And for so many of them, that was only sale that they made that week. And so by giving, you know, by me having a place to sell them on the couch, I’m able to give those artisans in different countries an opportunity. So

Melyssa
that is so cool. And such a good opportunity for you to have an excuse to go shopping in every country. Right? What a brilliant idea. Well, thank you so much. I just really appreciate everything that you’ve shared today.

Jessica
Yeah, thank you so much for having me. This was great.

Melyssa
You just listened to the limitless life podcast. Now don’t worry with new episodes every week, there’s plenty more where that came from. Now make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next one and visit the limitless life podcast.com for the latest. Now, I’ve also created a free five day at home digital retreat that will show you how to create an abundant, fearless mindset. All while growing your online business. Just visit limitless entrepreneur retreat.com to register, it’s totally free. And also if you want to spread the love You’re welcome to share this episode on Instagram so that other people can come and get this info to tag me at Melissa underscore Griffin and at limitless life podcast so that I can give you a big ol virtual hug as a thank you. Alright, that’s all for now. Thank you so much for listening. This is Melyssa Griffin and I’ll see you next time.

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Melyssa Griffin

I believe that an unstoppable mindset can be your #1 business tactic. So, my job is to lead you back to yourself and to help you reprogram the limiting beliefs and patterns that are keeping you small. 

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