Friday, June 17, 2022

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Catch Me If You Can" by Jessica Nabongo

June is often a prime month for travel but I confess, due to COVID concerns and life stuff, my current preferred mode of travel continues to be through books. This makes me particularly happy to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Catch Me If You Can: One Woman's Journey to Every County in the World by Jessica Nabongo. A big, beautifully photographed travelogue from National Geographic Books. 

Publisher's Blurb:

In this inspiring travelogue, celebrated traveler and photographer Jessica Nabongo—the first Black woman on record to visit all 195 countries in the world—shares her journey around the globe with fascinating stories of adventure, culture, travel musts, and human connections.

It was a daunting task, but Jessica Nabongo, the beloved voice behind the popular website The Catch Me if You Can, made it happen, completing her journey to all 195 UN-recognized countries in the world in October 2019. Now, in this one-of-a-kind memoir, she reveals her top 100 destinations from her global adventure.
Beautifully illustrated with many of Nabongo’s own photographs, the book documents her remarkable experiences in each country, including:

  • A harrowing scooter accident in Nauru, the world’s least visited country,
  • Seeing the life and community swarming around the Hazrat Ali Mazar mosque in Afghanistan,
  • Horseback riding and learning to lasso with Black cowboys in Oklahoma,
  • Playing dominoes with men on the streets of Havana,
  • Learning to make traditional takoyaki (octopus balls) from locals in Japan,
  • Dog sledding in Norway and swimming with humpback whales in Tonga,
  • A late night adventure with strangers to cross a border in Guinea Bissau,
  • And sunbathing on the sandy shores of Los Roques in Venezuela.

Along with beloved destinations like Peru and South Africa, you’ll also find tales from far-flung corners and seldom visited destinations, including Tuvalu, North Korea, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Nabongo’s stories are love letters to diversity, beauty, and culture—and most of all, to the people she meets along the way. Throughout, she offers bucket-list experiences for other travel-lovers looking to follow in her footsteps.

National Geographic: (June 14, 2022)
Hardcover: 416 pages

My Review:

Disclaimer: I am only about 1/3 of the way through this big gorgeous book. Mainly because I have been enjoying popping it open and reading about a country or two each night this month. It seems a crime to rush through and not enjoy the experience and what I have read so far, I have very much liked. Having traveled on my own for business throughout Asia especially, and sometimes sticking small weekend trips on in between work visits, I can very much relate to Jessica's experiences traveling as a woman, with the exception of our skin color. It hurts my heart to read that some of her scariest travel experiences happened in the United States, mostly due to her race. She doesn't dwell a lot of these times, but is candid in mentioning them, noting that most of the people known for traveling to every country in the world are white men, and her experiences are very different with both her Blackness and her Africanness, even while being born in Detroit (to Ugandan parents) giving her immigration experiences an added level of frustration at times. That she doesn't let this curb her adventurous spirit and love of learning and experiencing different cultures, is a gift. 

The book takes us through 100 countries in the order she visited them even though Jessica has been to all 195 Un-recognized countries. She picked 100 due to what she considered to be the biggest cultural experiences she had, sometimes being the amount of the country she saw--she's been to Mexico but not all of the regions like Oaxaca and she lived in London for a year but did not get to Scotland or Wales. (Yet.) She says that the 100 hundred countries that made it into the collection are the ones that "make my heart smile." I love that! 

Each country has a write up of her experiences there, gorgeous pictures, and often small blurbs of things you must see, do, or eat while there. I am also appreciating the map with the country outline color blocked as a friend got me playing Wordle (I'm pretty good) and then Worldle where you guess the country from its map outline (I suck horribly!) and I feel it helps me learn my geography just a bit. The book also includes an epilougue, a list of all 195 countries by year visited (1988 through 2019), and finally a bucket list of countries and one special thing to visit or do. 

Maybe the travel bug will bite me again someday, but until then, I am perfectly happy journeying through the world in the pages of books, and The Catch Me If You Can will be a guidebook I am happy to have by my side, living vicariously through Jessica Nabongo. 


Author Notes: Jessica Nabongo is a wanderlust, writer, entrepreneur, public speaker and travel expert. At her core, she is a dreamer looking to craft a life and career that interconnects her passions and talents. She also wants to use her story to educate and inspire others to travel and experience the world around them. A first generation American, Jessica was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan to Ugandan parents. She attended St. John’s University in New York, where she earned her undergraduate degree in English literature. In just a few years after college, she started (and ended) a career in pharmaceutical sales, moved to Japan to teach English, and completed a graduate degree at the London School of Economics. She captured her experiences along the way, honing her photography skills. As her career path changed, Jessica realized that travel, writing and photography continued to show up as vehicles of self expression and were essential parts of her life, leading to the creation of this site, The Catch Me If You Can. In October 2019, Jessica became the first documented Black woman to visit every country in the world.

You can learn more and follow Jessica on her websiteInstagram, and Twitter.


Just a few of the gorgeous photos from the book:

There is food inspiration in The Catch Me If You Can, many of Jessica's tidbits about the countries are food-related like yakitori and takoyaki (octopus balls) in Japan, falafel in Egypt, fried whole fish in Kenya, knafeh (sweet desert) in Palestine, and shkmeruli (fried chicken smothered in cream, milk, ginger, garlic and spicy green adjika) in Georgia,

I didn't make a book-inspired dish today, but I recommend you pull out your International cookbooks and recipes to enjoy while reading!

Note: A review copy of "The Catch Me If You Can" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.  

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


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