Achieving a world first is a big deal, usually accompanied by several column inches and TV coverage, but almost a year after officially becoming the first Black woman to travel to every single country and continent in the world, the name Woni Spotts is still unfamiliar to many of us.
The extraordinary California-born globe-trotter first came on to Melan’s radar a couple of months ago when we read the interview she gave to the wonderful Hey Dip Your Toes In. Her achievement caught all of us by surprise, especially as our attention was on another Black woman who was on a very public mission to achieve this same feat.
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It's not every day we come across stories like that of world traveller, Woni Spotts. ⠀ ⠀ After spending an hour speaking with her last week, we knew we SIMPLY had to share her story.⠀ ⠀ This 55 year old, African American woman may just be THE FIRST black woman to visit every country and continent in the world (her count is 195 countries and 22 territories).⠀ ⠀ Read her fascinating story and our full interview with Woni Spotts (linkinbio).⠀ ⠀ A few days earlier, we had come across press releases claiming that a certain 'Woni Spotts' had recently achieved the goal of being the first black woman to travel to every country in the world.⠀ ⠀ Who was Woni Spotts? We had no clue. Social media barely had any records of her either. She had to be fake. ⠀ ⠀ We were wrong. We too had fallen for the social media trap that suggests if something doesn't exist online then it can't be real.⠀ ⠀ Until recently, Woni was, by choice, literally invisible!⠀ ⠀ We live in a world that judges people based on their looks, popularity and how loud they shout. Social media amplifies all of that. ⠀ ⠀ But is online visibility really a true measure of success and achievement?⠀ ⠀ Our interview with Woni (shout out to Gabby from @packslight who also interviewed her) has received widespread support from the black travel community (thanks @nomadnesstribe. We even now have a few trolls (yay!…not).⠀ ⠀ We are not investigative journalists and we do not approach this from that angle. We simply saw a good story and a woman who isn't social media savvy and was getting bullied online and decided we HAD to get her story out there.⠀ ⠀ Make of it what you will. Ultimately, we believe the black travel community needs more ambassadors. A win for Woni (or anyone) is a win for all of us.⠀ ⠀ Tell us what you think in the comments 👇🏾👇🏾👇🏾👇🏾
The subtle and understated way Spotts took her world-first title is not surprising when we learn more about her, she still doesn’t give much asway. Her love for travel began early. As a child, she often accompanied her parents, who were in the entertainment industry, on international tours. Her love for travel deepened further during her high school years, when she was chosen to host a travel-focused documentary. Starting from the age of 15 (in 1979) up to early 1982, she travelled extensively, eventually setting herself the goal of visiting every country in the world.
In September 2018, Spotts reached her goal of visiting every country and continent in the world and received an official travel certificate from the Traveler’s Century Club on 19 April 2019.
Mindful that when she started her journey, there was no social media to document her every move, she tells us that during the mid-2000s, she toured Monaco, France, and Southern Europe. Between 2014 and 2018, Woni says she visited Germany, Netherlands, Greece, Spain, Italy, Vatican City, Turkey, The UK (England, Scotland, Wales) Ireland, Iceland, Lieichtenstein, Switzerland, Canada, Belize, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru,
Bolivia, Chile, Samoa, Australia, India, Cambodia, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, Tanzania, China, Mongolia and Kazakhastan.
While Spotts’ achievements are gradually being reported in the media, we still don’t know much about her, other than the fact that she has an obvious fondness for the colour white! What did her travels teach her? Where did she encounter the friendliest people?
Read our exclusive interview with Woni Spotts, first Black woman to travel to every single country and continent in the world.
When did you actually set the goal to visit every country?
It was not my intention to visit every country. I hosted a travel documentary that visited many countries when I was a teen. Later, I travelled in search of a new home. Ultimately, I took a personal journey to visit countries I’d never travelled to.
Of all the countries you visited, what’s the most beautiful?
I never compare countries. I always look for beauty wherever I go. Each country has its own features, like great architecture, textured deserts, unique animals, and natural scenes.
Where has the friendliest people?
I almost always smile and usually, people respond positively. There are countries where people don’t seem friendly but I’m there to learn not to pass judgments on their friendliness. People are very friendly in Southern California (my home) and when I see a tourist, I’m happy to take their photo and point them in the right direction.
Give us three examples of incredible people you have met on your travels and why?
I can give you many!! My guides in Iceland, India, UK, China, Mongolia, South Africa, and Bolivia. All were extraordinarily powerful women, passionately and intelligently teaching me about their countries. Some of these women faced daunting challenges just to get an education. Several of them lead tours into extreme environments. All of them left a lasting impression.
How did you fund our travels?
In the beginning, I used college savings. Later I used the proceeds from my company [Woni owns an e-commerce company]. I have travelled over decades so there was plenty of time to fund the visits.
How has your perception of humanity changed, or stayed the same having visited every country and continent?
My perception is always changing. I realized long ago that there are far more similarities than differences, yet the differences continue to overshadow how humans relate to one another.
If you had your way, where in the world would you choose to live?
I love Southern California, but I would also live in the Mediterranean area.
What country would you award the title of best food, and why?
America! The variety is vast and it’s a great place to be a Vegan.
Where do you consider to be home, and why?
I was born in California and it always seems to call me back.
Are your travelling days over?
No, I will always travel.
A Black woman, travelling alone, generally what countries made you feel most welcome, uncomfortable?
I have felt welcomed wherever I’ve travelled. It’s partially due to my deep respect for other cultures and eagerness to explore. People know that I am not judging or comparing. I’m just there to explore the country. I have visited countries that discriminate against women, but I am able to step away from my personal feelings. I visited South Africa during Apartheid which was a painful learning experience that left me enraged. During my travels, I have never been personally discriminated against because of my race. I’m usually with a local guide which adds a layer of protection. There is curiosity directed toward me when I’m in areas that rarely see Black people or tourists.
What’s next for Woni Spotts?
I’m writing a book about my experiences while traveling.
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