- Woni Spotts recently became the world’s most travelled black woman by visiting every country and territory across the globe.
- The 55-year-old African American entrepreneur started her quest as a child travelling with her parents. She completed this incredible journey in 2018.
- She shares her unbelievable story with Business Insider Sub-Saharan Africa including how she funded her trips, her memorable experience and future travel plans.
Woni Spotts was born in 1964 to Roger Hamilton Spotts and Betty Spotts. As an only child, she went along with her late parents on their numerous trips.
They were entertainers who had to travel because of the nature of their work. Roger was a songwriter, composer and accomplished saxophonist while Betty was a professional pianist, singer, songwriter, and dancer.
“I remember many trips to the Caribbean and the Philippines in those early days,” she told a travel blog called Hey! Dip your toes in. “I remember being in Japan and demanding a burger.”
In 1979, she agreed to participate in a documentary that visited every country. This ambitious project titled “Passing Through” was handled by the late journalist, author and screenwriter Nolan Davis, who passed away before the project could be completed or released.
This decision helped her check off more countries on her travel list including Lagos, Nigeria and parts of Eastern Europe.
“Those guys went hard, partying to The Four Tops and others when we travelled in Eastern Europe in the 80s!” she reminisced. “I was little more than a child at the time and don’t recall many details from those trips but I do recall Lagos. It was busy and hot!”
By the time, she was a teenager, she had visited almost 160 countries. Bear in mind that there are 195 countries in the world today, according to Worldometers. It is an online platform that offers real-time statistics on countries, population, government and economics e.t.c.
Spotts took a break after filming stopped. She went to school, went into business and became an entrepreneur. She eventually went back to travelling during the mid-2000s.
In her words, “I realised I was getting older and that if I didn’t go to those places [I hadn’t been], I was never going to go. I was tired of looking at the pyramids in documentaries and so I said, ‘That’s it! I’m going to Egypt. Egypt or bust!'”
During this time, she ticked off some countries in southern Europe from her list. Joining tour groups on ’round the world’ trips and with some help from local guides in countries with no organised tours, she was able to go on expeditions to Antarctica and other remote parts of the world.
Spotts visited her remaining 33 countries between 2014 and 2018. It took her 40 years but she was able to visit all the recognized 195 countries and 22 territories in the world. The 55-year-old achieved this impressive goal in September 2018.
She recently got her certificate from the Travelers’ Century Club (a non-profit organization for people who have visited 100 or more countries and territories) in April 2019.
The world’s most travelled black woman tells Business Insider Sub-Saharan Africa about her trips, what it’s like to travel to the ends of the earth and some of the most peculiar customs she has encountered.
Business Insider Sub-Saharan Africa (BI SSA): When did you get the desire to travel around the world?
Woni Spotts (WS): In 1979, I agreed to participate in a documentary that visited every country. My desire to complete the goal began in the 2000s.
(BI SSA): What is it like to travel across the globe?
(WS): It’s interesting to see the subtle changes in landscapes, cultures, religions, foods, and people as you travel regionally. As the journey broadened the differences became extreme.
(BI SSA): How long did it take to achieve this impressive feat?
(WS): I travelled to every country, continent, and many territories from 1979 to 2018.
(BI SSA): What are your most memorable places and experiences?
(WS): Antarctica and the polar regions are fascinating. I love the “Midnight Sun”. It was incredible to look out of the window at 3 AM and see animals behaving like it’s dark.
(BI SSA): What are your favourite places/foods/culture in the world?
(WS): Antarctica, Polar regions, The Mediterranean, South America’s Patagonia, Wildlife and Desert Landscapes in Africa. I love Indian, Mexican, Thai, Mediterranean, and American cuisines. I enjoy meeting people from every culture.
(BI SSA): What are some of the challenges that you have encountered travelling while visiting new territories?
(WS): Squat Toilets, countries oppressive to women, finding vegan food.
(BI SSA): How did you fund your trips?
(WS): Early on, I used my college funds. Later, I used the money earned from my eCommerce business.
(BI SSA): What are the best and worst things about travelling across the world?
(WS): Worst: I’m unable to speak local languages. I get altitude sickness and jetlag. I miss my normal foods and my own bed. Best: Lookin out over the many landscapes in the world.
(BI SSA): What are some of the preconceived notions you had before travelling and how many of them have changed?
(WS): High technology is often used by people living traditionally. In other words, Nomads use mobile phones.
(BI SSA): What do you always look out for while travelling?
(WS): Depending on where I am I look for Cities, Architecture, Museums, Gardens, Art Installations, Window Shopping, Street Entertainment, Festivals, Events, Religious Structures, Shaman, Animals in Nature, Sand Dunes, Snow, Mountains, Lakes, Beaches, Oceans, Waterfalls, Astronomical and Atmospheric Events, Caves, Landscapes, Tree Tunnels, Seasonal Floral Displays, Gardens, Mazes, Ancient Ruins, Salt pans, Deserts, and Children’s Smiles.
(BI SSA): What are some of the most peculiar customs you have encountered?
(WS): In Morocco, the women have to “cover up” and I could not use the hotel pool but the hotel sent an unwanted belly dancer to my dining table.
(BI SSA): What are your tested and trusted tips for travellers?
(WS): When travelling to unfamiliar places I suggest a “meet and greet” at the airport and a ride to the hotel especially if the language is an issue. It’s wise to have a local guide escort you around until you feel comfortable.
(BI SSA): Tell us about your future travel plans?
(WS): I plan to visit the Lapland in the North Pole.
*The interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.*