Her last travel which was to Turkey in September 2018, sealed the historic moment she had not initially aimed at, but which had nevertheless become a thing Woni Spotts confidently boasts of today. It was not an exact childhood desire to step foot on the soils of every country of the world but she was sure from those initial trips with her parents as a child, that she would like to one day explore more of the world, with or without anybody else.
Woni Spotts’ achievements are historic and prove that if anybody puts their mind to anything, they can surely achieve it.
She shared her story with Face2Face Africa (F2FA), reliving her motivations to travel the entire world, some wonderful experiences from her travels, her favourite places in the world, the challenges she encountered traveling to new territories and how she financed her trips.
F2FA: What kind of motivations pushed you to continue traveling until you reached the historic target of being the first black woman to have traveled to all the countries of the world?
Between 1979 to 1981/82, I was the host of a documentary that had the goal of visiting every country. The documentary visited over 160 countries but fell short of its goal. The documentary was released as Passing Through 1989. In the early 2000’s I traveled because I was looking for a new country to call home. I spent a lot of time in Southern Europe. In 2014, I decided to visit the remaining countries I had never visited and several territories, as well as revisiting some locations like Spain.
F2FA: In traveling around the world, were there any particular discoveries you made in specific places that still excite you today?
It’s difficult to compare countries because every place is unique. I will say I love the Mediterranean area from a standpoint of beauty, livability, and ease of travel to other countries.
Early in my travels, I had to experience and find a remedy for the dreaded squat toilets located around the world.
It was deeply troubling to see shanty towns littered with trash while visiting Guinea but I was still able to find something unique and beautiful at each destination.
When I visited Monaco, I was amused by the fact that you could easily walk from France, through Monaco to Italy.
In Jordan, I received an interesting offer of marriage from a handsome Bedouin man. He claimed to be rich from stealing artifacts and showed me his digging tools. The offer of marriage included living in a Petra cave.
While touring the Ganges, the air was polluted and the streets were filled to capacity. The traffic moved like a ballet consisting of pigs, cows, horses, monkeys, lazy cats, tired dogs, bikes, scooters, cars, tuk-tuks, trucks, and the funniest part was when a bull stuck his foot into the already congested traffic.
I enjoy personal interactions with animals but while visiting Ananda in the Himalayas, I was shocked that a monkey could turn the knob, open my patio door, and invade the room.
In Iceland, I looked out the window at 3 am and saw two birds mating in the midnight sun behaving like it was dark.
I’ve been amazed and fascinated by mysterious and ancient structures found in Easter Island, Egypt, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, Belize, and others.
In Antarctica, I was touched when Penguins waddled up to greet me (and others) on the shore excursion from the ship.
F2FA: Those are some truly interesting experiences you had and we are glad you could share. It is capital-intensive and demands a lot of resources and commitments to travel. How did you do all that? Were your travels sponsored?
From the onset, the idea wasn’t to visit all the countries; I just wanted to go. As a teen, I financed my personal travel expenses with my college funds. As an adult, however, I financed my travels with the proceeds from my eCommerce business. I have no sponsors or donations for my travels.
How difficult or not has it been to travel to different climates and be met by people of different cultures and how did that work out for you?
I have issues with humidity and I often feel listless.
I am a vegan so I need to navigate around cultures that have animal-based diets. I’m always respectful of other cultures but as an independent woman, I couldn’t help feeling uncomfortable in cultures that restrict women from what I consider basic freedoms.
Is there any specific incident that comes to mind that could help us understand this feeling you speak of?
Yes, in Morocco, 2014, I was forbidden to use the hotel pool while the men were allowed to swim. It was also interesting that the same hotel sent an unwanted belly dancer to my table while I was eating lunch.
In summary, what are some of the interesting things about you that you might never have shared anywhere before and that should be of interest to our vast pan-African and Diasporan communities, especially since it concerns one of their very own?
I have done extensive research over my lifetime on the topic of Africans and the Black experience. I’m always amazed at the heights we are able to reach despite the constant oppression we each, in our own ways, face. Historical awareness is always a weapon against oppression especially when newer generations seem ill equipped to respond effectively. I never want Blacks to feel foreign. People of African descent are the original people on earth and the roots of all civilization.