Nicole Cooper
May 14 · 5 min read

And it’s not about the traveling part.

Image by Woni Spotts

This month it has been confirmed that Woni Spotts, a 55-year-old Los Angeles native, became the first black woman to travel to every single country in the world. She visited 195 recognized nations, all 7 continents, and 22 territories. Platforms like PR Newswire and Yahoo Finance are on the list of large platforms to cover her story, but no interviews with Woni Spotts were made. This news was a big surprise because her achievements have been largely unknown in mainstream news and amongst the avid wanderers in the travel community.

Why was it unknown?

Spotts traveled to every country without documenting her journey on any social media platform for everyone to see. Because of this, many people were very critical and skeptical and didn’t think she was real. Everyone wanted proof. In this “pic or it didn’t happen” and “look at me, I did a thing” generation, some people cannot fathom how something so grand could be true without hardcore evidence on the internet, specifically social media where you can find tons of travel influencers and enthusiasts. When you think about this type of logic, it’s pretty funny that one would think this way considering that social media is FULL of misinformation that is normally presented via images or videos. Also, photoshop exists. Media coverage doesn’t always mean it’s true; we have seen countless examples of this.

We live in the age where we have this new title called an “influencer,” which consists of people who have built their claim to fame and income streams with the help of a loyal audience, endorsements, sponsorships, and GoFundMe accounts, Woni did it 100% offline without the help of the virtual world. It’s the perfect example of “moving in silence.”

Her backstory is actually pretty interesting. She was an actress who has been traveling internationally since she was a child. One thing that I found really impressive is that Woni this journey while being vegan/vegetarian. To that, I say a big kudos to her, because I’ve been on the struggle bus in some countries eating this way. You can find more about her back story on her interviews with Packs Light and Hey Dip Your Toes In.

Image by Woni Spotts

We live in an age where we feel that we have to show the world that we’re living our best lives and that we need a large internet audience in order to have a means of achieving certain goals. It’s not far-fetched for someone to to talk about visiting a city or country because it has many “instagrammable” locations. I can recall reading a tweet where someone said that they didn’t want to visit Cuba because WiFi is unavailable so he couldn’t do a live video on Instagram while vacationing (I kid you not). We can deny it all we want, but there’s no doubt that social media has made us a little vain and turned some of us into fame whores to the point where do things that we don’t really want to do. Even amongst the travel community where people claim to “chase experiences not material possessions,” what some of them leave out is that they’re also chasing the perfect image for the social media. It is what it is.

Anyways…

Woni’s under the radar achievement makes you think about the things that are NOT documented on social media or through mainstream media. I wonder what else is out there. How many people are out there with a special talent, but we don’t know about it because we didn’t see them featured on platforms like People Are Awesome? Maybe there are more extraordinary people in our world than we think. Maybe the world isn’t as bad as the doom and gloom we see 24/7 in the media.

Image by Woni Spotts

I was almost certain that Jessica Nabongo (@thecatchmeifyoucan on Instagram) was going to be the first black woman to complete this task because she documented the journey online and has received a lot of publicity from various media outlets like CNN. I wonder what her new game plan will be now that she has been “caught.” After all of the campaigning and fundraising she has done, she was unable to complete the challenge. Not because of [physical] error or setbacks on her part, but because someone under the radar did it first without a media presence.

No Tea Or Shade

Now I don’t say this to throw shade at Nabongo and as well as other influencers like Global Degree and Drew Binsky others who also want to see every country yet do so with the help of sponsors. They won’t be the first ones to do so, but their future accomplishments will definitely put them in a very exclusive club. I also don’t say this to throw shade at people who have been able to earn a substantial living from social media. We all have bills to do, so earn your money how you see fit (in a preferably legal way I may add).

I say this as a gentle reminder that even in 2019, where everyone, including somebody’s grandparents, has an account on at least one social media platform, it is STILL possible to live your best life 100% offline without telling the cyber world about it. Validation and praise from other people are all great things, but self-praise and lifting yourself up matters more. You can have all the attention and likes in the world and still be unhappy.

Do what makes you happy.

Nicole Cooper

Written by

Sharing my two cents and sometime-y contrarian view on a variety of topics. Twitter & IG @_nicolecoop

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