Lee Abbamonte: record-breaking traveller
We talk travel with Lee Abbamonte, 'the youngest American to visit every country in the world'.
Why did you want travel to every country in the world?
It was never my intention to travel to every country in the world. I just loved to travel. Just for fun, I had a goal of visiting 100 countries by 30 years old. I achieved that at 26 or so and then just went from there. I was particularly motivated by becoming the youngest person to visit every country in the world.
Where are the top three favourite places you’ve been so far?
This is such a difficult question because I love so many different places and have different reasons for liking different places. All in all, I will say I love Australia, Namibia, the United States and pretty much all Western European countries - those are cliché I know but they’re all pretty great places!
Where are the top three least favourite?
I am often asked this question and my go to answer is generally Nigeria; which immediately triggers hate mail from Nigerians around the world but my bad experiences are well documented on my stay there. As for the other two, that’s a hard one. I don’t necessarily hate anywhere but if I had to pick a couple of others I wouldn’t go back to, I’d probably pick Tuvalu and Guinea-Bissau.
What three items do you never travel without (not including the obvious – passports, plane tickets etc)
A universal power adapter, my laptop and my camera - a small point and shoot.
Do you ever feel that your quest has become a ‘list-ticking’ exercise – and that there are places you’d like to stay longer, but can’t because you’re going for this record?
Yes, I feel like that right now in terms of completing the Travellers Century Club list. There are a few of the remaining 15 places I am excited to visit but some I don’t have much interest in going to at all. I am kind of over visiting remote islands with nobody on them and/or absolutely nothing to do. I feel like I would be better served going back to more places I’ve already been and loved - which I do anyway but some of the remaining destinations are very expensive and time-consuming to get to.
How do you fund your travels?
I have always paid for my travels myself with money I’ve earned working. In the last year, as I have turned my travels into a full-time business I do some media trips where I am sponsored for the trip. I don’t love these and am very picky on which ones I go on.
How many days on average do you spend abroad per year?
It depends on the year but between 3-9 months a year. I know that sounds vague but it really depends on what I’m working on, what’s going on in my personal/family life, etc. I don’t travel as much as I used to because I’ve already been to every country and can afford to be more picky and/or just go where I feel like going
Tell us three things you’ve learn from your travels?
1. People around the world are generally the same…we all love the same things; being happy and laughing; sports; beer; spending time with friends and family, etc.
2. Knowing a few words in the local language can go a long way…basics like hello, good bye, thank you and please score you big points with locals.
3. Knowing a lot about soccer has helped me greatly all over the world in ice-breaking situations and also to break the American stereotype.
All that travelling must be a lot of fun – but what are the downsides to being on the road so much?
The downsides are travel time; too much time in airports; being alone for long periods of time at times; exhaustion; bad diet; crappy food; it’s hard to be on a regular schedule regarding anything like sleep, exercising, work time, etc.
What advice would you give to others who want to spend more time visiting new countries?
My advice would be to do it. It is the best experience you can have and you will learn more about the world and yourself than you ever could in a classroom or at home. Live your life to the fullest - you don’t get any re-runs in life. Save your money and decide what you want to do. You can do anything you put your mind to!
Lee Abbamonte (@LeeAbbamonte) the youngest American to visit every country in the world and is one of the world’s most-traveled people. Lee is a travel writer, travel expert, global adventurer and has appeared on the Travel Channel, BBC, NBC, CNN, ESPN and Fox News. Lee has also been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, Bloomberg, Discovery Channel, Slate, OK! Magazine, Peter Greenberg radio and many others.