Q&A with World Traveler Lee Abbamonte
Lee Abbamonte is the youngest American to visit every country in the world. He has appeared on NBC, CNN, ESPN, GBTV, Fox News, Jetset Social and have been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Bloomberg, Smart Money, Slate, OK! Magazine, Peter Greenberg radio and many others.
He has visited 306 countries and is on pace to become the youngest person to visit all 321 countries and territories in the world per the Travelers Century Club list of countries.
Embark founder and owner Donovan Pacholl arranged Lee’s climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, and we recently caught up with him for a little Q&A while he was in Norway.
For more on Lee and his ongoing adventures, see LeeAbbamonte.com.
This is quite an adventure you’re on; how did you get the idea for it, and what is it about you and your life that makes all this possible?
The idea to travel and go to every country in the world was essentially hatched by accident. I never intended to travel this much and certainly never had any real intentions of going everywhere. But as I traveled more and more it became more of a possibility and eventually I had done it. The thing that has made it possible is that I always just did it. I always just went on trips if I wanted to. I made the time, I didn’t wait for my two weeks vacation. I did what I had to do work wise to be able to do what I really wanted to do.
What is your definition of “adventure,” and why is it appealing to you? Give us a recent example of this from your travels.
Adventure is doing anything that makes you uncomfortable and gives you a true feeling of exhilaration when you’ve completed the task. Adventure is all I know. I love the feeling of the unknown, the challenge of doing something others can’t or won’t, and I just love doing things. A recent example was going to Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific. It’s a very small island with only 50 people living there and takes several days of travel to get there and back. An amazing experience and taxing mentally, physically and emotionally but an amazing feeling of accomplishment having done it.
You said, “There is nothing really comparable to Bhutan in many ways.” Tell us more about that, and why you think a person should pony up that daily fee to visit Bhutan.
Bhutan is unique in that it is a fully Buddhist country; it is one of the cleanest and purest countries on Earth; and of course that fee you mentioned. The fee is minimal if you really think about it because it includes your tour, hotel and food. If you priced that out for any decent hotel almost anywhere plus the rest, it would be much more per day. Bhutan is worth a splurge and worth the time getting there. It is a truly unique spot with amazing natural beauty and some amazing Buddhist temples including the Tigers Nest. That is one of my favorite places to visit in the world.
You also said Africa is your favorite continent and Kilimanjaro your favorite place in Africa; why is each of those true?
I love Africa because of the pureness of it. It is real. It is exciting. You never know what is going to happen in any given day but you know it’ll be exciting. Africa also has the most gorgeous vistas in the world. The wide open spaces are mind blowing and of course the safari parks are amazing too. Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is still to this day, the proudest moment of my life. I will always remember my trip up with my friend Jake. The views and the sense of accomplishment are second to none and tough to explain. Everyone should climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.
What are you going to do after you’ve visited all 321 countries and territories? Are you saving one in particular for last?
No real plans for after I finish the list other than keep traveling back to places I love to visit. I do this now as well but I won’t have some lingering little places over my head. As for the last place. I don’t have anywhere in particular picked out. Unfortunately, it is kind of out of my hands with a few of the places. Some need military permits to visit and those are only given on certain stipulations beyond my control. So I will see and figure it out as I go along. But have no fear, I’ll get there!
(photo credit: LeeAbbamonte.com)