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Lee Abbamonte is the youngest American to visit every country in the world. Along the way, he has ducked gunfire in Libya, raced camels along the beach in Kenya, and entered the eternal home of the Dalai Lama. Of all the places he has visited, Bali is one of his favorites, and he has called AYANA the best resort he has ever stayed in. Originally from New York, Lee now calls himself a ‘citizen of the earth’. He spoke to AYANA about what drives him to explore far beyond guide book hit lists
So you are known as ‘The youngest American to visit every country in the world’, how does that feel?
I feel honored for sure. I am doing what I love and it just so happens that the world is taking note about it and recognizing it.
You must have a few passports?
Yes! I have changed my passport 10 times.
How many years did it take you to travel to every country in the world?
It took me about 13 years. The last country I visited was Libya, in August 2011 just months after war had broken out. It was an extraordinary one
as I got mixed up in a shoot-out between Libyan border control and cigarette smugglers from Egypt trying to cross the border at the same time as me. Ironically, it had nothing to do with the war! I ducked down inside the car and the driver put the car into reverse and got us out of the firing line, and we waited for it to ease for about three hours. I then spent three days in Libya and felt completely comfortable the whole time I was there, no issues at all.
How many places have you visited in Indonesia?
I have visited most of the cities from all of the 33 provinces in all five major islands: Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Irian Jaya.
The first place I visited in Indonesia was Batam, via boat from Singapore. Now, I have nearly 15,000 fans from Indonesia on my Facebook page, and most of them also follow my blog.
Is this your first time in Bali?
This is my second time on the island. I was here four years ago and I loved it so much. I adore the people, the beauty of its nature, the beaches, and the culture. That is why I have come back.
What do you think about Indonesian people? Or, to be specific, your fans or readers from Indonesia?
They are very warm and kind. They invite me to come to their hometowns, their villages, which I would love to do someday. It would be very interesting to stay with them, being so close with the local community.
Has it always been your dream, to visit every country in the world?
Not at all, it just happened this way. I did have a target to visit 100 countries, and I had achieved that by the age of 25. And I just kept on going. I love traveling and meeting new people, experiencing different cultures, and I am going to keep doing it.
What about in your own country? Have you visited all the 50 states?
I crossed 49 out of 50. I am only missing Michigan! But I will go there soon to watch a hockey championship. Sports are also one of my interests when I visit new places, other than the culture, food and of course the nature of each place.
Do you always travel alone?
I have some regular travel companions who join me for some trips, but people need not only money, but also time to be able to travel, and they may not always have it. So most of the time, I travel alone. Company is good but can be tricky too. I mean, nothing is worse than being stuck with someone who you are not comfortable with on the road. I had a bad experience once, when a girl I barely knew joined me for a trip. It was not her thing, let’s just put it that way. She found it hard to adjust to new places, kept complaining and was easily annoyed by things that I was already used to or prepared for.
What inspires you to travel?
What gets me started is my passion. But what keeps me going is actually my ‘biggest fear’. Fear of not knowing. Fear of being limited to education,
fear of not knowing the world that you are living in. And though information can now be obtained from anywhere, I feel a different satisfaction if I can see, touch, and am in it. The way to combat my fear is by going places.
What is the biggest influence you get from travelling so much?
I feel that it affects not only my knowledge, but my perspective towards life. I can see and understand why people think the way they think, be it political, cultural or otherwise. I may have different opinions from them but I can always find room in me to understand, by learning about the place where they came from.
How many days in a year do you spend traveling?
It really depends on a lot of things but in general, I can spend from four to eight months away from my home in New York City. I keep writing and posting images to my blog in between places which keeps me busy.
And how do you stay fit on the road?
It is not easy as I do enjoy trying new foods. I try to be disciplined with exercise and I walk a lot too.
Are there any other projects you are working on?
I am doing a TV program; it is called “Top Spot”. It will launch on October 18th on Discovery Network’s Travel Channel. It is a
review of hotels and places I have visited, and the local activities I got to experience.