Lee Abbamonte holds a record that any traveler would envy: At the age of 32, he became the youngest American to visit every country in the world. Yet despite the bragging right, he remains down to earth when sharing his advice and adventures through his website and television appearances. I spoke with Lee about trip planning and packing, and where else he’s headed. Here’s what he had to say:
Michele Herrmann: What was your planning strategy for visiting every country on earth?
Lee Abbamonte: I generally planned trips in specific regional areas of the world – West Africa, for instance – and went to several countries in one long trip. This is really the most cost effective and smartest way to do it.
This way also avoids potential dilemmas in using around-the-world tickets. Those can get very complicated, especially when you get toward the end of the list or deep into Africa or the Pacific island nations!
MH: You’ve had to get many visas, too. Any tips on making this process smoother?
LM: I probably know more about getting visas than any person on Earth and I really mean that. I often use an agency when I am getting multiple visas in a region that would require multiple trips all over town. If you don’t live in New York or Washington, D.C., then this is 100 percent necessary. I recommend PassportVisasExpress.com. I’ve used them a dozen times. I also always recommend paying a little extra for expedited service. It’s not that much more, and you'll get your passport back faster.
MH: How does technology help you?
LA: I do some research online, of course, but the only app I really use is TripIt. It's excellent for organizing my travel and making my life easier so I don’t have to carry a ton of confirmations like I used to on my long trips.
MH: With packing, I hear you are a minimalist. Do you have any tips?
LA: I certainly am a minimalist. For instance, I am on a European trip as we speak, and I have a simple carry-on for the whole trip. I hate checking bags and I hate baggage fees, so I always keep my bag under 10 kg or about 22 pounds. My carry-on is an Osprey 22-inch bag that is a roller but can also be converted to a backpack if necessary, although I haven't done that and don’t plan to. It’s the best bag I’ve ever used and I have tried several others over the years.
MH: You like to carry a small bottle of Tabasco sauce wherever you go. What else is a must-bring on your trip?
LA: I never leave America without Tabasco sauce. I find it makes everything taste better. Aside from my iPhone 5 for photos and my MacBook Pro, my only other must-bring is a universal converter. I have a simple one I’ve been using for years and it hasn’t let me down – no matter the type of outlet.
MH: Where are you off to next?
LA: I will be going to all seven continents this year including the South Pole, which I am beyond excited for. As far as more firsts, I still aim to become the youngest to finish the Travelers Century Club list of 321 countries and unique destinations. And I may go ahead and become the first person to ever visit every country twice.