Journeymakers

In order to travel to every country in the world, you need to have a few things fall your way. There’s a reason less than 100 people have ever accomplished this feat. You need time, money, inclination, motivation and a little bit of luck to fall your way. Sometimes you need help; you need Journeymakers.
Tobruk, Libya, sunset, Journeymakers
Over the course of my travel I’ve come across many Journeymakers that have made my travel goals a reality. I’ve teamed up once again with American Express, specifically with #Amex Travel, to tell you about my ultimate Journeymaker, although he may not actually know how much he helped me out.

In August 2011, I had visited 192 of 193 countries in the world and had been unable to visit Libya because of the Arab Spring; which essentially threw Libya into a bloody Civil War and made travel to the country virtually impossible. I had to cancel a prior trip because of the war and had to wait 6 months.

In August 2011, I got word that it might be possible to legally enter Eastern Libya overland from the Egyptian border crossing. So I jumped on the next plane to Cairo and flew out to the furthest western point in Egypt possible, Mersa Matruh. I had no idea what I was going to do, how I would continue on to Libya, how I would enter the country under the new government or what I would do once inside Libya-not to mention getting back out! There was still a war going on!
Tobruk, Libya, mosque, Journeymakers
On the plane out to Mersa Matruh, I surveyed the other passengers as I was clearly the only Westerner on the plane and this is not an area where English is widely spoken. I noticed a man dressed in a suit with a Libyan rebel lapel pin who looked like he was educated so I asked if he spoke English. That’s how I met Hussein.

Originally I was hoping that Hussein could help me arrange a taxi to the border, as I don’t speak Arabic more than 4 words. But to my surprise, without knowing me at all he offered me a ride with him and his brother Sanoussi, in their minivan, across into Libya to their hometown of Tobruk.

I was floored by the generosity and naturally a little apprehensive as you might expect. However, I like to think that I have good intuition about people and I went with them. I offered money but they refused. The journey began.
Passport stamp, Libya, Journeymakers
After hours of driving, we arrived at the border and exited Egypt. After a lengthy delay and a firefight breaking out on the Libyan side of the border, we were able to safely and legally cross into Libya thanks to them talking to the border guards-I even got a passport stamp! I had entered my final country with Hussein’s help and could now say that I had visited every country on Earth. It was a very surreal moment for me.
Journeymakers, Eastern Libya Border, Libya, border
To show even further how great a Journeymaker Hussein and his family actually were for me, they had me at their house for dinner. A family was being reunited after the end to the oppressive regime of Gaddafi and they had me over for a traditional family dinner. I was floored and had one of the most amazing, authentic evenings of my life. Hussein and his family also arranged a place for me to stay and even a ride, not just back to Egypt, but all the way back to Cairo-about 12 hours drive.
Lee Abbamonte, Tobruk, Libya, Journeymakers
In a lifetime of travel and Journeymakers, Hussein was the ultimate for me. He helped me achieve a goal that he didn’t even know I had. He didn’t know me; it was out of the kindness of his heart that he helped me and for that-I will never forget him.

Disclaimer: I have teamed up with American Express Travel, #AmexTravel, for this #JourneyMakers campaign. I receive financial compensation for my participation but everything I’ve written is true from my experiences and has not been influenced in any way, shape or form. Additionally, this Libyan experience was an independent trip I took in 2011. American Express and any of their affiliates had no hand in planning it nor should that be inferred in any way-I planned everything myself.

Comments

  1. Inspiring story, Lee. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I’ve seen Journeymakers advertised on facebook. Good job being a part of it. It seems like a cool initiative.

  3. Hey lee, I’ve seen you speak and talk about this story and it still amazes me even though you clearly cut it down to work with a corporate initiative. Always fun to see what you’re up to and thanks for always giving me fun ideas! Hope to see you talk again soon and if you’re ever in Chicago, let me know!

  4. Cool pictures and cool story. I’d love to visit Libya and see all the famous Roman ruins.

  5. I wonder how did you come up with this less than 100 persons having done this – I live in Finland, with just about 5 million people, and I know at least 7 Finns having done this, visiting every country in the world.

    Br,
    Pirkko (a Finnish travel blogger with just 102 countries atj this point)

  6. Great story! Love the idea of “journeymakers.” Also I can’t help pointing out: “penultimate” means second-to-last. 🙂

  7. Awesome post dude! I’ve been following your blog since I stumbled upon it a few weeks ago. I’d love to travel to all the countries one day just like you but have no idea how to get in countries like Libya. Your post is inspiring and I will just trust that things will work out for the best when trying to enter a difficult country when I try it myself. 🙂

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