Connecticut Post Article

Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, CT)

June 5, 2007

Trumbull native takes aim at worldly target

Trumbull native Lee Abbamonte has seen the vast desert of the Sahara. He’s climbed to the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiked the hills of Machu Picchu and seen the stone Ahu Akivi statues of Easter Island first-hand.

At 28 years old, he’s aiming to become the youngest person ever to visit all 315 countries in the world.

And he’s already checked 115 countries off of his list.

“The ironic thing is, I never went anywhere as a kid,” said Abbamonte from his office at Merrill Lynch in Manhattan. “My father was a public defender in Bridgeport and my mom was a teacher in Trumbull. We didn’t travel much.”

To say that Abbamonte has made up for lost time would be an understatement.

He started his worldwide expedition during his junior year at the University of Maryland, when he decided on a whim to join a friend in spending a semester abroad in London, England.

He was hooked.

“I got off the plane, I saw the cars driving on the other side of the road, and I thought, ‘Wow, this is pretty cool,'” said Abbamonte.

During the semester, he made it to 15 other nations in Europe. “That feeling was incredible,” he said. “You look up and see the Eiffel Tower, and you can’t believe it’s the real thing.”

He’s set up a Web site leeabbamonte.com to blog about his travels, post pictures and videos.

Unlike most vacationers, Abbamonte doesn’t usually fill up his itinerary with too many specifics. Most times, he doesn’t even book a place to stay.

“There aren’t really any hotels on Easter Island, so when I was there I stayed with a family that rents out rooms in a guest house,” he said. “Around Europe, there are people in the train stations that will offer you room.

“Of course, if I’m with my girlfriend, we’ll stay at a nicer place.”

Once he had visited his 100th country last year, Abbamonte joined the Travelers’ Century Club, an organization based out of California that offers membership only to travelers who have visited 100 countries or more.

“I called them up, went to a meeting, and I was the youngest person there by about 40 years,” said Abbamonte.

He’s using the club’s list of 315 “official” countries as his guide.

It was only after joining that he heard about the club’s record for youngest person to visit all 315, which currently stands at 37 years, nine months and 17 days.

Abbamonte admits there are a number of obstacles standing between him and the record, like money and time off from work. But there’s also the world’s constantly changing geo-political environment.

Abbamonte has heard stories of people bribing guards at Iranian borders, forking over $15,000 to spend just a few minutes in Iraq and sneaking into Cuba through Mexico.

But the hardest countries to visit are the world’s many rouge nations with governments thick with bureaucracy, like Saudi Arabia and Algeria.

Aside from a mugging attempt in Capetown, South Africa, Abbamonte says his safety has never been in jeopardy during his travels.

“I’ve been shaken down a few times at a few borders,” he said. “But usually you can just give people $20 and they’ll let you on your way.”

After nine years of steady international travel, Abbamonte says he’s learned a lot about the world and himself. Breaking the record would just be an added bonus.

“I don’t want to just check stuff off the list, I want to experience it,” he said. “I’m doing what I love to do, and I’m looking to better myself along the way.

“What could be better?”

Keith Whamond, who covers regional issues for ConnPost.com, can be reached at 203-330-6388.

Comments

  1. The link from the CT Post website expired so I had to repost this to have the link enabled from the pages bar on the right hand side of this site, under press clips

  2. great article, thats pretty cool

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