Forms of identification: Lee Abbamonte
Lee Abbamonte camel racing on Diani Beach, Kenya.
Irreverent responses from our favourite travel ninjas.
Name: Lee Abbamonte
Title/bio: The youngest American to travel to every country in the world
Twitter/website: @LeeAbbamonte | leeabbamonte.com
Born in: Connecticut, United States
Currently living in: New York City, New York
1. Tourist must-see you think is actually a “must skip”:
Going up to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The line can take forever, and though the views are good there are other places in Paris – such as Montmartre – that offer much better views in a much better area that you don’t have to queue for! Besides, if you’re on the Eiffel Tower then it isn’t a part of the view!
2. Everyone asks what’s #1 on your list of places you want to go before you die. But what’s your #3?
The British Indian Ocean Territory – the Chagos Archipelago and Diego Garcia. It is one of the most remote and toughest to access places in the world. Permits are granted from the UK, so if you have any connections over there, please let me know!
3. Your most stranded, “oh-my-[deity]” travel moment:
I travelled overland from Turkmenistan to Iran, two of the more difficult places to travel and get visas, especially for Americans. When exiting Turkmenistan there is a 3km walk between the borders to Iran. When I did it, there were no other people and I was all alone. I was praying that my guide was at the remote Iranian border waiting for me and that the guards didn’t feel like kidnapping or extorting me that day! It worked out – but I was a little nervous.
4. Best (or worst) person/people you’ve had to sit next to while travelling:
The best person was Charles Barkley, who is an NBA Hall of Famer and a really funny, outspoken guy. I really enjoyed that flight from Phoenix to New York. The worst was a flight in 1999. I sat next to this crazy, drunk guy who kept yelling about everything, and when the flight attendants finally cut him off he threatened to do all kinds of things including opening up the door to the outside. Needless to say he tried, and myself and a few other big guys tackled him and had to detain him for about two hours until we arrived in Singapore from Tokyo.
5. If someone was visiting your town, what’s the one thing you’d show them?
I would take them to see a New York Yankees baseball game at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. It is probably my favourite place in the world.
6. Travel-related invention you wish existed:
I wish both a time machine and a beam up machine existed. I think I’d go back to either the Roaring Twenties in New York or back to the Crusades in Europe and see what it was really like! Plus, how great would it be to simply beam up from place to place like in Star Trek instead of going through the hassle of actually travelling to places and dealing with airlines and airports.
7. Material thing you miss the most when away from home:
My 64in HD flat screen TV because there is nothing better than watching sports while just relaxing on the couch!
8. Best celebrity encounter while travelling:
I met Henry Rollins (of Black Flag and Rollins Band and also a TV actor) in Mali at the Festival in the Desert, a music festival outside Timbuktu. That was so random but especially cool because when I was a kid I saw Rollins Band in concert a few times!
9. The travel story you’ll never stop bragging about:
In order to complete the list of travelling to every country in the world, I had to visit Libya during the war nearly two years ago. The whole country was a no fly zone so I had to enter overland from Egypt into the rebel-controlled area of Eastern Libya. I didn’t have a visa and didn’t speak any Arabic so I had to sneak in via a minivan that was driven by the brother of a guy I met in Egypt under the guise that I was doing humanitarian dental work for the Libyan people. That was the idea of the Libyans in the car because they said I had straight teeth! If that wasn’t a good enough story, we were actually caught in the crossfire of a gunfight between the rebels and some Egyptian smugglers. It was a pretty exciting day and a heck of a way to enter a country!
10. Lay on us a priceless bit of travel advice or wisdom:
Don’t plan too much. Have a basic idea of what you want to do but allow time and money to do other things that pop up along the way. The best part of travel is the unexpected. Plus, remember things are often more expensive than you think so have access to additional funds.