By Peter Russell

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do." - Mark Twain.

Lee Abbamonte lives this Twain ethos. He is a New Yorker in a bigger hurry than most. The 34-year-old is the youngest American to visit every country in the world.

Along the way, the former Wall Street finance executive has ducked gunfire in Libya and raced camels along the beach in Kenya (he finished third)

But of all the places he has visited, it is Australia's own Lord Howe Island he nominates as "paradise on Earth".

Writing for Conde Nast recently, he said: "I don't know what paradise awaits in the next life, but I do know that paradise on Earth is located on Lord Howe Island. It is quite possibly the most perfect place in the world. Unspoilt and empty beautiful beaches dot the island and entice divers, surfers and romantics alike. It is breathtaking."

Abbamonte's round-the-world quest started as a mission to visit all 193 countries that are members of the UN, but since achieving that goal last year he has taken his wanderlust one step further.

He is now on a mission to travel to all 321 countries, territories and disputed regions as defined by the Travelers' Century Club, a US-based organisation of globetrotters.

So far, he has lugged his suitcase to 306 of them.

To claim the record as the youngest person to get to all 321, Abbamonte will have to beat Charles Veley of San Francisco, who accomplished the feat when he was 37 years, nine months and 17 days old.

Abbamonte has a trip coming up soon that will tick off another eight countries to put him within seven countries of the goal.

The upcoming trip is in South America and the South Atlantic, including Chile and Ascension Island.

Abbamonte says: "Nothing is better than meeting people in their own country and feeling a part of what they and their family do. It is an amazing hobby and surely beats knitting."

Interviewed recently in Conde Naste Traveller he said of Lord Howe Island: "It is a special place because it is relatively unknown or at least unvisited, even for Australians. It is also a World Heritage Site, beautiful and pristine. Everything is so well kept, easy and the people are so nice. It is a true paradise because everything is perfect. Not to mention, Neds Beach is fantastic and so are the hikes and views of the island."

"I have been to every state and many of the remote islands including Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling), Norfolk Island and several on the Great Barrier Reef and in the Coral Sea. I have also been all over the Northern Territory and Western Australia. I love the Aussie people, their attitudes toward others and their lives. I love the healthy outdoor lifestyle and the beach mentality."

 What is the best piece of travel advice you have ever received?
"Pack half the clothes and twice the money.  When travelling in the developing world - especially Africa - bring Tabasco sauce ... it makes everything taste better," he said.

The island is serviced by regular flights by Qantas. The twin-engine turboprops are a far cry from the original flying boats used by Ansett, back in the day. When Ansett told the island it would not longer support the amphibious aircraft, the Australia Army came to the rescue and built a landing strip on the island.

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