At a time when we’re all dreaming of getting back to traveling — whether to golf destinations or to our favorite vacation spot — “Talking Golf Getaways” podcast hosts Mitch Laurance and Darin Bunch would argue that no one misses traveling more, or is more eager to resume his globetrotting ways, than the guest for Episode 152: New Yorker, travel guru, blogger and brand ambassador Lee Abbamonte.
The youngest person to visit every country in the world (321 at last count, as well as visiting the North and South poles), and a passionate golfer who’s included golf as an important element on many of his trips, Abbamonte brings incredible energy, insight, wisdom and, as a truth-telling New Yorker, a no-opinion-spared, expletive-laced description of his amazing journeys around the world to what is one of the more fun interviews we’ve ever produced.
Before Abbamonte joins the conversation, this “Talking GolfGetaways” begins with the “Best Place You’ve Been, Seen or Heard About This Week” segment, which includes a callback to Episode 151. Darin adds a slice of irony to our ongoing “How expensive is too expensive for golf” conversation and its pro-con split concerning the cost and lodging requirements when playing Pebble Beach when he announces he’s heading to the Monterey Peninsula with friends to pay $495 for a round at the iconic oceanfront course (since no lodging is required during the pandemic).
Mitch recounts a fantastic couple of days with @back9ben Ben Grehan at two Mike Strantz’ gems in Myrtle Beach — True Blue Golf Club and Caledonia Golf & Fish Club — the latter while zooming around on Finn Scooters. Mitch then adds the good news that he, Darin and Ryan Ballengee will be hosting a followers’ trip to Ireland in August 2021, with details now available at GolfNewsNet.com.
Mitch and Darin then welcome Lee Abbamonte, who tells the story of his decision to forego the lucrative world of Wall Street for a life of traveling — and how he managed to turn his passion into an equally lucrative career as a travel expert. He shares how playing golf, which he started in high school but gave up for a number of years while on Wall Street, resurfaced as a driving force in his global escapades, and how it became a central part of every trip he takes.
Continuing on the golf theme, when asked about the craziest, most unexpected golf experiences he’s had, Abbamonte details the extraordinary adventure of playing in Kabul, Afghanistan and what’s it’s like to be escorted around a nine-hole sand “course” by a bodyguard with an AK-47. (Trust us, this is a first for a golf getaway.) Most remote courses? St. Helena in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, the Falkland Islands and Equatorial Guinea (“the most corrupt country in the world”) all figure into a most unusual list.
Favorite Destination? Bandon Dunes Resort gets Abbamonte’s nod, an incredible confirmation of excellence, given the number of places he’s visited. Bucket Listers? Royal Melbourne, Valderrama in Spain, and Gleneagles and Carnoustie in Scotland all await. People he’s played with? Celeb partners Joe Pesci, former Houston Rockets head coach Rudy Tomjanovich, and hockey Hall of Famer Bret Hull head the list. Best and craziest thing ever eaten? The Da Michele pizza in Naples “will bring a tear to your eye,” and the street market food with no name all over Asia is to be avoided at all cost. As someone who never sees himself really “retiring,” Abbamonte talks about choosing a desert-based home location with myriad golf courses to settle down someday, a la Palm Springs and Las Vegas.
Finally, Darin asks Abbamonte what it’s like for someone so used to being on the global road, living in New York City during this pandemic time, unable to travel, and feeling the effects of the quarantine in a personal way. Abbamonte, as only he can, puts it succinctly, powerfully, when he says, “It *&%$#^& blows.” He explains how the walks he now takes around New York City, documenting every one on his popular Instagram Stories, have given him a new appreciation for the City, and offer some respite from the isolating nature of life at the moment.
The podcast closes with Mitch reading an Abbamonte quote he feels sums up the person Lee is: “I believe in globalization of everything, including people. I believe that I am a citizen of Earth. I believe that people around the world are at their core, basically good and the same. I believe that more people should experience the world and the way traveling can open their eyes and minds to different and exciting things. I believe in just being myself. I believe in life.”
It’s an extraordinary end to a terrifically engaging hour. We hope you enjoy the connection with Lee Abbamonte — and become as big a fan as we are. And for more about his worldwide travels, visit LeeAbbamonte.com.
—Words by Mitch Laurance