Courtesy of Sal Lavallo

He's got 18 countries to go.

May 12, 2017

Sal Lavallo, a 26-year-old who has already been to 175 countries around the world, is on his way to becoming the youngest American to travel to all 193 member states in the United Nations.

Lavallo is currently planning a trip to the last 18 countries on the list — a trip that will span five continents. If he's able to do so before his 27th birthday in September, he could set the record for the youngest American to to accomplish the feat.

He won't, however, be the youngest person to do so: British traveler James Asquith was 24 when he set the Guinness World Record for youngest person to travel to all of the world's sovereign countries.

 Courtesy of Sal Lavallo

Lavallo is therefore not after a Guinness record: The organization does not recognize titles for travelers based on their nationality.

There are, however, unofficial recordholders for being the youngest American. Connecticut native Lee Abbamonte, who left Wall Street to travel the world, made it to all UN member states by the time he was 32, in 2011. And Cassie De Pecol, also from Connecticut, set the Guinness World Record as the fastest person to visit all of the world's sovereign countries at the age of 27.

 Courtesy of Sal Lavallo

Though possibly setting a record is exciting for Lavallo, it's not why he set out to travel the globe.

“I really just want to show the beauty of the world and the way people connect to one another, whether or not the record happens,” Lavallo told Travel + Leisure. “It’s more that I see myself as somebody involved in the world in a global way, so it’s not about being an adventurer or tourist, but being productive in finding the best ways to help economies develop.”

Lavallo studied economic development and identity during his time at school, leading to a curiosity to travel, and eventually a wide network of friends across the globe. During school he traveled to Tel Aviv, Abu Dhabi, Berlin, Mumbai, and East Africa, and then through work to Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, and Kenya.

“What’s nice about having such a global network is I won’t be staying at hotels that can be dangerous, or on a tourist bus in locations where that can be unsafe,” Lavallo said. “It’s usually staying at someone’s home that I’ve known for years, which means I don’t need to worry but that I also get more of an authentic experience.”

During his travels, Lavallo found some destinations are more tourist-friendly than others, including Socotra in Yemen, the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ishkashim in Afghanistan, and Kish Island in Iran since it doesn't require a visa.

Of all of the countries he has been to, Lavallo said his favorites are Tanzania, because of the people, and Abu Dhabi, because of the striking economic development.

“They came from living in the desert in tents less than 50 years ago to now having some of the world’s biggest cities and most impressive buildings,” he said.

So what does a guy who's visited most countries in the world have to say about making travel even better?

Appreciate what a place has to offer...

“Some places can be struggling in terms of their way of life in ways that people don't really understand,” Lavallo said.

“It's important that you don't expect luxury but rather appreciate that you have big and beautiful sunsets, nice beaches, and incredible nature.”

...and listen to the people.

“Traveling is about learning and about seeing new things, and I think that too often, we don’t stop to just observe, but rather want to participate in things,” Lavallo told T+L.

“It’s hard to examine what you’re doing and do it differently until you remove from your mindset the way you've always done things,” he added. “ˆf you take a step back and slow down, you’ll be able to have a more authentic experience because you’ll find yourself able to see and live the way people there do.”

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