Newton Teen Named One of National Geographic’s 2014 Travelers of the Year

High school student Joe Foley, who has Asperger's syndrome, has taken 11 solo international trips in the last two years.

joe foley

Joe Foley, one of the 2014 National Geographic Travelers of the Year honorees. / Photos by Matt Cosby provided by National Geographic Traveler

An 18-year-old from Newton has been named one of National Geographic’s Travelers of the Year. The third annual list highlights globetrotters who “travel with passion and purpose, have an exceptional story to tell, and represent a style of travel, motivation, or method that can inform and inspire us all.”

All the honorees were nominated online and selected by Traveler editors for their unique stories involving travel.

Among the 10 individuals, families, and small groups featured in the November 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine—on newsstands October 21—is Joe Foley, a high school student from Newton who has taken 11 solo international trips in the past two years, including to Iceland, Finland, and Japan.

Foley’s profile in Traveler, online now, highlights how the teen turned “a challenge into a superpower.” He grew up with Asperger’s, an autism spectrum disorder, but rather than let AD confine him, Foley tells Traveler that visiting foreign countries was an enlightening way to overcome its challenges:

As a foreigner in a non-English-speaking country, I’m not expected to converse fluently to begin with. I often find it easier to talk to people who don’t speak great English, and I love to practice local language skills. And I become obsessive about countries, their histories, and cultures, and memorizing subway and hiking maps.

Other gems in Foley’s Traveler interview are tips on how to appreciate travel. For example, he points out that small seats and crowded planes are a small price to pay for the luxury of being able to fly around the world on “a beautiful machine that’s 30,000 feet in the sky.”

“The world is not as dangerous as a lot of people think,” Foley says. He tells Traveler that he started taking solo trips with a visit to Scotland:

I started by going to another English-speaking country, Scotland, and when my parents saw I could handle it fine, I went to other places. Since then I’ve done weeklong getaways to Iceland, Spain, the Netherlands, the Baltics, France, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Austria. I’ve loved every single trip.

Not bad for a guy still in high school.


Read National Geographic Traveler’s full interview with Joe Foley online at You can also check out his personal blog, The Travels of JoFo.