Wandering with a Purpose

Tag: 50 state trips

50 States by 30

Flatiron Building in the snow

One of the biggest goals I have ever accomplished is traveling to all 50 states by the time I was 30. This crazy thought came to me in 2013 when I was 28 years old living in NYC. The problem was I didn’t have an interesting fact. Whenever people introduce themselves at work events, you had to say your name and an interesting fact. I didn’t have anything, and I needed one. Urgently. I love traveling and visiting all 50 states was something I had on my list of life goals; why shouldn’t I put a timeline on it and do it?

I love to plan things. That’s usually some of the best parts of doing something. When I’m stressed, I can calm myself with a spreadsheet, a calendar, and now my budget. This endeavor to visit 26 states in a year and a half would require some major planning! Fortunately, I was living in the Northeast for the first time, so I could take advantage of easier traveling to all of these northern states.

Me at the Mendenhall Glacier – State 50!

But what would the criteria be? Everyone has different definitions of what counts. None are right or wrong. I decided my criteria would be, if someone asks, “what did you do in _______?”, I needed to have a good answer. A story was required, and it wouldn’t be cool to say “I flew through the airport” or something.”

On May 25, 2015, I stepped foot off a cruise ship in Juneau, Alaska! I was so happy I cried; I couldn’t believe I actually did it at 30 years, 1 month, and 14 days old (cruises don’t travel in April). That night at dinner on the cruise ship, my dad ordered a few bottles of champagne and made a toast about my accomplishment with my friends and family who made the trip. It was a wonderful end to the adventure.

I love looking back on these trips since I learned so much about myself and traveling.

Takeaways

There is so much to say about this experience. I get lots of questions about the experience since I think people want to visit 50 states for themselves. Everyone’s journey will be different but everyone can complete the journey.

What was your favorite state?

The short answer to this question is North Carolina since it is my home and the best place I can think of to be. I love it here. Of course, that is not what people want to know when they ask that question. I use NC as the answer because I don’t have another answer. Each state has its own uniqueness that I appreciated.

Washington natural beauty
What places stood out to you?

This is a much easier question to answer. The first place I visited that threw me off my feet was Seattle. I had never been somewhere so naturally beautiful. Until I visited there, I didn’t even know what that term meant. I had never been to natural places before then, but the beauty was stunning. Subsequent visits took me to Maine and Alaska, where I saw the same natural beauty.

Was anywhere surprising?

South Dakota was the state that surprised me the most. I didn’t know what to expect but it was my second national park experience (I didn’t realize that at the time – I just wanted to see a buffalo and Mt. Rushmore). There was so much to do there, and it was so beautiful! I wish I would have stayed for longer, but it far exceeded my non-existent expectations.

Mt Rushmore
How did you pay for all of the travel?

I am very fortunate for this, since I had visited almost half of the states already, and one was Hawaii. For the remainder, I was lucky that I was able to visit friends, had friends interested in traveling who split the cost, and was able to get gift cards from spending money on a corporate card for work. I also saved my money and used these trips as my main form of entertainment.

Why do this?

As I mentioned before, I did this so I could have an interesting fact about myself; it was as shallow as that. I always loved traveling and wanted to cross off 50 states as some point, but I accelerated it so I had a fun fact. Consider that done!

Are you glad you did this?

For many reasons, this is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was struggling emotionally, and this experience helped me come out of that. It gave me purpose and something to plan and work towards. Even if it was just for the chance to have an interesting fact, it helped me become a stronger person. I learned that I was capable of accomplishing big things, and I could do those things by myself and with people who care about me.

The States

50 states blank
I printed off this map and colored in the state after I visited. I’m sure I spent hours looking at this map.

I’m going to document my trips over time and will link them below. This is a goal anyone can accomplish, and I think everyone should! It’s an amazing way to see the great country of America and how vast and unique it is from sea to shining sea!

Visited PriorVisited to Complete Goal
CaliforniaAlabama
DelawareAlaska
FloridaArizona
GeorgiaArkansas
HawaiiColorado
IllinoisConnecticut
IowaIdaho
KentuckyIndiana
LouisianaKansas
MarylandMaine
MassachusettesMinnesota
MichiganMontana
MississippiNebraska
MissouriNew Hampshire
NevadaNorth Dakota
New JerseyOklahoma
New YorkOregon
North CarolinaRhodes Island
OhioSouth Dakota
PennsylvaniaTennessee
South CarolinaTexas
VirginiaUtah
West VirginiaVermont
Washington
Wisconsin
Wyoming

#TBT – Alaska

For this week’s #TBT (Travel Back Thursday), I bring you Alaska. One year ago, I made it to my 50th state. It was a major accomplishment for me in my life. A year and a half before, I made a goal to visit all 50 states by the time I was 30 with only 25 under my belt. A month after my 30th birthday, I made it to Alaska. The accumulation of planning and commitment, I achieved a goal that I thought would take me the majority of my adult life.

Mendenhall Glacier outside of Juneau, AK! WOW!

Mendenhall Glacier outside of Juneau, AK! WOW!

There are two ways to do Alaska: 1. by sea, 2. by land. I’ve heard land is amazing and what is highly recommended. Unfortunately, timing and the logistics wouldn’t work for for what I was planning; I opted for sea. As a victory celebration, I thought it would be fun to invite family and close friends to join me on an Alaskan adventure. A cruise ship would be the easiest way to plan this, as well as give each person the flexibility to design the trip to their interest. We could meet up for dinner in the evening and talk about what we experienced that day.

Life Lesson: when you have a chance to drink local - do.

Life Lesson: when you have a chance to drink local – do.

In the end, we had a group of 13 brave the great Alaskan Wilderness. I mean, it was much more adventurous than you think. We survived a bear attack, a sinking ship, and an earthquake.

Be Bear Aware! We survived a "bear attack" when we had to walk past the grizzly to get from the Musher camp to our bus. The first bear sighting of the season.

Be Bear Aware! We survived a “bear attack” when we had to walk past the grizzly to get from the Musher camp to our bus. The first bear sighting of the season.

 

 

 

 

 

I’d say we roughed it. The Crown Princess (Princess Cruise Lines) took us from Seattle, WA, to Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Victoria (Canada). It was absolutely amazing! We didn’t have long at each stop, so that is one reason to do a land trip. Just be careful, Juneau is the only US capital that is not connected to the rest of the state by a car. You can get there by air, sea, and birth canal (thanks to our tour guide for that funny joke!) It’s a big state, so make sure to plan any driving trips prior to arriving…

I didn’t realize it when booking, but May was a wonderful time to go. The mountains still have snow on the top; if I got to Alaska and didn’t see snow, I know I would have been upset. I originally wanted to go in April for the birthday, but cruises only leave from May until September. I imagine fall is a beautiful time to visit.

One of the most mind-blowing experiences about Alaska has sunk in more since I returned home than I could process while I was there. In most of the continental US, we are used to very populated areas. There are buildings, signs, roads, and other man-made items almost everywhere we look. Alaska is virtually untouched. There are no man-made items for our mind to recognize to put size in proportion.

What kind of blue is that? Windex Blue! They don't look that big until you see the boat next to it.

What kind of blue is that? Windex Blue! They don’t look that big until you see the boat next to it.

Driving down the road, you see other cars, billboards, and buildings to show you how big a hill or mountain is. In Alaska, you don’t have that to scale. Sailing down the Inner Passage, there are rolling hills on either side, but it wasn’t until we passed an equally large cruise ship that they looked like mountains.

OVERALL

I’m really glad we did Alaska by sea for the first trip. We didn’t see much of the state, but we saw amazing landscapes, and it gave us the flexibility we needed for the trip. The inner passage is gorgeous, and I hope to visit it again.

Two lessons learned (besides staying longer):

  1. Get a balcony window. There is too much to watch in the inner passage. It’s not like sailing to the Caribbean where you see ocean for most of the time. This cruise provides opportunities to watch for animals and the shore line.

    The water was as clear as glass throughout the entire voyage.

    The water was as clear as glass throughout the entire voyage.

  2. On the visit to Tracey Arm Fjord, do the excursion to take a boat to the glacier. I can only imagine how amazing that would be from sea level.

    Tracey Arm Fjord. This was something that I didn't even know existed! We were lucky to get so close.

    Tracey Arm Fjord. This was something that I didn’t even know existed! We were lucky to get so close.

    Some more pictures for fun..

Even though it was May, it definitely wasn't a warm-weather adventure.

Even though it was May, it definitely wasn’t a warm-weather adventure.

I desperately wanted to see a puffin, but no such luck. I LOVED this sign!

I desperately wanted to see a puffin, but no such luck. I LOVED this sign!

I am not a big beer drinker, but I love flights at microbreweries. It's always great to sample! (This is from Skagway Brewing Company)

I am not a big beer drinker, but I love flights at microbreweries. It’s always great to sample! (This is from Skagway Brewing Company)

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MUSH! Sitting on a dog sled. I almost packed my winter boots for this...good thing I didn't!

MUSH! Sitting on a dog sled. I almost packed my winter boots for this…good thing I didn’t!

Victoria, British Columbia. Stunning.

Victoria, British Columbia. Stunning.

 

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