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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Prior||Visited to Complete Goal|
|North Carolina||Rhodes Island|