The Quest to Hit All 50!

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I’ve never been much of a collector. In fact, I identify more with the opposite: I was decluttering before anyone knew who Marie Kondo was. Nope, I’ve never really cared about collecting coins or stamps or baseball cards.

But one day in 2018 I realized that — coincidentally — I had already visited 44 U.S. states. I was so close to seeing all 50 states and despite my minimalism when it comes to physical objects, I decided it was worth making the effort toward completion. It didn’t take long for me to revamp my trip to South Dakota (state #45) to include a detour to Devil’s Tower National Monument (Wyoming, #46) and Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota, #47).

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park at sunrise

And since I’m bad at open-ended goals, I took things one step farther. I told myself I’d make it to all 50 by the end of 2020, which is a nice round year. I figured I’d have no problem meeting my deadline and even booked a trip to Oklahoma (#48) and Arkansas (#49) with my sister and then Minnesota (#50) with my husband.

As we all know, reaching travel goals in 2020 ended up being more of a challenge than expected. My spring trip to the Ozarks was cancelled — Covid fear was at its peak and in any case, several of the things I wanted to do were closed temporarily. And that summer trip to Minnesota? First it was postponed, then ultimately and voluntarily cancelled for a variety of reasons.

No worries, I told myself. It wasn’t my fault that I didn’t finish “on time”. No one foresaw a global pandemic and December 31, 2020 was an arbitrary date anyway. The new plan would be to see the final three states before I turned 35, another random but round number.

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Three to go!

Well, here’s the good news: I have trips planned to visit the final three states! They’re on the calendar, planned, booked, and ready to go. In fact, the entire reason I’m bringing this up now is because I’m on my way to Oklahoma. Assuming everything goes to plan (and at this point, the odds are looking good), I’ll be at 49 states before you know it.

My quest to visit all 50 states — if you can even call it that, given how little effort I put into this challenge — will come to fruition this year, although it’ll take me a few months past age 35 to hit my final state of Minnesota.

If I’m being honest, I don’t know what this does for me, except perhaps provide fodder for social icebreakers where you share random facts about yourself. And even though my visits are indisputable (I don’t count airport transits or roadtrip pass-throughs), I still feel like I’ve cheated a little. Take Kansas for example: I’ve been a few times to visit family, but I haven’t really explored anywhere unless you count the Topeka Zoo.

Still, I have to admit I’ve been fortunate to see an incredible and vast amount of my country. There were places every bit as amazing as I expected and some I was outright surprised by. Others are now places I adore and hope to return to.

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Hanging in Hilo, Hawaii

I don’t intend to start another quest after I finish this one. Although I’m sure that every Canadian province or every U.S. national park or every country has something to offer, I won’t be chasing them on purpose. I’m not a collector by nature and my travel wishlist already surpasses a realistic lifetime without adding more places for the sake of checking a box.

I also don’t expect to stop exploring the USA. It’s a vast and amazing country that could keep any traveler busy even if they chose to never go abroad. There are states that deserve more attention and old favorites to re-visit. Realistically, I don’t see how you could ever be “done”.

So for now, I’m on my way to a few new states. After that, anything goes.

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