The Quest To Visit All 50 States

The Oakdale Leader - - NEIGHBORHOOD VALUES -

NEW YORK — I re­cently reached a goal that I’ve been work­ing on for most of my life: I vis­ited all 50 states.

And I’ve been sur­prised by how many oth­ers I know who have been on the very same quest. “We’re see­ing more and more peo­ple with this goal,” said Ali­cia Rovey, founder of the All Fifty States Club, in an in­ter­view for AP Travel’s “Get Outta Here!” pod­cast. “It seems like any room you go in, there’s at least one per­son that is try­ing to get to all 50.”

What’s be­hind the trend? Gas is cheap. The 50-state bucket list ap­peals to all age groups, from mil­len­ni­als who love to travel, to folks who travel a lot for work, to empty nesters and retirees with time for road trips.

For Amer­i­cans, trav­el­ing around the U.S. is also cheaper and less daunt­ing lo­gis­ti­cally than trav­el­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally. And be­cause the U.S. is so big and di­verse, ev­ery re­gion has some­thing dif­fer­ent to of­fer, from cities to farms, from moun­tains to beaches, from South­ern food to Tex-Mex.

Some trav­el­ers use apps or on­line maps to track their trav­els. Oth­ers use real maps. Alyssa Kaua­noe sells a prod­uct on­line called Jet­set­terMaps ($28) that lets trav­el­ers “scratch off the states you’ve been to and get your own per­son­al­ized travel map.”

Be­cause there’s no real way to check on those ap­ply­ing for mem­ber­ship in the All Fifty club, “we don’t ask for proof,” said Rovey. “It’s kind of an honor sys­tem.”

WHAT COUNTS?

For a visit to count, Rovey says, “You have to touch the ground and breathe the air.” That “rules out air­plane lay­overs.” But she says most 50-staters set their own stip­u­la­tions: hav­ing a meal, spend­ing the night, go­ing to a his­toric site or spend­ing time with a lo­cal.

Jef­fer­son Ge­orge vis­ited 50 states in 50 days. He drove to the lower 48, start­ing in Maine and end­ing in Seat­tle, then flew to Alaska and be­fore noon on day 50, made it to Hawaii. But he didn’t just set foot in a place to check it off: “I wanted to see some­thing of note in each state, whether it was an es­tab­lished at­trac­tion like the North Rim of the Grand Canyon or some­thing maybe a lit­tle more ob­scure like the first paved road in Amer­ica in a lit­tle town, Belle­fontaine, Ohio.”

Kelly Will did the 50 states in a year, us­ing social media to find fam­i­lies to stay with ev­ery­where she went and im­mers­ing her­self in each community for a few days. She’s writ­ten a book about the ex­pe­ri­ence that she hopes to pub­lish ti­tled, “Lit­tle Miss Will­ful: An ex­plo­ration of fem­i­nism, fear and faith across 50 states,” and said the ed­u­ca­tion she got spend­ing time with folks around the coun­try was equiv­a­lent to “about six dif­fer­ent mas­ter’s de­grees in col­lege.”

For some, the trips of­fer so­lace. Jen Miller, au­thor of “Run­ning: A Love Story,” set out to see the 18 states she hadn’t vis­ited af­ter her dog died and she was forced to sell her house “be­cause of a ter­ri­ble neigh­bor.” She got through the 18 in just one sum­mer, and along the way, adopted a new dog in Boise, Idaho.

Kris Nazar, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Poland in 1986, worked as a truck driver and drove a semi through the lower 48. He crossed off Alaska when he got a job help­ing to clean up the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 and plans to see Hawaii with his wife in 2019 as a 25th wed­ding an­niver­sary trip.

WHICH STATES ARE LAST?

Rovey says more than half of the club’s 4,000 mem­bers name Hawaii and Alaska as their fi­nal stops. That makes sense: Those des­ti­na­tions re­quire more plan­ning, time and money than just driv­ing across state lines. But the other place at the end of the 50-state road for many trav­el­ers is North Dakota.

“That seems to be a state that is not on the way to places for peo­ple,” said Rovey. “Many of our mem­bers have had to make a spe­cial trip to get there.” One rec­om­men­da­tion for trav­el­ers hop­ing to reach all 50: If you’re close to an­other state, make that ex­tra trip.

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