Last week I went to Alaska, my 50th state. This completes my lifelong quest to go to every state by the time I am 30. It all started when my grandparents started keeping a map with colored pins on it for every family member. Each person gets a pin in the map in the part of each state where they first set foot (four corners is the best spot for this rule).
What is it like to go to all 50 states in the US? Pretty much like going to 48 of the states. You are going to get a standard curve of coolness. People have been asking my which is my favorite state. I earlier did a post on what my favorite places in the first 49 were. Utah sticks out in my mind because it is so weird and wonderful. Oregon pretty much has it all. I now have to add Alaska to the list of awesome places. That whole state is just super-sized (even the mosquitos – sorry Minnesota they have you beat). I wouldn’t mind having a summer home in Alaska. 24 hours of sunlight is also super cool. You never get tired (except for when you finally crash)!
This nice thing about this quest was that it came from within. Sure there was the map, which given my competitive personality probably led me to want to be the first to all the state (My parents beat me. Darn you retirement/lots of vacation days!). It is nice to have something you are striving for that you set yourself, arbitrarily or because the universe pulls you in a direction. Sometimes it seemed like work (sorry Delaware and New Jersey – you are off my beaten path) but most of the time every state was way cooler than I ever expected.
One of the things that I am looking forward to most is having something in common with every American. Wherever you are from – I have been there. This is one of the big parts of why I was willing to make this huge time and monetary investment (besides the good sightseeing, traveling is kinda a hassle sometimes). It will be a huge benefit for me as I branch into new ventures in the coming years.
I once had a debate with some crazy Canadians about whether you had to leave your country to truly experience something new. Perhaps if you live in a tiny country like Monaco, you ought to get over to Luxembourg to see how they do things, but here in the US, we have a naturally diverse group of people everywhere. I am a strong proponent of exploring and learning from your own backyard (something I was forced to do literally when my mom told me to get out of the house as a kid). I will concede that I have only felt truly out of my element in other countries where I don’t speak the language, look way different, and have a totally different cultural background. Even then, it only took about 48 hours before I was in the zone again and really flowing smoothly.
One lesson that I took from my most recent trip is that guidebooks are awesome. I am usually one to eschew guide books in favor of forcing myself to talk to people and get recommendations. Now I see that a guidebook can give you the inside scoop on places to stay and activities, so then you can go do them and talk to the people there and get even more insider scoops (Congress might make this illegal at any moment). I think I will go so far as to get a guidebook for my home city wherever I choose to live next.
Leave me a comment about your favorite state or why you travel!