My dream has always been to travel, whether it is within the United States or to another country.
Growing up my parents would drive me to Texas for soccer tournaments or to see family. Many holidays were spent in Kansas and every summer we made multiple trips to Arkansas and Missouri to soak up the sun at the lake. We celebrated New Years in Nebraska and spent a few months in Washington driving through New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Oregon along the way. We experienced the history of the United States in Washington D.C. and Virginia.
Before I could even drive I was fortunate enough to have been to eleven states and the District of Columbia, which is more than many people my age could say.
The summer before my senior year of high school I discovered the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon. That same summer I went to Florida, which was the first time I had been to the Atlantic Ocean and flew on an airplane by myself.
In college my family did not travel as frequently. That wasn’t going to stop me from seeing the world outside of Oklahoma. My schedule in college was busy between working a few jobs at a time, class, and my sorority functions. It was a surprise if I could take a week-long vacation, but my schedule didn’t stop me. On my 15-minute breaks at work I began planning affordable trips.
I realized it was not as cheap to fly like it used to be so the more sensible option was to take road trips and try to visit as many states surrounding Oklahoma in just a weekend. When I told my best friend about my plan to journey to all 50 states, she loved the idea and was ready to leave as soon as possible. We compared our schedules and continued to plan in detail so we could budget for the upcoming trip. We would bring food in an ice chest and would alternate from taking a nap to driving so we only had to pay for gas and souvenirs and not on food and hotels.
For our first road trip, we left at 3:00 pm on Friday after work and arrived in Gulf Shores, Alabama, just in time for the sunrise the next morning. On our way back home, we stopped in Louisiana to experience the infamous nightlife of New Orleans.
Our next road trip was to Tennessee where we stopped at Graceland in Memphis and watched a concert at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. We weren’t far from Kentucky so we stopped to get fried chicken at a local restaurant in Franklin.
Thanksgiving break, my third year of college, was spent ice-skating in downtown Los Angeles, hiking to see the Hollywood Sign, walking along the Hollywood Stars, and window shopping on Rodeo Drive. Winter break that same year was spent snowboarding in Colorado with friends and celebrating my birthday in Las Vegas. The popular spring break destinations are Florida and Mexico, but my best friend and I went with the unexpected spring break trip to Galveston, Texas, so we could say we had been to a carnival on a pier. Then, my last spring break was spent eating peaches in Georgia, driving over the Chattahoochee River in Alabama, and passing through Tupelo, Mississippi, where Elvis Presley was born.
Recently, I have been planning my next road trip to Indiana where we will take a gondola ride on the canal in Indianapolis then to Illinois to see Cloud Gate nicknamed the “Bean” in Chicago. Next, drive to Wisconsin to participate in the Polar Bear Plunge in Milwaukee or eat some Wisconsin cheese then take an air balloon ride in Iowa or walk across the Neon Foot Bridge in Des Moines. About a month after, I will go on my next road trip to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
As much as Oklahoma will always be my home I do not see myself living here my whole life. I want to live and experience life in other areas of the United States, not just be a tourist. Since I am not one to make rash decisions my journey to all 50 states allows me decide where I could see myself living. It excites me to plan my next road trip because I am possibly finding my new home away from home.
If you share the same interest to travel to all 50 states, find friends or family with the same interest, but do not be afraid to travel alone. Set an attainable goal for yourself so you make sure to visit the places you have always wanted to see. When you make a goal, you are more likely to follow through with the plan, especially when something unexpected happens that may take priority over traveling.
I have a set goal for myself so by this time next year I will have been to more than half of the United States.
Never say you can’t because of time or money because you can make a weekend trip and set money aside each paycheck. If you live paycheck to paycheck, consider joining an airline program where you can earn travel miles each time you use your credit or debit card. It is possible, you just have to plan ahead of time and set reachable goals.
My journey across the United States does not make me a storyteller. Rather, I hope it makes me an example to encourage you to find your passion and never let time or money become an excuse to not fulfill your dreams.