Eighteen months ago, I decided I would visit all 50 states before my 30th birthday. At the time, I was 28.5 years young and had visited 24 states. It seemed an impossible goal, but I twinkled at the possibility of accomplishing such a great feat. And even if I didn’t finish in time, the journey itself would be worth it.
My work was cut out for me, so visiting all 50 states would mean getting creative about how and when I would plan my trips. It would mean optimizing my days across states and maximizing my time within states. It would mean carefully mapping smaller goals to make sure I stayed on track. But it would mean lots of adventures and easy conversations with locals about why I was in their state. For 18 months, I would have to dedicate myself to this goal wholeheartedly. I was up for the challenge.
I finished visiting my 49th state a few weeks ago. It was one of the states I had least looked forward to (South Dakota), but it was one of my favorite destinations. That has been the wonderful theme of this journey. In every state I have discovered magic through its people, landscape, or food. I’ve driven and flown thousands of miles in dozens of rentals and airplanes, and I have been exposed to some of the most majestic things nature has to offer. Scenes that photography does not do justice, but that I will cherish forever.
As my 50th state trip nears, I am filled with a mixture of joy, trepidation, and sadness. Joy because it’s hard to believe I’m actually going to finish in time. Trepidation and sadness because this journey that has filled my present with so much joy will soon become part of my past. As it comes to an end, I feel conflicted between picking the next adventure, yet mourning this great journey.
People say that the journey is the destination, but I didn’t realize the destination would make me miss the journey so much before it even ended. My “visit all 50 states before 30” mission will be complete just 9 days before my 30th birthday, in Alaska. As of this writing, I am 29 years and 11.5 months old. The finish line is days away, and while I’ve had a blast drinking the juices of this adventure, I wish I had more drink to cure this journey hangover.