According to research, half of all Americans see fewer than ten states in their lifetimes. I’ve never understood this; I still don’t. But I had a decent head start, growing up in the Midwest. Roadtrips as a kid let me see Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Colorado. I then toured with bands as a teenager, when I first visited states like New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. My first “real” music industry job was when I covered territory including Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. When I moved to California I fell in love with the west coast and explored everywhere I could. I then decided to make this an actual goal after the 2016 election to form a deeper understanding of our country. When talking about this goal, people would be quick to state how many countries they’d visited, but not many people knew how many states they had been to, which I found to be interesting.
I LOVE the U.S. I feel extremely lucky to have been born here, regardless of the problems that plague us. With as many massive flaws as it has (see: racism, gun violence, healthcare), physically and ideologically it is insanely beautiful, filled with diversity in people, food, nature, and possibility. I’ve been blessed to have been all over the world (and would 100% recommend that), but the reality is if you want to discover other cultures, you don’t even need a passport. The social and geographic divides have never been more pronounced, so the easiest thing is to stay in a bubble and dismiss people with other opinions and backgrounds which robs us of nuance, depth and understanding - so I wanted to avoid being a statistic and get out there!
Writing down this goal for years now and thinking of how I can make it a reality. Around half of the states is when I started tracking them, and became intentional about visiting new ones.
(Pontooning in Florida with my dog Taco)
Stacking on Obligations
Stacking states during trips I had to take for other obligations such as work, weddings, etc. (ie I had to go to Boston, so I flew into Rhode Island and spent time there beforehand).
(at the Space Needle in Washington)
Embracing the Roadtrip
We miss so much when we board a plane. The expansiveness and scale. Meeting the people in between. (i.e.- LA to South Dakota, the entirety of the 1 highway, Michigan to Colorado, Rhode Island to Maine, Michigan to Florida). And hey, maybe gas prices will go down again someday :)
(Bringing my dog on a roadtrip through South Dakota)
Not Waiting on Others
If you want to do this or any other big travel goal, don’t wait on people to go with you. Go by yourself, and meet people along the way.
(Hiking through Denali National Park in Alaska)
WHAT MADE IT GREAT:
I looked forward to an exciting experience in each for motivation (hot air ballooning in New Mexico, lobstering in Massachusetts, dogsledding in Alaska, tour the historical Ryman theater in Tennessee, snowboarding in Utah, swimming with manatees in Florida, ice fishing in Minnesota, attended a concert at Red Rocks in Colorado on 4th of July, went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio, rolled down the sand dunes in Indiana)
(Hot Air Ballooning in New Mexico)
I planned a culturally relevant meal in each (beignets in Louisiana, barbecue in Texas, catfish in Mississippi, maple syrup everything in Vermont, cheese curds in Wisconsin, went on a pizza tour in New York, ate at the famous fish market in Washington)
(Trying the famous hot chicken in Tennessee)
This goal started for fun but I realized over the last few years (particularly during political unrest and the pandemic) that the real benefit for me was the understanding and empathy towards people and the choices they make and why, because so much of that is determined by the surrounding environment. It has helped me not be one sided on any issue, to ask more questions, to listen more, and not assume the worst. This is easy and obvious to say about traveling the world, but our country is like a lot of little countries in one, which is why it’s often so hard to get on the same page.
(UTV'ing in Michigan)
I mean wow. The U.S. is just beyond spectacularly beautiful in so many ways. From the Mars-esque landscapes of Zion, to the Rocky Mountains, to the warm beaches of Miami and the changing leaves of the Northeast, this country is honestly just so underrated in terms of diversity in the physical landscape. While cities grow and flourish, there’s still a million places to lay on a sleeping bag and see the brightest stars. Another big goal of mine is to see all the U.S. National Parks. I’m currently at 36/63. Let’s go!
(Seeing Old Faithful in Wyoming)
What’s my favorite?
I live in California and have for the last 15 years, it’s hard to beat for me personally!
(Snorkeling in Malibu, California)
Which one do you want to spend more time in?
(Lobstering off the coast of Maine)
Which surprised you the most?
Utah - what an incredibly beautiful place.
(Exploring Capitol Reef in Utah)
What was the last state?
I saved Hawaii for my last stop - the 50th state for my 50th state! And yes - that was planned.
(Celebrating at a roadside dive in Kauai, Hawaii when I reached my 50th State)