February 12, 2024
By Kevin Sampson
It was January 2018. The dotted line had been signed, making the sale of my home one for the history books. It was a done deal and I was unshackled. No mortgage, rent, utility, cable, internet, HOA or insurance payments. I had successfully left the world of homeownership behind and entered the world of itinerancy. I sold off almost all of my earthly possessions, put the must-keep stuff in a couple boxes and stored it away. It was then that I decided I wanted to go to all fifty states before I turned fifty years old.
I was 44 and if my records were correct, I had been to 18 states up to that point. It seemed completely reasonable to visit the remaining 32 states in the 6 year timeframe I had. Thanks to COVID that 6 years became more like 4 ½, but still not an unrealistic timeframe.
My personal rule was that in order to count having been to a state I had to a) spend at least one night in the state and b) have some type of fun and enjoyable experience. It took me 6 distinct trips - 5 road trips plus 1 flight - and in August 2023, 5 months prior to turning 50, I landed in Anchorage, a full-fledged member of the All Fifty State Club… well, at least by the next day I was!
Whenever I speak to someone about my travels and I tell them that I’ve been to all fifty states, the natural questions ensue. “What was your favorite place?” or “How long did it take you?” or “What about your job?” But the one question no one has ever asked me is a question I often ask myself. “What haven’t I seen?”
The thing about travel, the more you do it, the more you want to do it. Travel has opened my eyes to so much and it has left me with a thirst for more. There is always the next place, the next challenge, the next opportunity to explore.
Yes, I’ve been to Disney World but I missed the Everglades. Sure, I’ve been to the Redwood Forests but I never made it to try the great street foods of Los Angeles. The Grand Canyon was stunning but the Sonoran desert still remains a mystery to me. I realized that for every place I’ve been, for every mountain I climbed, for every trail I hiked, for every amazing restaurant, bar, cafe, distillery, museum, church, or garden I’ve been to, there remain countless more.
I like to reflect on my travels and consider what they have taught me. I also like to consider what adventures are to come. And so here are 5 things that I find to be extremely important and that I hope I keep in mind when I get back on the road:
- Don’t stress. Things will happen. I got two flat tires on two consecutive days during one road trip. You just gotta brush it off and move on. There is ALWAYS someone willing to help.
- Don’t overplan. There are a lot of variables when you are on the road. I find that if you overplan, things tend to go wrong more often. If you keep things a little open ended, you keep the space to adjust on the fly. In fact, spontaneity can be amazing. Some of the best parts of my trips were showing up in a town or city literally with NO PLAN. I just drive in, park the car, and begin asking random people that I pass for advice on what to see and where to eat. Try it!
- Eat well! Wow, is it easy to get caught up in the early morning tall stack of pancakes at the local breakfast counter, amazing cinnamon rolls and sweet tea in the south, and heaps and heaps of smoked BBQ all across the country. But I have learned that some water and a salad can make all the difference in the world to healthy digestion!
- Meet people. People are all the same. No matter where I’ve been, people are people. They are friendly and they are standoffish. They are helpful and they are rude. They are generous and they are stingy. The point is, we spend so much time putting people into boxes - New Yorkers are like THIS and Alabamians are like THAT. No, not really. People are just people, so get out there and go meet them!