The “50 by 30” Challenge

I’ve written in the past about my love of road trips (just a blog post or two…or ten). I preach this style of travel so feverishly because I know that most people still don’t see it as ideal. Driving long distances in a short period of time is usually a last-resort, not an intentional “vacation”. When I took my first big road trip, it changed my view of community and this country forever, and it awakened in me a fascination with these 50 states that wasn’t there before. America is a unique country in that, geographically, it is quite large. If you sat it alongside England, France, Italy…the land mass would be consuming in comparison. It’s perhaps one of the reasons that individual states are able to maintain such diversity from one another. They each have unique community structures, demographics, customs and ways of life. Trying to see them all is a daunting task, and trying to see them all (or most of them) by car is pretty much nuts. But I am a little bit nuts. Over cocktails one evening, Katie and I came to an enthusiastic conclusion about our latest life goal…to see all 50 states by the age of 30. We are exceedingly elated by the concept of this undertaking, and we have immediately begun the preparations for the plan’s execution. Since Katie turns 30 a whole year-and-a-half before I do (April of 2016), we knew that we would have a bit of a time crunch. She has seen 42 states thus far and I have seen 37. Unfortunately though, most of our missing states will not be as easy to check off the list as one would think, due to the fact that they are not concentrated into a single area.

Katie’s missing states:

  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Oklahoma
  • Wisconsin
  • Minnesota
  • Arkansas
  • North Dakota
  • Michigan

Sara’s missing states:

  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Wisconsin
  • Minnesota
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • North Dakota
  • Kentucky
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • West Virginia

Any decent challenge has to have rules. Rule #1 is that flying through a state does not count as seeing it. You have to physically leave the airport, drive—or in some way transport yourself—over land, and ideally stop at least once for anything from an overnight stay, to lunch on the road, to a 5-minute pit stop for a postcard at a welcome center. Rule #2 is that you must see at least some part of the state. If you hop an overnight Amtrak and happen to roll through South Carolina while you are sleeping, it stays on the “missing states” list. Rule #3 (optional, but ideal) is to eat something local in the state you visit. As I said, this is optional, but we’re definitely going to try as hard as possible to accomplish it. It’s been accomplished in a good 7/8th of the states we’ve visited thus far. Rule #4 is to buy a magnet with the name of the state. This is a tradition we started during our first road trip and it has become the cheapest means of obtaining “souvenirs” that document the places we’ve been. We have a crowded fridge.

IMG_3092           IMG_3301

Alaska and Hawaii will clearly require the furthest journeys during this challenge. I had recently decided (before this 50 by 30 plan) that I wanted to fly to Seattle next year and spend a couple of weeks driving up to Anchorage after speaking to a friend who made the trek all the way from Texas (in a U-haul). Unfortunately, with the adoption of my new life goal, I realized that I would have to ration my 16 days per year of vacation time more wisely. We plan to save Alaska for just before Katie’s 30th, and make stops in Minnesota and North Dakota on our way there. As for the upcoming year, it will be compiled of several smaller trips that will ultimately cover Arkansas, Nebraska, Kansas, Michigan, Wisconsin & Hawaii, in addition to some repeat visits that we have scheduled. Michigan & Wisconsin will be covered in a single crazy 3-day weekend, the details of which have puzzled each and every person who I have explained them to. If there was such a thing as frequent-driver miles like there is for flying, I’d have earned myself a brand new Lexus with solid gold wheels and seats lined with diamonds by now. Off I go to stalk and book the first leg of our journey…wish me luck, and feel free to share the details of any similar undertakings here 🙂



2 thoughts on “The “50 by 30” Challenge

  1. millyann says:

    Soinds amazing! I see Wisconsin is on both of your lists… There is a week or so long music festival that happens in Milwaukee every year in late June, you should check wisconsin off your list then and catch some cool music at the same time!


    • saraelena says:

      Milly, that’s so interesting that you would mention that, because we’re HUUGE music festival fans! Katie in particular. She’s constantly finding random concerts to go to (often last minute). We actually have a tentative plan to hit Wisconsin in March, where we may fly out to Detroit early on a Friday and drive between/see a few states until Monday. We are doing a larger trip (including Hawaii) in late May. But I definitely need to give this another thought…thank you! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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