To know a place is to look at it as a whole than from an angle or from one spot. Only when we see the whole picture, we start to understand.
WHEN my goal of visiting all fifty states got out, I was often asked, “What is over there?,” “How do I travel so much?,” and “Are you scared of traveling by yourself?”
The questions came aggressively. I don’t know if this is normal for anyone to face, but I bit my lips. It is true that Americans usually don’t want to travel to other states, thinking that one state is better than the other, and that one negative opinion was enough to generalize a place. If it was a comedy sketch, we could all have a laugh at it.
Q & A’s:
What is over there?
For most states, there was something. Even South Dakota has something: Mount Rushmore, and Montana has a beautiful sky with mountains that seems to calm you, and of course, Glacier National Park. I only had a couple or maybe one where I wasn’t in the right city to experience something new and relaxing.
How do I travel so much?
I’m what a lot of Americans say “socially liberal but fiscally conservative.” I keep an open mind while traveling, and I spend wisely.
Are you scared of traveling by yourself?
No, I’m very independent, cautious, and aware, so I feel confident in my ability to travel.
What made you want to do domestic travel?
I have always want to do all fifty states since I had read about American road trips when I was a child. I decided to focus on domestic travel after discovering how easy it was to travel domestically.
Road trips seemed to be reserved for the people who are very adventurous and dare to live their life in the open skies without holding onto something back home–whether they have money or dirt poor. I was in my early twenties in the 21st century and worked myself to a free life: an education and a job. I didn’t realize that my childhood travels in the city have prepared me more than I have ever thought. Maps, public transportations, routes–they all came naturally.
Driving is sometime necessary in some states. My longest solo road trip was 1,612 miles, but I also took public transportation when possible. I never mind driving because I learned to drive by the time I was eighteen. A few weeks after getting my license, my younger brother begged me to drive on the highway, and like a good older “Sissy,” I tried it. Afterwards, I was no longer scared of highways (or freeways, or whatever you want to call the fast lanes). Once over 21, I learned to rent a car.
Music and people also always made road trips more relaxing and enjoyable.
Every State is Unique
I was driven to see every state because I was raised on the fact that every state was unique, that there’s something to explore in each and every one. Where I got that notion, it must have been some books I read. Different characters touched different parts of the states.
My sense of adventure drove me to keep exploring. I am sure that each state has its uniqueness, and if I can walk in my city, then I can walk a lot more. But if there’s anything I’ve learned about traveling in the US, is that if you want the comfort and luxury, it’s going to be pretty pricy.
Paying the American Price
You’re paying the “normal” American price most likely. If it cost you $100 per night for a hotel, $50 for transportation, $60 for attractions, and $30 for food, etc, up to $300 per day, and you have 50 states, that’s already $15,000. If you want to spend a decent amount of time per state, around 3 days, you’d need to have $45,000.
Unless… you find something well within your budget. Airbnb, hostels are good starts. Public transportation becomes a necessity. And sometimes, you end up cooking your own food. Traveling within my means and the cost of traveling around the US becomes more like $10,000 (around $60-70 per day), like the cost it takes to survive in California in 2018 for a year with the cheapest rent and maybe, possibly not owning a car–just basic survival or for a young adult who still live with their parents.
When I first learned to travel, I also learned a traveler secret from well-seasoned travelers. A lot of travelers and young people also tend to know people or have friends in other states. Many thanks to those who have helped on my travels! ❤
Still, dreams are the mothers of creativity. I’m not waiting to “get there,” for someone, or for someone to discover America for me.
Domestic Travel is Affordable
I learned that domestic travel is affordable. Once, we paid 1/4 of the price for a cabin on off season and had the ranch to ourself. Traveling with one or a few airlines also meant cheaper flights and more flights with miles.
Personally, living in California meant I’ve been paying premium. Once in another state, the gas prices and all tend to drop. I haven’t seen $1.79 per gallon for gas since the 90’s!
The more I traveled, the more people I met and more culture that I was exposed to. (In America? You might ask. Yes, in America.) I saw Amish people for the first time, I heard Portuguese, and I discovered that Minneapolis had diversity as I celebrated Cinco de Mayo there with bubble tea (or as Californians call it, boba) .
Yet there was a similarity where if you knew LA, then you know Chicago and you can figure out New York. And you can figure out the Spanish signs on the Minneapolis bus stops as you wonder who speak Spanish all the way near Canada? If you know how to talk Americans in your states, you probably know how to talk to many Americans in many different states.
The more I traveled, the more I looked beyond the ordinary. For someone who live in that state all their life, there might not be much that is interesting. For someone from another state, I look for the unique experience that I don’t have in my state. I focus on the interesting, and I get interesting experiences. A western movie studio that is interactive? Sign me up! But even the most common thing, a zoo or a garden can be as different as hiking different mountains. Never swam in a river? Let me jump into the river.
I realized the more I traveled to different states, I appreciated different states. I’d get dropped off and suddenly I’m in a new place, left to figure out what I can. I’d step into snow and wintery cold or in the rainy forest or a warm desert in April, or a place so historic that I felt like I was stepping back in time. I’m usually greeted by nice and polite Americans. It reminds me not to take for granted the land we live in, and to not take for granted the hard work everyone has done to make it like today.
There’s a reason that when I step on this land, I’m not told to go back home. Well, one they probably want my tourist money, and two, I’d probably only talk to the polite ones, but nonetheless, I’ve learned a lot by going to different states. I ate different food, talked to people I didn’t think I would talk to, and I learned more about myself.
Traveling isn’t a break from life. It is experiencing life in another person’s shoes. I have worn many different shoes in different states, literally and figuratively. So after all those traveling, I’ve decided to share my stories and photos here for someone to read. (Thanks, mom!)