There are three significant moments in the last few years that brought us to the decision to embark on visiting 50 states in 5 years. Here’s how it went down:
We were nearing 30
Around the time Brandon and I turned 27, we started talking about turning 30 and what a significant event it would be in our lives. We agreed that we should do something to celebrate, and decided that a trip to Europe would make us feel a lot better about entering the third decade of our lives. Brandon opened a travel savings account for us and we started making small monthly deposits for our dream trip, planned for Fall 2018. We told our friends and family, and we talked about the trip occasionally—assuming we’d start to nail down plans a year before. When we shifted our focus to 50 in 5, the money we had been saving for our 30th birthday trip became seed money for our new adventure.
My dad died
In July 2016, at the age of 63, my dad died after a two-year battle with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. During the fog of the first week without him, my mom and I went to his office to collect his personal belongings. I lifted his large desk calendar and underneath it I discovered a smaller, secret calendar. With a thin red pen, he’d been carefully marking off work days—counting down to his retirement date. On a separate sheet of paper he had broken down his time spent working throughout his entire career—years, weeks, days, hours, and minutes—careful to exclude weekends and vacation time. It was heartbreaking.
Dad had many hopes and dreams for his retirement. He couldn’t wait to spend his time building things in his basement workshop, and he mentioned to me more than once the idea of taking a road trip along the Eastern coast of the United States. Maybe he and mom would move to the North Carolina mountains.
But he never had the opportunity to realize those dreams, because he was waiting for a time that was never guaranteed to him. A mistake we all make is assuming we have plenty of time to live the life we want… later. His hidden calendar haunted me for months and with a new appreciation for how precious our time on Earth is, a question kept pressing on my mind: How am I living my life now?
It was February 2017 and Brandon and I were sitting on the couch reflecting on a weekend trip I’d just taken with my two best friends to Charleston, South Carolina. “There’s so much to see out there. I wish we could travel more often, even to places close by,” I said. We fell into silence and a few moments later, Brandon said, “are we living life all wrong?”
Surely there’s more to life than working our desk jobs, paying bills, watching Netflix, getting a few hours of sleep at night, and living for the weekends when we try to keep up with our home, families, and any hobbies we happen to be able to squeeze in.
What would life look like if we were living it right, instead of wrong? The answer is subjective, of course. For us, a life well lived began to center around the idea of stepping outside of our comfort zone and into new places, traveling to meet new people and collect new experiences. We wanted to become familiar with the unfamiliar. Europe still sounded great (and we’ll get there someday!), but there’s a lot to discover about our own country.
We were approaching our 5th wedding anniversary and Brandon’s college graduation—two big reasons to celebrate. We called off Europe and made the decision to embark on visiting 50 states in 5 years, beginning in May 2017. Five years gives us enough time to make our travel plans work with the parameters of our full-time jobs. We’ll wrap things up in May 2022 (tentatively with an Alaskan cruise) for our 10th wedding anniversary. Stay tuned!