So, if you've been with me from the very beginning (well done, you!), you would remember that I had a whole section of my blog dedicated to 50BEFORE30. 50BEFORE30 was my challenge I set myself when I first moved to the States, that I wanted to visit all 50 states before I turned 30. The USA was a brand new world to me, and I was and still am excited to be a part of it. There are so many epic landscapes, bustling cities, and beautiful people to see, and I wanted to see it all before I turned 30.
Now there were a couple of requirements for me to count a state in my challenge as being checked off. You can't land in an airport, connect to somewhere else, and say you've been there. You cannot drive through on a train either - unless you get out the train and leave the train station and do something. You can count it if you are driving through a state only if you pass through for a few hours, and get out of the car. Anything more than that also counts.
I was lucky enough to have a family that loved travel and passed the bug onto me from an early age. By the time I was 18, I had already been to the states three times, although all three of those times involved a visit to Florida, for Disney. I had also been to New York and Colorado at that point. When my family moved to the states nearly ten years ago now, I never officially moved with them - they were living in Louisiana, and so it was a far cry from where I had grown up, in a big bustling, metropolitan city of Johannesburg. When I eventually permanently moved to the US, it was hard for me to find work, and so I spent a lot of time daydreaming about visiting parts of the US. Fast track to five years later and I have visited nearly 50 % of the States. I live in Florida, and have explored many of the Southern states by road trip - my boyfriend is from Alabama, so we have driven that road trip a few times. Louisiana I lived in for a few months, and I have traveled through Mississippi as a result. I went to Georgia with my friend for a wedding and crossed into South Carolina at the lure of fresh peaches. They were not the fresh peaches I was anticipating! I've spent many trips in New York City, one of my favorite cities in the world because my sister lived there for a time. I did six states in seven days road trip to New England with my mom when I went up to MA for Dyslexia intervention training. I traveled to Texas for a weekend shopping with my mom, to Minnesota to visit my sister when she lived there, and to California - again to visit my sister who lived there. Yes, she has lived in more states in the USA then the rest of us put together. I traveled to Pennsylvania for a day trip and took a photo for a couple who just gotten married a month after Pennsylvania allowed gay marriages. We all flew to Las Vegas to celebrate my sister's 21st, and then a road trip to see the Grand Canyon took us through parts of Arizona.
Needless to say, I haven't accomplished my goal, with eleven days (at the time of writing) to my 30th birthday. At some point in time, in the past five years, I realized the USA will always be here for me. Antelope Canyon, Alaska, Yosemite, Chicago, Redwoods - they'll all be there waiting for me. Well, as long as SOMEONE doesn't keep handing them to drilling companies. I think the best way to explore the US is to take that iconic road trip. To get in the car and drive with the open road ahead of you. The USA is huge, so that's a lot of roads to cover.
Truth be told, when you live in a country that's not your own for a while, your priorities also shift. I live and breathe America every day. So my heart also aches for the rest of the world too - something more similar to what I've lived my whole life, or something just completely different to the United States. The world is a lot larger than the USA, as big as it is, and I feel like exploring it while I'm still young (ish), is better than just exploring the USA right now. My last few trips have taken me to Peru, Mexico, South Africa, the UK, India, Qatar, and Ireland - all countries stark in contrast to the US, and the experiences of each have changed me each time.
I still love you the USA, and I'm sorry I haven't seen all of you yet - but I will one day!
In the meantime, I've started to update many of my 50 BEFORE 30 posts into guides for each state. Some of these guides are my own, and some are collaborations and guest posts from other fabulous travel bloggers. Take some time to check it out and plan your trip to your next USA state.