Here are the answers to the questions I have been most frequently asked about this trip.
What about Alaska and Hawaii? When I tell people I traveled to every state in the contiguous US, many of them ask why I left these two great states out. Well the simple answer is that I’ve already been to Hawaii several times for work and pleasure. And Alaska is so big and so far away that it deserves its own trip. Besides trying to drive my car to Hawaii is somewhat problematic.
How did you handle all those long drives by yourself? I personally love what road trippers call “windshield time”. It’s that time I use to sort through things in my head, pray a lot, and plan for the next stop or the next adventure. But since that only lasts for so long, I have come to love Pandora, Spotify, music CD’s that others have burned for me, and the awesome audio books that I can download from my library via Overdrive from practically anywhere I travel. (Side note: I once drove across not one, but TWO deserts - the Mohave and the Sonoran - on a single drive from Clovis, CA to Anthem, AZ. Had I not have had the incredible audio book The Art Of Racing in the Rain, which is written and narrated by a dog, I would have lost my dog gone mind!) And lastly, when I need more human interactions, I use another well known road warrior technique – I start calling everyone I ever met from my grade school friends on up to check in on their lives.
What was the thing that surprised you most on this trip? Well, I’m tempted to say hiking to the chilly Big Four Ice Caves in North Cascades, WA in 90 degree heat, or finding glorious hidden waterfalls in Marble, CO or touring a bourbon distillery near Lexington, KY. But to be honest, it was the kindness of real Americans that surprised me the most. Like the time three “black angels” rescued me from a flat out scary situation. Like the times people I hardly know offered me their homes to stay when they weren’t there. Like the times people – especially those in the South – greeted me like I was a long lost friend instead of a wandering stranger. And so on and so on across this great country of ours.
What was your favorite part of the trip? Having a glass of wine in the evening and a cup of coffee in the morning with people I care about. It really doesn’t get any better than that. Except maybe if I had one of their pets in my lap, then yes, that would be better.
What would I do differently or better? For one reason or another, there were parts of the country I didn’t get to spend enough time in like South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Maine, etc. So on future trips I plan to allot more time to experience those great places.
What is something you learned about yourself? I’ve always thought I’d like to live somewhere awesome for a month before moving on to the next remarkable place. And while there’s probably people that actually do that, I haven’t quite figured it out yet. So to cope with the idea of not being able to stay in an incredible place I just discovered, I use what I call my “scouting technique”. Simply put, I just tell myself that I’ve just “scouted” a great place to come spend more time in on the next big trip, and somehow that seems to placate my angst about missing out.
How did I make money on this trip?
As I stated in my pre-trip chapters, my goal was to actually “be paid” to take this trip – AKA make more money than it cost me to travel. I accomplished that in two ways – Saving Money and Making Money.
Saving Money. Since it’s still true that a penny saved is a penny earned, I set out to save as much as I could. I began by pairing my expenses way down so my retirement income actually produced a surplus while I was on the road. I saved money by going to the grocery store versus eating out, using coupons whenever possible, paying for hotel rooms with credit card points, and by splitting meals and going to happy hours rather than ordering peak priced dinners. And lastly, I looked for opportunities to trade for services – like photography to earn money or earn my keep - rather than pay cash.
Making Money. When I put the word out that I would be earning money for this trip through photography, I had a lot of people see the big picture :-) and step up. Companies hired me to shoot their events. People hired me to do “Fantasy Shoots” and marketing, branding and promotional photography, and talent portfolios. It wasn’t a ton of money because the logistics of the trip itself made it hard to plan shoots all over the country. But thankfully, it was enough to keep my gas tank and belly full, and provide a comfortable little surplus.
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