From Speechless to Storytelling

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

By the time I graduated from college 16 years ago, I had witnessed exactly five states with my own two eyes: Iowa (obviously), Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Missouri. Everywhere else was just a pipe dream. I was content with never traveling outside the Midwest.

Then 2004 came along and rocked my world.

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Mount Hood – 2004

My buddy Z concocted a road trip of legendary proportions and we set off in his beat-up Honda Civic. The driver’s side window didn’t work and the side mirror was held up by duct tape, but it took us everywhere we wanted to go: landmarks, monuments, mountains, the Pacific Ocean, Chinese restaurants in the middle of Montana, an Idaho park that honored a dude named “Beaver Dick,” and British Columbia (where our entire car was emptied and searched by customs upon re-entry).

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Space Needle – 2004

That trip opened my eyes. To quote Aladdin, it was a whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. All of a sudden, everywhere became a possibility.

Four years later, I married my wife and we went on an epic honeymoon jokingly dubbed “The NObraska Tour” because we hit every state that borders Nebraska, but never set foot in Nebraska itself.

mt rushmore 2008
Mount Rushmore – 2008

A year after that, we embarked on an eight-state expedition that started with Louisville, ended with St. Louis, and included stops in between that took us as far south as Alabama and Mississippi.

Three years ago, we headed out west, this time for a circuit of three national parks: Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Rocky Mountain.

yellowstone 2014
Yellowstone – 2014

And just last year, my buddy Robert and I hopped on a bus trip to Washington, DC. The White House, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Lincoln Memorial – these were all places that, to me, had only existed in movies and photos. Mind. Blown.

white house 2016
White House – 2016

As of now, I’m up to 24 states visited. That number might feel average to some people, but to me personally, it’s spectacular. All of these journeys would have seemed impossible to 10-year-old me… or even 20-year-old me, who thought a two-hour drive to Des Moines was a long trek. A few of my friends have visited all 50 states – you better believe I’m shooting for that, too.

As I brainstorm my next adventure, I’m also taking time to peek at the rear view mirror and appreciate everything I’ve seen so far. I’m blessed to know countless individuals who value experiences just as much as I do. Enthusiasm is contagious.

Here’s to the next adventure. May it initially leave me speechless, then give me words powerful enough to wow the world.

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