I’m a die-hard road-tripper, and it had long been a fantasy to visit all 50 states in 50 weeks, but with raising a family and running my own business for many years, that’s all it was, a fantasy.
This is a column submitted for publish by guest contributor Nancy Zyburt.
Then I realized it didn’t have to be a fantasy. You can turn dreams into reality. As my youngest daughter started college, and if everything went just exactly right, maybe, just maybe, my fantasy could become a reality with a few extra components.
Inspired by a group of scouts when my kids were little — they were handing out lists of what Faith in Action needed — I decided on traveling to all 50 states, and included territories in the list.
In a nutshell, this is what I did: On August 31, 2012, which was my 56th birthday, — and I was born in 1956 — I left on a 56-week road trip to all 56 states and US territories; spending one week in each state or territory. This included the 50 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Note: April is Community Banking Month and Chelsea State Bank will share some of their human interest stories about how they give back to the communities they serve. Here is one employee’s journey to give back…what people do at community banks.
Along the way, I made a $56 donation every day (7 per state) to worthy causes like food pantries, soup kitchens, women’s shelters, children’s backpack programs, pet shelters, veterans homes, and countless other organizations that popped up along the way. My dog and I also walked 8 miles a day, which was 56 miles a week, in keeping with my theme: Expedition 56.
Travel had to stick to a strict budget. The budget was the same for every state; no matter how large or small, so I wouldn’t run out of money, and I frequently “camped” although sleeping in my van on an inflatable mattress with pillows and quilts might not exactly be camping!
When I didn’t camp, I stayed in low-end dog-friendly motels, and with friends and family all over the country. I ate lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and my family would spoil me rotten whenever I had time with them. I met some of the most amazing people while doing my donations – they thought what I was doing was very inspiring. I thought they were amazing to dedicate their lives to helping those less fortunate.
There are many really good people with big hearts out there – it’s just sad that the need for assistance is so great. I had tours of many different kinds of places, which was an amazing education. I enjoyed shopping for whatever the donation-of-the-day was whether it was food or back-to-school supplies, or new socks for the homeless, or shampoo, toothpaste, and toothbrushes for a crew fighting wildfires. I never knew where I would end up each day, or what my donation would be at the end of the day. I just took each day as it came. And to be able to take in all the local scenery and drive all around the country while doing this was literally a dream come true.
I miss being out on the open road, and every time I see kids selling girl scout cookies, or scouts handing out lists of items they’re collecting for Faith in Action; or Toys for Tots collections, I wish that I could make generous donations to all of them.
In the end, I was gone over 14 months – a little longer than 56 weeks. But I had taken some short family breaks, and my route did not always go as planned. For instance, Hurricane Sandy disrupted my course about eight weeks into the adventure. I was always ready to change course and go with the flow when things like that happened.
I returned home on November 18, 2013, and shopping at Polly’s in Chelsea for Faith in Action was my final donation of Expedition 56 – a very bittersweet one! I am now back with Chelsea State Bank — saving my pennies for another big Give Back to America adventure somewhere down the road.