Personal Journey: One family's goal: 50 states, come what may
What would turn out to be a family adventure began innocently enough: As a young lad I frequently visited a neighbor who had traveled the country widely. I would listen to his tales and peruse his decades-old collection of National Geographic magazines. Many baby boomers were as captivated as I by these exciting pages showing photos of our far-flung nation. I dreamed of seeing those fascinating pages come to life, not knowing how or when this would happen.
With finances limited, my only youthful trip was when I hitchhiked cross-country with a friend at age 18 to camp at high elevation in Rocky Mountain National Park. My friend and I survived our adventure with some great stories; then, as they say, "Life happened."
After years of school, marriage, starting a career, and raising two children, my wanderlust returned, and this time it infected the entire family. So, we started traveling.
My early memories of National Geographic still vivid, we started with long car trips to visit national parks - the perfect travel combination of scenery, history, wildlife, and activity to keep the interest of all. By 2013, we had seen 45 of our country's 59 national parks, and we realized that we had also visited 44 states, which led to our decision to finish all 50 states together as a family.
We planned our itinerary to fly into Oklahoma City and then visit Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan - 1,500 miles over two weeks ending on Mackinac Island (Michigan) to celebrate having traveled to 50 states together.
But life almost changed our plans.
My wife had a routine surgical procedure in late January. The next evening while walking next to me at home, she suddenly fell as if she had been shot. I caught her, but she was unconscious, unresponsive, and not breathing, and promptly went into a seizure. Those years I spent in school that had delayed my travel adventures fortunately provided the skills I needed to resuscitate her. Her subsequent hospital stay revealed that she suffered severe bilateral pulmonary emboli - her attack and then survival were called by her physicians a "one-in-a-million" chance.
After this scare and the relief of her recovery, we needed our planned family adventure more than ever, and kept our trip as scheduled in May.
Everything went well, and as we celebrated reaching our goal of visiting all 50 states with a horse-carriage tour of Mackinac Island, we realized how travel enhances the quality of life - and how the planning and talk of a trip almost add as much fun as the event itself.
Travel has brought us closer as a family and enriched us in multiple ways, those we are aware of and those we scarcely realize. I don't know what's next, but I was wondering - how many countries are there in the world?
Robert Griffith writes from Meadowbrook.
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