We’ve been back from N.Z. for a week now and I’m starting to get many videos from our trip uploaded and was beginning to get to the pin adding task so I could start to create some info pages for this site, but alas it won’t be that easy this time. New Zealand turned out to be so awesome, that it has broken our map…
So back in 2005 when I decided to start this adventure/website, it was generally because of two things. Firstly when Kelly and I met, we were literally across the country (Baton Rouge – Salt Lake City), considering at the time we made a combined $22,000 a year, looking back its amazing we were able to see each other in person almost once a month without sacrificing our jobs or schooling or going into any kind of real debt. But the more people I talked to about it, the more people became astounded with no knowledge of our finances, how could we afford it because travel is expensive and impossible?
Secondly, after going through Hurricane Katrina along with all our many friends and family in the New Orleans area too and experiencing all the loss and rebuilding; one note struck a particular chord for me. You can always replace stuff, but you’ll never need to replace experiences, and you can just keep on creating as many new ones as you want, no limit. Just try and take a few pictures along the way.
Later when Kelly and I started considering “our future” and where to live my good friend Cory and I had a conversation that went something like this:
Cory: “You can’t possibly be moving to Utah, there’s no way it’s better than Hattiesburg, MS”
Me: “Have you even been there?”
Cory: “No, but neither have you really.”
Allen: “Well then how do we know Hattiesburg is better?”
Cory: “I just know it is, I bet you it is”
Allen: “Well I need to make sure of that, so I’m going to have to try out all the places in the world to be sure none of them are better.”
Keep in mind that we were both mostly joking (neither of us lives in Hattiesburg anymore), but the conversation + Hurricane Katrina + a lot of people around me being so negative to the idea of travel struck me to start a self-created mission which later Kelly agreed to join: let’s try whatever there is to try, but without going broke. Our first goal was simple; Hit all 50 states. We decided only having some kind of memorable experience (good or bad) qualifies for a pin: no adding pins for driving through a state or for airport layovers.
We bought a $.50 map of the U.S.A. from good ole Rand McNally a few boxes of pins and started mostly with introducing each other to all the places either of us had been to growing up. (that’s pictures of the actual map all over the site). Then the web site started as a way to have a backup for photos and video (post-Katrina mindset) but also hoping that some people might stumble upon the site and get inspired to go out and experience more of the world.
Then came the first baseball road trip in the northeast and then perfecting the “road trip weekend.” Then we hit up the Gulf Coast, Grand Canyon, 3 more baseball trips, sand dunes, race tracks, Amish country and Vegas and we’re currently up to 31 states (past the halfway point). Two years back though, we asked “what’s our bigger dream places? Let’s hit them now rather than later” So we bought a new World Map from Rand McNally and put aside getting all 50 states in lieu of Italy, Greece, Turkey, Bahamas, Grand Turk and most recently New Zealand, and now we’ve broken our Google map… sort of.
See, if you go to our map page, you’ll notice that right now it only shows maybe 1 pin in New Zealand, but I promise you that is not “New Zealand on a low budget.” It turns out Google’s “My Maps” function limits you to only 200 markers displaying at a time. In other words, we’ve gone to too many place for the map to display correctly. New Zealand “on a budget” actually involved a camper van, holiday parks, making a lot of sandwiches or soup and still adding 61 totally awesome pins to the map. New Zealand is supposed to actually look a lot more like this photo on the side. Luckily I married a GIS analyst, and Kelly says she’ll be able to work with the Google API and get us all set to have as many markers as we want soon enough.
So I don’t really know where I’m going with this except to say that it feels awesome and also surprising to hit this achievement with our map, because we don’t stay in fancy hotels, we don’t fly first class, we don’t own an RV, or have a travel agent, yet we also manage to not need to stay in shady areas or facilities, or sleep on floors. But still now 6 years in, after meeting many people from many countries, the one consistency I still see in Americans overall is the big misconception that travel is really hard and/or super expensive.
I just wanted to say to anyone who might find this; I’m not saying it’s easy, or that it’s totally cheap (in fact, learning how to manage money when you aren’t traveling is as, if not more, important as the travel planning and execution itself) but adding pins to your map is nowhere near impossible; it can be as simple as a 1-hour road trip on a free Saturday. Of course it can also be as crazy as 20 hours’ worth of flying across the globe and then 11 days of road tripping in a camper van… Whatever way you can, just keep adding pins to your map!
… and I’ll keep trying to figure out how the world compares to Hattiesburg, Mississippi : )