While most young people were backpacking through Europe, environmental science student Kathleen Carmean began a quest to visit every US state. She managed 25 before turning 25, and recently ticked off number 27 with Intrepid. We sat down with Kathleen to ask the big and obvious question: why?
So, why every U.S. state?
I went to Ireland a while ago and caught the travel bug, and I thought, “Gosh, I want to travel everywhere! But maybe I should start with the United States.” When I was younger, I visited a lot of states with my family, and my parents were always looking to do more. We had this close friend who had managed to visit all 50 U.S. states, so that’s probably where I got the inspiration from. And the crazy thing is, she and her family did all 50 states together.
How many have you done so far?
I’m 25 years old and I’ve done 27 states. The goal is all 50. I don’t really have a set time, but I want to go as soon as possible. Now that I’m in my 20s, I feel I can appreciate the differences between the states much more. Each one has its own unique culture and history. There’s so much to see and do.
Thanks! It’s been difficult squeezing in all the travel with work and study. I graduated college at 21, then worked for a while in finance. But in my senior year of college, I realised I was interested in the environment and climate change, so my goal now is to learn about the earth, about ecology and food webs, and especially natural resource economics. Right now I’m a graduate student, studying environmental science and foreign policy at John Hopkins.
What are your favourite states so far?
My favourite state is either Arizona or Washington. Arizona because I’m obsessed with the desert, and the Grand Canyon blew my mind. Washington because I loved constantly seeing all the pine trees. Also, having Mount Rainier looming over you while you drive down the street is utterly mind-blowing.
How are you planning to finish your 50 states?
I almost feel like it’ll be easy to reach my goal, because I have a lot of friends that have moved away to other parts of the country. I have connections everywhere: my grandparents and an aunt in Seattle, a cousin in Texas. I was travelling with my cousin and he turned to me and said, “Let’s go to Oregon!” And I was like, “Okay, let’s do it!” The air there was amazing, that clean mountain air. So different from the air in Maine or Texas.
How did you end up on an Intrepid trip?
I was taking this energy technology class, and I decided to go on your trip – LA to Vegas. So I went out west and actually saw three different types of energy tech. I saw the San Gorgonio wind farm in southern California on the way to Joshua Tree National Park. Then in Vegas I saw hydro power at the Hoover Dam, and a solar farm. It was incredible.
It was a life-changing trip for me. Not only did I tick off my 27th state, but the Grand Canyon was just the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Every second there I was in complete awe. Before I visited, I wasn’t super into geology. Like, pfft, rocks, who cares? Then I saw the Grand Canyon and was like, “Oh my god, look at these rocks!” Just ginormous rocks. I feel, as beings on this Earth, we should all experience as much as possible. To be like, “Wow! This is where I live. This is my planet.”
Have you travelled with Intrepid before?
Yep! My first Intrepid trip was to Niagara Falls (I knocked a few states off the list on that trip, too!). It was just me the leader and one other guy on that one. On our Vegas trip, it was three girls from New York, two guys from Europe, a solo traveller from New Zealand, and a dentist from the States. I really connected with our leader, Lisa. She became a good friend, and when I move out west I’m going to connect with her again and meet up in Vegas.
So what’s next on your quest?
I recently saw that Intrepid is now doing Glacier National Park and Badlands National Park! They’re both on my list. I also want to do the Parks Circuit in Utah, where you just go and visit all the national parks!
Want to explore the United States? We’ve just launched a bunch of new and refreshed U.S. trips for 2022!