Introducing: Project 48-State Road Trip

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As I re-pack my bags for an undetermined amount of time, I find myself with the unlikely combo of confidence and a no-income wallet. Just the remains of my savings account. To get me through 48 states.

Today a friend and I will leave her apartment in Los Angeles and head east. By tomorrow, we will reach the Grand Canyon, and by Sunday, New Mexico. And for such a long trip ahead, the one behind—to reach this decision—was, fittingly, just as long.

This time last year, I was battling depression. I left Syracuse University to teach myself to disobey the word “should.” It was at home, though, where I felt more stuck than ever, often getting snide remarks on what I should be doing. People gave me unsolicited advice, and worse yet, told me how I should grieve after my brother died in a motorcycle accident, in July 2014.

I escaped on a road trip to Montreal to visit my sister two weeks after it happened, and it was here that the idea for this one sparked. It was her co-worker, actually, who provided it. He asked me how long I was staying, and I told him only until tomorrow. “You drove 10 hours by yourself just to turn back tomorrow?” he asked. “Man, I wish I was 21 again.”

I looked at the man who was not much older than myself. You mean I won’t have this energy forever?

The culmination of the terrible events in my life led me to clear my head and set goals: I’m going on a cross-country road trip after I graduate, no matter what.

But instead, I’m taking the road trip now: when I got back to Syracuse this fall, there wasn’t enough in my no-income wallet and slim savings account to cover it.
Slumped on the curb outside the financial aid office, I called my oldest sister for advice on what I should do. Instead, she gave me options of what I could do, and when I got home, I Skyped a travel buddy of mine.

“I want to go on a road trip across the U.S. You in?” I asked.

Now, we loosely plan to head east to the Grand Canyon, through to The Wave, onto the UFO capital: Roswell, New Mexico, and through Texas to Louisiana for Mardi Gras. From there, we want to drive to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for my birthday a week later. We’ll point North through the Eastern coast states to my home commonly known as the Jersey Shore. After a sweet homecoming, we’ll outline the Northeast, and zigzag through the remaining states, and shoot down “The Five” on the West Coast.

Our itinerary consists of common National Park stops and touristy sight-seeing as well as the common college local’s opinion on what’s the best site of the state. We want each state to have a memory, and we’re open to learn as we go, experience the USA hands on.

With no income, I believe the remains of my savings account will get me as far as it gets me. And maybe it will only get me to 24 states instead of 48. And maybe that’s not the point.

I worked full time between two jobs from September through the beginning of January. I launched an Indiegogo campaign and raised close to $300. I took care of my loans and bills in advance so I don’t have to worry about them on the road. I tried to save some pocket dollars via the 52-week cash jar.

I’ll be frugal with my expenses and careful about eating out (college has prepared me for cheap meals after all!). My friend and I shopped at Costco and bought all the necessary items in bulk for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, nearly every day. I have friends and family across America who welcome me into their homes throughout approximately of half the states. I packed a tent to keep lodging fares to the minimum.

We’re ready to learn, explore, make fools of ourselves, but most importantly immerse ourselves in our own culture, because America is vast and our time of livelihood and youth is running out, and because why not?

Many still have their opinions about what I should do—regarding money, school, work-ethic, et cetera. But I don’t need a full-length itinerary, neither in general or right now, on the road. Applying the word “should” to my trip only restricts the possibilities.

So how do I plan to accomplish 48 states with just one friend, one used car, and my entire savings which doesn’t amount to all that much? Cheesy enough: with my heart.

Check back frequently for budget-travel tips and suggestions from Tobi as she makes her way across the mainland.