The moment of Inspiration is a haphazard event. One never really knows quite when a random event or stray word will create the spark your brain will fan into a mental wildfire. However, in this instance, my idea arrived not as a smoldering ember slowly being fanned into a roaring inferno, but as a brilliant flare of idea crashing into my brain. Standing in front of a classroom full of college students, the arbitrary thought burst into my consciousness. I paused, looked at the young people starting up at me, and issued them The Challenge.
(For those of you with an anxiety associated with public speaking, I apologize for the mental image I just created. I do hope I did not create any undue duress.)
The charge I issued to those young, and not so young, learners is the same I am preparing to issue to you today. It is a Call to Action designed to push many of your limits and expand your horizons. Included below are the three separate elements of The Challenge.
1. Fifty by Fifty
In 2016, Ipsos Public Affairs conducted a study on the traveling habits of Americans. Their research determined a variety of interesting trends concerning domestic travel. The average American has not even visited one-quarter of the states in the United States. Even more shocking, 10% of the respondents have not left the state of their birth. To read the synopsis you can click the link HERE. The United States is just under 3.8 million square miles of beaches and mountains, cities and wilderness. Across the country there is history to experience and amazing regional cuisine to sample. You can eat lobster while watching the angry Atlantic crash over the Maine coastline. You can walk the hills of Gettysburg, where so many gave their lives to preserve our country. You can stand in the shadow of Mount St. Helens and later that day enjoy a coffee in misty Seattle. There is a vast country out there and I encourage you to experience its wonders.
The Ipsos survey found that 95% of Senior Citizens, aged fifty-five or more years, planned some form of domestic travel last year. But, for those of us not yet AARP members, why wait until we are older. Take some time, while still young, to explore our country. Not only will you get to eat some amazing food, you will grow as a person. While out of your home state you will most certainly find customs and traditions different from your own. You might learn the true meaning of “Bless your heart,” or how to pronounce Worcester. So, here is challenge #1. Visit all 50 states before your fiftieth birthday. (Please note: Should Puerto Rico become a state in the near future, the challenge becomes 51 states before your fifty-first birthday.)
2. Six by Sixty
Ok, adventurous people, let us up the ante. It is no secret “from sea to shining sea” the United States has tremendous diversity. In fact, those of you who began challenge number 1 without finishing the blog may have already started experiencing the richness contained within U.S. borders. However, Chinatown in San Francisco or the French Quarter in New Orleans, while great places to visit, do not replace a visit to China or France. As I researched challenge number 2, I was dismayed to find that only one in every five Americans leaves the country with relative frequency. 20 percent seems low and the data is most likely skewed upward by people living near the Mexican or Canadian border. Even more disheartening, in 2016, only 36% of Americans held a valid passport. One-fifth of the nation does travel internationally but three-fifths are not even eligible to travel abroad. (Data from United States State Department.)
There are many factors contributing to the relative lack of international travel. Dr. Nathanial Lambert wrote a blog for Psychology Today, in which he outlines five reasons he believes are behind this phenomena. To summarize Dr. Lambert’s thoughts, our work culture, our materialism, fear for safety, and our incredibly expansive and diverse country all contribute to our relative isolationism. There is a lot going on in the United States; work to be done, stuff to buy, and places to see. However, the personal and educational benefits of international travel must surely outweigh any impediments to travel. With this in mind, we have arrived at the heart of challenge #2. Before turing sixty, I challenge you to visit six continents. Now, before giving up prior to even starting, please realize this challenge only requires five trips. Everyone reading this has already been to at least one continent. See, off to a great start. Go take a gondola ride down the Grand Canal, take a walk along the Great Wall, gaze at the pyramids of Giza, climb Kilimanjaro, visit Machu Picchu, and sail the Great Barrier Reef. (Please note: to complete challenge # 2 you need not visit the aforementioned locations. These are just examples.) As a bonus, if you can get to Antartica, I will give out extra credit.
3. Seven by Seventy
Ok, this challenge is not for the feint of heart. If challenges 1 and 2 were not enough for you, I invite you to partake of challenge #3. The third, and final challenge, is much more specific. To win this challenge you must visit the Seven Wonders of the World. I give you, the reader, some discretion with this challenge, as there are two different sets of Wonders. You may choose either list, or if you get some momentum, why not finish both lists. Initially there were Seven Ancient Wonders, but many no longer exist. In 2007 a vote was taken to choose Seven Modern Wonders. The new Seven Wonders of the World are:
- The Great Wall of China
- Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro
- Machu Picchu
- Chichen Itza
- The Roman Colosseum
- Taj Mahal
- Petra (In Jordan)
There also are Seven Natural Wonders of the World. These are places of magnificent beauty, but are made by nature and not by humankind.
- Mount Everest, Nepal
- Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe
- Grand Canyon, USA
- Great Barrier Reef, Australia
- Paricutin Volcano, Mexico
- Harbor of Rio de Janerio, Brazil
- The Norther Lights, Arctic Regions.
To complete the challenge, simply visit every place on one of the lists. Even though it is only seven trips, those seven experiences will be remembered for the rest of your life. What are you waiting for. Get out there and start working on these challenges. Do not let life pass you by while you remain rooted in place. Go see the country. Go see the world.
You have been challenged.
Photo Credit: geology.com
Please comment with the number of states, continents and Wonders you have visited.