50 States of Matt:Blogger visits Sandusky on his quest to visit 50 states in 50 weeks

Many people have a goal of visiting each of the 50 states in the U.S.

Like others, Matt Thomas has this goal.

Unlike others, though, Thomas is visiting each state of those 50 states in 50 weeks.

And from June 3-7, Thomas visited his 15th state: Ohio. 

But with almost 45,000 square miles from which to choose, Thomas had a decision to make. Where in Ohio would he spend a week? 

His choice? Sandusky. (If you’re wondering why, keep reading).

Originally from Ithaca, New York, and most recently from Portland, Ore., Thomas began his journey in February with state #1: Washington. Since then, he has visited states including Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Kansas.

Thomas has been able to make this journey happen due to the flexibility of his work – he works in sales and is able to work remotely – which allows him to travel from state to state on the weekends and enjoy five days in each new state.

We had the chance to meet Thomas–and even enjoy a Happy Thursday Bike Ride with him– when he visited Sandusky.

The Helm: How did you come up with the idea to visit 50 states in 50 weeks?
Matt Thomas: The genesis of this trip came out of my divorce. I found that a more settled, traditional life wasn't working well for me. I needed more exploration and adventure. We have such a huge and diverse country--the U.S. seemed like a great place to start, and 50 states in 50 weeks had a nice ring to it. It seemed like an ambitious project but still manageable while continuing to work remotely. 

TH: What are you hoping to achieve from this trip?
MT:  I have done my best to have no expectations from this trip. A year on the road should help me "rediscover" myself and get a better, more complete perspective on my home country. I'm not sure where I'll end up after all is said and done. Maybe I discover the next place I want to live, or maybe an international trip is next.  

I am blogging about the journey at www.50statesofmatt.com, writing two posts per state I visit - one on the physical state, and one on my emotional state. This is simultaneously an outward and an inward journey. Once it's all done, my goal is to adapt the blog into a book.

Matt Thomas"As I looked at all the possibilities, Sandusky jumped out at me because I had just re-watched Tommy Boy, so Sandusky it was."TH: How do you select the town in each state that you will visit? Why Sandusky for your Ohio town?
MT: I have really leaned into the random for this trip. Outside of a few specific events and destinations, I try to let the people I meet and my whims dictate the path. I have two rules for where I choose to stay in each state: 1) not the obvious place, and 2) nowhere I've been before. Last week, in West Virginia, I was looking over a map of Ohio deciding where to go next. As I looked at all the possibilities, Sandusky jumped out at me because I had just re-watched Tommy Boy, so Sandusky it was.
 
TH: What are the logistics for your trip? How long do you spend in each town?
MT: I am still working my remote sales job Monday through Friday. I select a city then book an Airbnb for the week. One Saturday and Sunday I drive to the next state, seeing as much as I can along the way. I take with me only what fits in my car–my clothes, my office setup, a small weight set, a little hobby stuff, and a cooler. Not much else. 
 
TH: Can you share some memorable experiences or stories from the towns you’ve visited so far?
MT: I have been to 10 national parks so far, and they have really blown my mind. The natural beauty of this country is awe-inspiring. I've also been able to fit in several bucket list items: New Orleans Jazzfest, the Kentucky Derby, Indy 500, a helicopter ride through the Grand Canyon, and more.
 
TH: Which town has surprised you the most and why?
MT: I don't mean to pander, but Sandusky caught me by surprise. I have absolutely loved my time here. This town has it all–a great community of interesting people, a rich history, abundant green spaces, the lake, and cool public art. Sandusky hasn't seen the last of me.
 
TH: Have you discovered any hidden gems or unique attractions?
MT: So many! to name a few:
  • Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve in Oklahoma
  • The Bridge Walk in Fayetteville, WV
  • BBQ Sauce wrestling at Memphis in May
  • Anna's Greek Restaurant in Bowling Green, KY which is in a repurposed Baptist church
  • Treasure Trove Park in Cave City, KY for its pure eccentricity
  • Zapata Falls (frozen over) in Colorado outside the Great Sand Dunes National Park
  • Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR
  • The Dragon's Belly in Mt. Carmel, UT
  • Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada
  • The Trail of Ten Falls in Oregon
  • Ruby Beach in Washington 
TH: What has been the most challenging part of the journey?
MT: I thought I would get lonely or bored, but I have been too busy doing amazing things and meeting interesting people for that to happen. Packing and unpacking everything each week is a grind. The hours and hours of driving are a lot– I've already put 13,000 miles on my car. Basic things like getting mail or seeing a doctor have been complicated. But most of all, I've had a hard time juggling work, exploring, writing, and self-care. A week sounds like a lot of time, but it goes by in the blink of an eye. 
 
TH: Are there any towns or experiences you are particularly looking forward to as you continue your journey?
MT: I am really looking forward to Alaska. I am going to time my trip there to see the Northern Lights. This winter they're supposed to be the best in 20 years. I'm also going to finish this journey in Hawaii, where I've never been. It will be good once this is all over to sip an umbrella drink with my toes in the sand, watch a sunset, and reflect on the experience as a whole. 
 
TH: What do you hope people take away from learning about your travels?
MT: 
  • Be your authentic self, no matter what people think. You'll never find happiness living someone else's life.
  • Make time for play, no matter how old you are.
  • We live in an amazing country. It doesn't take much to jump in the car, break out of your routine, and experience something new. 
  • If you look past thorny topics like politics and religion and just talk to people, Americans have so much more in common than we are led to believe. I hope that we can all do more of that– especially in a divisive election year.
Follow Thomas’ adventures (at the time of publication, he is visiting Marquette, Mich.) at his blog, www.50statesofmatt.com.