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“Have you been there?” she asked, and that started a discussion about exactly what it means to have “been somewhere.”

When I flew home from China last summer, I had an eight hour layover in Korea. I didn’t leave the airport. When people ask me what countries I have visited, can I correctly or fairly list Korea as one of them? My friend offered a definition that only allowed credit for a visit to a state or country if one had slept there. Does a meal count? A bathroom stop on a road trip? When I went to Jamaica two years ago, I travelled all over the island passing through every parish but only slept in four of the parishes. But when I meet a Jamaican, I proudly tell of watching the sun rise from the peak of Blue Mountain and passing through every parish. As a man who has done many cross-country road trips in the United States, I brag that I’ve been to all fifty states. I will admit, however, that I have not slept in all of them. For me, I count US states on my list as visited if I passed through. For countries, I must have left the airport. I’ve never spent a night in Lisbon, but my sons and I spent 8 hours on the ground there on our way to Toulouse a while back. I have photos and memories of a meal there. I count Portugal on my list of countries visited. Here’s my rundown of the fifty US states and how I took credit for the visit. (The list is alphabetical, my memory isn’t good enough to list them in order visited!

 

  1. Alabama: I’ve driven through and I spent a night in Birmingham for a fellowship interview.
  2. Alaska: I had a couple of refueling stops in Anchorage on my way to and from China in 1995, but I spent a week there on a deployment when I was a flight surgeon in the USAF.
  3. Arizona: I’ve backpacked to the bottom of and slept in the Grand Canyon when I was on a road trip in medical school
  4. Arkansas: I’ve visited Hot Springs and, on a separate trip, had a fellowship interview in Little Rock. I’d like to go back to visit Crater of Diamonds State Park and see if I can find any diamonds.
  5. California: My first trip there was to see Penn State play in a bowl game when I was in college.
  6. Colorado: I may have passed through on the train on my way to Philmont when I was a Boy Scout, but my first overnight there would have been on a road trip while in medical school.
  7. Connecticut: I probably passed through with my family as a child, but otherwise my first extended visit there was in high school to tour the Yale campus.
  8. Delaware: A visit with my family here growing up followed by many visits because it’s where my sister went to graduate school.
  9. Florida: My current home! My family drove here for holidays quite a bit when I was a kid.
  10. Georgia: We would always stop in Georgia on our way to and from Florida. My most memorable trip here was with my roommates Jim and Henry for Spring Break where we canoed and camped in the Okeefenokee swamp.
  11. Hawaii: One of the perks of being a scientist is traveling to meetings to present your research. Such a trip landed me in Maui for several days. I need to go back as a tourist!
  12. Idaho: Stayed here on a road trip from Virginia to California. I loved visiting Craters of the Moon.
  13. Illinois: I’m not sure when my first trip to Chicago was, but I’ve been several times for work, once for an interview, and a few times just to visit.
  14. Indiana: Residency interview as I was getting ready to leave the USAF.
  15. Iowa: In 2011, I did an epic two week road trip from Miami to Montana that included following the path of Lewis and Clark from St. Louis to Great Falls. The Missouri River flooded that year shutting down a big chunk of I-29 so I had a lengthy detour through the rolling fields of Western Iowa. I saw many pheasant. This was my penultimate state.
  16. Kansas: My first state! I was born here.
  17. Kentucky: I remember visiting Mammoth Cave as a child. I’ve been back several times for work and on road trips.
  18. Louisiana: I caught this one first on a road trip and have been back many times for work and for fun.
  19. Maine: It took attending a two-week woodworking course in Maine right before I started practicing in Miami for me to check this one off.
  20. Maryland: I passed through many times on the way to Washington DC as a child. I lived here for the summer of 1989 doing a research internship at the National Cancer Institute.
  21. Massachusetts: We hit this one at some point in my childhood. I spent a summer teaching at a private school in the western part of the state the summer of 1990.
  22. Michigan: My home for three years: one year of robotic surgery research and two years of fellowship.
  23. Minnesota: Road trip in medical school and a long weekend around my oral general surgery board examination.
  24. Mississippi: Passed through driving to Texas for the USAF.
  25. Missouri: Multiple road trips, fellowship interviews, and visiting friends.
  26. Montana: I was there a few weeks ago for a wedding, but my first trip was to Big Sky for a wilderness medicine course when I was in the USAF.
  27. Nebraska: I spend a night in Omaha on my Miami-Montana road trip.
  28. Nevada: Several USAF deployments, several road trips, many meetings, and a bachelor party.
  29. New Hampshire: Where my father and sister went to college. I visited this one for the first time with my father while touring college campuses.
  30. New Jersey: Many times growing up.
  31. New Mexico: Philmont with BSA!
  32. New York: Is where all my relatives lived when I was growing up.
  33. North Carolina: Road trips as a kid.
  34. North Dakota: This was number fifty! Checked it off in 2011 on my Miami-Montana road trip.
  35. Ohio: I think my first trip here was to run in the first USAF marathon in the late 1990’s.
  36. Oklahoma: Fellowship interview.
  37. Oregon: Road trips and residency interviews.
  38. Pennsylvania: Where I grew up.
  39. Rhode Island: As a child with my family.
  40. South Carolina: Passed through as a kid and a few trips to Myrtle Beach in college and medical school. Charleston for work and fun as well.
  41. South Dakota: Road trips x 2 plus I spent my thirtieth birthday in Rapid City courtesy of a maintenance issue on a B-1 bomber.
  42. Tennessee: I remember my parents taking us here for the World’s Fair when I was young.
  43. Texas: Although it would become my home for four years, my first trip here was for officer training in 1991.
  44. Utah: I spent a month in Ogden investigating an F-16 mishap when I was in the USAF, but my first trip here was during a medical school era road trip.
  45. Vermont: I think my first times in and out of Vermont were while traveling to see my sister in college.
  46. Virginia: My home for five years while I studied medicine and started becoming a doctor.
  47. Washington: My first trip to Seattle was for a residency interview.
  48. West Virginia: Being next door to Pennsylvania and Virginia, where I lived for a combined 25 years, has put me in this state fairly often.
  49. Wisconsin: Medical school road trip and a fellowship interview.
  50. Wyoming: Medical school road trip and I’ve been back several times for both work and as a tourist.
Dr. Colin Knight's 50 States of Travel - North Dakota Building

Taken the day I checked off my 50th state – the North Dakota capital. The building is unique in that is an Art Deco tower, instead of a domed building like most of the capitals around the country.