Climb entire trees of driftwood at sunset on Jekyll Island, one of the Golden Isles of Georgia, and watch the waves roll in. Devour a muffuletta sandwich in New Orleans. Fly through Metropolis, Ill., home to the world’s largest collection of Superman memorabilia.
Check. Check. And check.
Twin Citians Carl Martin and Anna Olson have experienced many great things since Jan. 1. That is the day they embarked on a yearlong road trip across the United States, spending a week exploring each state as part of a documentary project they branded US Anywhere.
The newlyweds, who both have backgrounds in advertising, are blogging, shooting photos and recording videos as they travel with their picturesque white and turquoise travel trailer in tow. (Find their blog at usanywhere.net.)
Sometime between the live mermaid show at Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and the tour of the Moog synthesizer factory in Asheville, N.C., Martin and Olson started to realize that the more wonders of the United States they scratched off their checklist, the more they added. The list grows when they zoom past a cool place, or people recommend a hidden gem. But seeing everything was never part of the plan.
“I think for both of us this is going to be a cool project,” Martin said in an interview while on the road somewhere in Florida. “This is going to be a project that is going to push us creatively. You never sort of know where those things are going to lead.”
Q: How did you first come up with this idea?
Martin: A year and a half ago, I went out to Glacier National Park with some friends. We were taking turns driving back through the night and I got the end of the night shift and everyone else was asleep. I was driving through North Dakota and the sun was coming up and there were rolling hills, deer everywhere … it was just really beautiful and I started thinking that I would really love to come back here. … I was thinking that if I could do a project with North Dakota, frankly I could probably do a project with any of the states.
Q: What was your reaction when Carl first told you about this idea?
Olson: Both Carl and I love to travel and love adventure. It’s something that we valued a lot in our lives and we’ve done a lot of camping. I was really excited about it because I think after college when you start working, life becomes a lot more regular and a lot more planned and a little bit less adventurous.
Q: What does a typical day on the road look like?
Olson: We try to get up for sunrise every day because the light is real nice. We try to do sunrise and sunset each day. … It really varies. We have been jumping from place to place very quickly. … A lot of people have been like ‘Oh, you guys must be going crazy being in the car so long.” Honestly, we have only had a few days that have been a couple hours in the car.
Q: What are some of the challenges that you have encountered on your trip?
Olson: I think learning how to camp with the trailer has been a huge challenge. I think we are very proud because we have gotten really good at pulling out the struts and cranking it up and connecting all the different pipes and everything. We’ve had to learn quite a bit about how that even works and the engineering mechanics of pulling a trailer. … All of the logistics of traveling take a lot of time and energy. I think when we were planning this trip we knew it was a really ambitious route. We knew it was going to be a challenge to be traveling so many places so quickly. Even though we have a year, it’s still a tremendous distance. And just the amount of time it takes to set up camp and find a place to go every day and a place to sleep, it just takes so much more time than we thought.
Q: How do you choose which places to visit?
Olson: Carl and I, our traveling style is both loose and planned at the same time. We have a lot of ideas of things we would like to do and like to see and generally have gotten some recommendations, but we wait until it’s a little bit more immediate to make some of the concrete plans. And that’s partly because we want to be flexible and we want to be adaptable in case somebody recommends something that we hadn’t thought of. … We’re trying to strike a balance between being planned and being spontaneous. Generally, that works well for us; obviously it doesn’t always work because sometimes a place is full and sometimes they are sold out and you just can’t necessarily plan everything so last-minute.
Q: Have you guys been able to fit a state in a week? Have you felt that you were able to do everything you want to do?
Olson: We knew this was an ambitious plan. … There have been plenty of times where we have said, “Well, we are just going to have to come back,” and that’s kind of scary because of the list of places we want to go back to is pretty long. On the flip side, it’s like, wow, there are so many cool things to do in every state that we couldn’t possibly do all of them in a week. So that’s actually kind of exciting because it’s a great show of how many amazing things there are in the United States and how many options there are available for people for traveling and adventure.
Q: Is this trip more personal or do you see it as a possible career launchpad?
Martin: We are definitely hoping that that’s a possibility in the future. As far as the one-year framework, the 50 states project, that’s something that we are going to do no matter what. That’s more or less a personal project. But we did want to make branding for this. We did want to position this as something that could be a vehicle for us for the future.
Q: When you look back at this experience a few years from now, what do you hope you would be able to say about this year?
Martin: I’m just excited that we will have done this. It’s just one of those things. That it is an accomplishment in a lot of ways. It’s such a unique and interesting experience that so few people get to have. We are so fortunate that we’re getting to do this.
Olson: I really hope that it teaches us something about ourselves, and I don’t know what that is. I think it’s something that we have to find out as we go and something we are going to have to look back on and realize, “Oh, those are the things that I learned.”