What Counts When You Say You Want to Visit All 50 States

One of the most important questions when you set the goal of visiting all 50 states is deciding what counts. Does simply touching your toe over the state border count? What about walking across a bridge separating two states, then turning back and returning to the state where you started? What about a layover where you don't leave the airport? 

In my opinion, none of those count. But that's just my opinion. Most of the people we've met during our travels don't count those either, but there is always the "drop dead" argument. If you were to drop dead in the Denver airport during a layover, where would your death certificate say you died? Colorado. It's hard to argue that you've never been to Colorado if your death certificate says you died there. Of course, if you have a death certificate it's hard to argue, period.

There's universal agreement that flying over a state doesn't count, but what about driving through the length of a state without stopping? I'd say that counts, as you're actually seeing the state as you drive through it. But it's not ideal. I've heard many people say that you need to eat a meal or spend a night in a state for it to count. I generally agree with this, but it's not a hard and fast rule for me. 

Take our 2014 visit to Maine as an example. We ate a big breakfast aboard a cruise ship, disembarked in Bar Harbor, and took a ranger-guided hike through multiple biomes in Acadia National Park before heading to the top of Cadillac Mountain. We toured the town of Bar Harbor, then spent an hour or two popping into shops and enjoying the town before re-boarding our cruise ship. We ate our next meal with a beautiful view of the Maine coastline. I don't remember exactly, but I'd say we spent 7 hours ashore. Were we in Maine? Most definitely, despite not eating a meal or sleeping there. We walked across the bridge from New Hampshire into Maine last June, but I wouldn't have counted that on its own since didn't do anything in Maine besides take some photos just over the border. 

While I feel our day in Bar Harbor means we've been to Maine, I also recognize that there is a LOT of Maine that we haven't seen. I'd hoped to include a stop in Augusta (the state capital) during our June 2023 New England trip, but I just couldn't make it fit without dropping quite a few other activities that were more important to us. I would love to return to Maine and spend multiple days there. Of all the states, it's the one where we spent the least amount of time, the only one where we didn't eat a meal, and one of very few where we didn't spend the night. I'll tell you about the others tomorrow as I look at which of the states we short-changed the most. 

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