Roads Scholar: From Mississippi to Minnesota

“North Dakota is going to be the outlier. I just know it. I’m going to have make a special trip. Maybe Fargo for ESPN GameDay? Yes, that sounds promising.”-abk

After my trek through the heart of the country last week, I have now explored roughly 80% of this great nation. As a statistic, it is pointless, but as an activity, it has been life-changing.

This particular trip started out as an idea. An ambitious idea. It always does. And it ended with me driving almost 3,000 miles over a week across 10 states, some familiar and some brand new.

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What did you do?

I golfed in Iowa and South Dakota with my friend Jay; visited an exotic cat refuge in Arkansas; explored Jackson, Mississippi; ate BBQ pork spaghetti in Memphis, Tennessee; watched a Cardinals game in St. Louis, Missouri; watched the Women’s PGA Championship in Chaska, Minnesota; explored Omaha, Nebraska; witnessed first hand the devastating floods in Missouri and Iowa; drove Route 66 in Miami, Oklahoma; and explored the coolest town you’ve never heard of called Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

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I love the Midwest. The people are nice, normal, helpful, community-oriented, and just downright good. It doesn’t matter if it is Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Kansas City, St, Louis, or somewhere in Iowa. I have had that same good experience everywhere. The Midwest represents everything that I sometimes wish I was.

So you’ve explored 40 of the 50 states? What should we know?

Everyone is exactly the same. Everywhere. Everyone wants health and happiness and purpose and “success”, and it just gets a little twisted along the way. On this trip, I met newspaper publishers from Iowa, farmers from Illinois, Native Americans from Oklahoma, a historian from Arkansas, and a tourist from Utah. In their own way, everyone wanted the same damn thing.

So why is everyone still so afraid, or shall I say timid, around each other?

Because we are all completely different, obviously, and I think we are wired to be scared of what we don’t understand. The 40 states might as well be 40 different planets, probably more.

So we are exactly the same but completely different?

Pay attention, please. In different countries, states, cities, towns, and neighborhoods, our wanting of the same things is masked by very different qualities. Cultures, traditions, religions, behaviors, attitudes, personalities, ego, bravado, insecurities, money, power, lack of education or experience, cowboy hats, fancy clothes, and so on. But for me, that’s what makes real exploration so interesting. If you peel back all the layers, you should be able to have a drink with anybody.

Why did you go to Iowa of all places?

I like to see people in their natural habitat, and I have a friend there. The concept of vacation as an escape left me years ago. That’s why I went to Mexico City instead of Cancun. That’s why I preferred Bologna to Milan or Venice. And that’s why I went to Iowa, amongst others.

It’s a major theme of our now infamous annual golf buddy trip (coming again in September). Sure, we hit up some touristy stuff, but at least one day is dedicated to local everything. What’s your life like? Let us see and feel how you live.  People have immense pride in what is “theirs”.

So what’s the point of all of this?

Other than the obvious, there are a few things.

Selfishly, I think it would be very cool to have friends in all 50 states and all 195 countries. Like a big, global family.

But truthfully, once I started really exploring, I realized how narrow-minded my worldview was. I was embarrassed, but I knew it was something I could fix. So off I went, and once I felt both my heart expanding and breaking (depending on the circumstance), I knew I was on to something. And quite honestly, I became obsessed with seeing, doing, and feeling everything. I don’t see this changing any time soon.

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195 countries, huh?

Yeah.  I’m just getting started. Stay tuned.

Have a great week.-Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and @abkgolf.

If you enjoy these and would like to get the weekly piece via email, please follow on the website http://www.anythingbutkhakis.com .

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