The Purposeful Traveler
By Suzanne Buzek
Beverly Bobbitt likes being a stranger in a new place. The United States map in her office is a sure tipoff—a number of the states are colored with bright highlighter hues. The assistant director of Residence Life has found inspiration and refreshment in traveling and aims to accomplish her goal to not just visit, but experience, all 50 states by the time she reaches age 50. At age 43, her map has become very colorful.
“When I was 26 or 27 years old, I found myself holding onto money because I was stuck with this mentality of having to save,” says Bobbitt. “I was saving my money, paying all my bills, but not really enjoying the things I was doing. Finally I said, ‘You know what? There are a lot of things out there that I haven’t seen.’”
With that, she got out a map of the United States and started coloring in states she had visited in her lifetime, most of them bordering her home state of Kentucky and marking where relatives lived or family vacations from childhood. Then she started making plans and booking flights and hotels. Soon, she found herself in New England.
“I went up to Massachusetts as part of what I call my ‘Northeastern Tour,’” she says. “I found a good plane fare to Rhode Island, so I stayed in Providence, then visited Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Main all on the same trip.
Bobbitt’s background and interest in American History also served as motivation to visit New England—she majored in history and education at Eastern Kentucky University as an undergrad student and returned to earn her master’s degree in history as well.
“It’s amazing how close together all of these states are once you get up there,” she says. “The history is just so rich—Boston was neat because of the Revolutionary history. I saw one of the largest casinos—Foxwood Casino—in Connecticut, picked up some syrup in Vermont, and shopped a little in Maine.”
On each trip, Bobbitt purchases something small to commemorate the moment and to help her mark off all 50 states: a shot glass, a magnet or a knickknack unique to the state. It is all part of her process of truly living life and acquiring traveling experience.
“I like to travel with a purpose,” she explains. “My cousin lives in Atlanta, and so I went down and visited her for a few days while exploring Atlanta’s historical sites. I went to the Martin Luther King Center and took a look at the segregation history.
“Some of my travels have been work-related because it had been the opportunity to just go,” she says in reference to Iowa, which glows a bright green on her map. “I like to travel with friends, but most of my friends probably wouldn’t enjoy some of the bookish things I like to do. To walk around Boston and talk about the Boston Massacre and to go to Independence Hall is not a big deal to some, but it is to me, because that’s what I enjoy doing.”
The ambition to fulfill her goal of visiting all 50 states has become even more significant to Bobbitt since she was diagnosed with cancer in January 2007. While her diagnosis provides only a small dose of urgency, Bobbitt says it makes time more precious—she and a couple of friends already booked an Alaskan cruise for next spring.
“Why sit around? I have a lot of living that I need to do, and I may or may not have much time,” says Bobbitt. “That’s partly why my friends and I planned this Alaska trip so far in advance. It was like, ‘Hey, let’s get this state on the books.’ I know I honestly will accomplish these 50 states in 50 years.”