When Bettye Robertson '88 graduated from UMUC with her bachelor's degree in Behavior and Social Science, she set an ambitious goal for herself—to visit all fifty states. How she met and exceeded her quest is a lesson in fortitude, daring, and practicality.
It all began when Robertson, a full-time employee for the Department of Labor, got to talking with a coworker about the number of states they had traveled to in the course of training field inspectors. Once she graduated, Robertson made it her mission to visit one or two states each year, and then she placed a time limit on the completion of her goal after retirement.
In September 2014, 25 years after launching her quest, Robertson completed her journey in North Dakota in the same way she began her travels—with an openness to the "glory and riches" of every place she visits and by doing her pre-travel homework.
Hopscotching across the United States by airplane can be an expensive proposition, especially when flying into rural areas with limited air service. To save on airfare, Robertson would fly to a major airport in a neighboring state, rent a car, and then drive to her chosen destination. In this way, she traveled by way of Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Fargo, North Dakota, where staff at the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitor's Bureau showered her with a certificate, a commemorative photo, and a "Saved the Best for Last" t-shirt.
Robertson said her most memorable U.S. stop was the Mount Rushmore National Memorial near Keystone, South Dakota. She'd seen many images of the memorial before visiting, but none had prepared her for coming face-to-face with the 60-foot sculptures of the heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. She was "awestruck."
The state of Vermont ranked second on Robertson’s list of most memorable stops. She found it to be quaint, picturesque, and thanks to her tour of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory in Waterbury, most delicious.
Her 50-state journey has both widened her horizons and led her to believe people everywhere are more alike than they are different, Robertson said. And her journey not only whetted her appetite to do more traveling but also pushed her beyond her comfort zone to experience the wonders of traveling to distant and unfamiliar lands.
She has now traveled to six continents and contemplated a visit to the seventh, Antarctica. Lacking a fondness for ice and having little interest in penguins, Robertson said she doubts she could ever justify the expense of traveling there, though.
Instead, she's content to otherwise crisscross the globe, checking destinations off her bucket list as she goes. Most recently, Robertson spent two weeks traveling the length of Vietnam, visiting villages, experiencing native crafts, and taking cooking classes with a group of fellow companions, who call themselves "Wanderlust and Lipstick."
Robertson has a bit of advice for would-be adventurers. Make a budget specific for travel, and travel as early in life as you can. Though she has thoroughly enjoyed her many post-retirement excursions, it takes her a bit longer to get around than it did in her younger days, she said.
And one more thing: don't let the lack of a travel companion stop you. "Be brave. Travel solo," she said.