The Project

The States

bright yellow: unseen states / pale yellow: unavoidable states

So what are you doing, exactly?

The plan is to drive to all of the contiguous states I’ve never visited before: Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Some of the time I’ll be alone, but over the course of my two months away, 10 friends will be joining me, one at a time, for stretches of two to four days, to be interviewed about their lives and feelings about America. I’ll also try to rope in anyone on the road who seems willing to talk and doesn’t seem like a psycho.

All of the people joining me are around the same age—mid- to late-30s-ish, not Xers, not Millennials—but they’re diverse in personality and experience. I’m hoping to document, however idiosyncratically and unthoroughly, what it’s like to be a part of this undefined, in-between generation.

I’m going to make a podcast about our experiences, and eventually I hope to write a book. But I don’t really know what any of this will turn into yet, and I like that.

This sounds cool. What inspired you to do it?

Thank you. A bunch of things:

  • The bike trip I’ve been going on with my dad and uncles for the past three years.
  • The realization that outside of work obligations I have no responsibilities to anyone other than myself. Maybe most childless adults go around feeling this way all the time, but it really did just hit me one day: I’m allowed to do anything!
  • The desire to do something that isn’t tied up in making other people happy and/or not disappointed in me. This will likely be explored thoroughly.
  • A fascination with the unique ability of podcasts to entertain and move me.
  • The writing of Karl Ove Knausgaard, specifically his travel essay in the New York Times Magazine, which reminded me that art can be made out of any experience.
  • The “How to drive across the U.S. and hit every major landmark” map that someone made.
  • General wanderlust and love for America.
  • A deep admiration of my friends.

Where did the name come from?

My friend Steve asked me if I thought I would cry while I’m away, and I said, “Oh yeah, my feelings will be all over the place.” And, you know, I’ll be driving all around.

The name just feels like it fits, in a maybe slightly awkward way. All Americans—all humans—are all over the place. Dot us, you know?

Are you going to ask everyone the same questions?

Some of the questions will be the same for everyone, but there will also be travel buddy-specific questions. And conversations will go where they want to go. There’s a lot to talk about: relationships, religion, politics, sex, economics, aging, work, technology, the state of popular culture, the anxiety that so many of us seem to be plagued with, the future…. I’m going to try to cover as much ground with each person as I can.

Is this going to be incredibly expensive?

Incredibly. But totally worth it.

Are you scared?

Not really, but sometimes I have flashes of bad things happening: a car hitting mine head on, being thrown off a horse, driving across a bridge when it decides to collapse, being harassed by a mustachioed bad guy character in a bar. They’re garden-variety anxious thoughts that fortunately don’t stick around for long. I’m going to be as careful as possible and hope everyone I cross paths with is decent. Most people are.

Good. Can I just tell you something? I don’t like that I have to scroll down so far on every page to read new posts.

You’re gonna be fine. You can subscribe in Feedly if you can’t handle it, though.

I feel bad for Michigan and South Dakota.

I know, right?