Geography Travel & Auto

How to Establish Whether or Not You’ve Visited a Particular State

Fred was back in the office, and he was eager to tell his co-workers all about his two-week cross-country travels. He and his cousin fulfilled a lifelong dream by road-tripping up the East Coast and stopping at a variety of landmarks that they found historically significant.

“I flew from Austin to Atlanta to Raleigh, and from there we rented a car and drove all the way up to New Brunswick, Canada! OMG, you guys, the scenery! Robin, you’d have especially loved southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey with the architecture. Just breathtaking. Oh, and there were so many pie stands. I think we saw one in all twelve states, plus Canada.”

As Fred continued to tell his story, Randall, a jealous co-worker, pulled up Google Maps. He was suspicious of Fred’s claim of having visited twelve states on this trip, and wanted to see for himself if it was possible. When there was a break in the story, Randall piped up.

“Hey, Freddie,” Randall said. “How many total states did you say you visited on this trip? Twelve?”

“Well, let’s see,” began Fred. “I flew into Atlanta, so I guess Georgia is #1. And from there–”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Randall cried. “You’re counting Georgia? You never left the airport! No, Georgia doesn’t count.”

“Why not?” Fred asked innocently. “The Atlanta-Hartsfield Airport’s address is Atlanta, Georgia. I was in that airport, so… by my estimation, I was in Georgia.”

“Well, sure, you may have technically been in Georgia, but you can hardly claim that you visited that state,” Randall snapped back. “There are ground rules for claiming that you visited a state. Stepping outside of the airport is rule #1.”

Fred, who really couldn’t care less about the number of states visited, gave in. “Fine, I didn’t visit Georgia. But once we landed in Raleigh, we drove northbound. We went through Virginia, Maryland, the tip of Delaware, then we headed north through New Jersey and made a pit stop in Philadelphia, and—”

Again, Randall interrupted. “So wait. You actually like, got out of the car and stepped foot in each of these states? Even that tip of Delaware?

Fred pondered for a moment. “Well, Delaware… no. I mean, that was like a half hour from Maryland to Delaware and on into New Jersey. We drove through on I-95, though. Again, just beautiful scenery.”

Randall smirked and waved his finger. “Uh, no no. You did not visit Delaware, my friend. You passed through. That’s just about as bad as claiming Georgia because you were in the airport. You need to actually step foot in the state to count it. So, okay, I’ll give you North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. Continue.”

Fred had had enough. “No more, Randall. I was in Delaware! How can it possibly be argued that I haven’t visited a state when I spent a half hour there, driving from border to border? No. I definitely visited Delaware.”

Randall stood up from his computer and got in Fred’s face. “The hell you have. You can’t just run around telling people you’ve been to every state in the union. I have! You’re a liar, man. You’re nothing but a god damn liar, and you’re sullying my account of having actually visited every state, like for real visited.”

After Deb separated the men, Fred was too worked up to finish his story. “I never even got to tell you guys about the bear we saw. Oh well. Maybe next time someone will ease up and let me finish a story.” From that day on, the co-workers agreed to abide by a strict code of rules to govern whether or not any of them had ever visited a particular state to avoid future arguments.

So, what constitutes having officially visited a state?

  • Having been born there.
  • Having lived there.
  • Having stayed overnight somewhere that requires you to leave an airport terminal counts as having visited that state.
  • Driving an automobile through a state counts. You’re controlling a vehicle within a state’s boundaries, after all. (Stopping at any point and stepping on the ground is a great way to make it officially official, just in case someone tries to argue against it.)
  • Standing on an outdoor surface of the state for at least one full second, like visiting the Four Corners.
  • Being imprisoned in a state.

What technically constitutes having been to a state, but may require you to further elaborate, or mark with an asterisk?

  • Having photos, firsthand accounts, or other concrete records of having been in a state as a baby or small child but no longer having memory of it.
  • Having ridden through a state as a passenger in an automobile.
  • Having ridden through a state on a train.
  • Having spent time in a body of water that is technically within a state’s border, like the Minnesota/Michigan border in Lake Superior.
  • Being hospitalized entirely in a comatose state in that state.
  • Having spent time at an airport layover but never having actually left the airport. If there is an opportunity to step outside at any point, perhaps in a designated smoking area, that is a great way to defend this point.

What constitutes not having visited a state?

  • Being conceived in a state, or there while in utero, but never there after birth.
  • Being buried in a state but never there while living.
  • Flying over a state.
  • Starting in State A, jumping over the border of State B, and landing in State C, in the case of the many points where three states meet and, of course, the Four Corners.
  • Sticking an arm or leg over the border but not making contact with the ground.
  • No concrete record that you had actually passed over a state’s border. “I think we were in California, but no one can remember the exact route we took.”
  • Lying about visiting a state.

In the end, though, it’s up to each person to define his or her own rules. But if Randall is running around telling everyone he’s been to all fifty states when someone definitely knows a few of those states require some elaboration, he’d better be prepared for an argument or two!

My Hot Take:
By my count I’ve been to 37 states. Some of them were just airports, and a couple were just passing through as a train passenger and would require me to point that out when listing to anyone. Once I cross off all 50 by those standards, I’d like to go back and cross off the ones with caveats and make them a little more official by spending actual time in them.

tl;dr
It’s up to each individual, family, or group to determine its rules for whether or not a state has officially been visited. For most intents and purposes, having stepped foot in a state outside of an airport is universally acceptable.

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