Along for the ride

Senior Sarah Braun visited all 50 states and 10 different countries


photo by Sarah Braun

Senior Sarah Braun shares her insight and stories about her trips from traveling around the world. She visited all 50 states and 10 different countries but will be at 20 countries by this summer, doing it all in 10 years.

Stranded in Hawaii was not how senior Sarah Braun planned to spend the new year. After leaving a luau dressed in leis and floral outfits, her family’s rental car got two flat tires. With no cell phone connection, they were unable to get in contact with a tow truck or 911. 

She left her family to use a bathroom, and two strangers approached her and asked if she wanted to come with them, so she ran back to her family’s car. Later, Braun and her brothers were told to ride with a different set of strangers to a gas station so they could call an Uber. While they were waiting, the three witnessed an armed robbery at the gas station, were questioned by the police, and finally, around 2 a.m., the group’s Uber arrived and they made it back to the hotel.

“Everything that could go wrong, went wrong,” Braun said. “It was like a movie.” 

When you travel to every state and 10 different countries, you tend to have a lot of memorable stories—some crazier than others. 

Braun’s family first began their cross-country road trip because of her brothers’ love for baseball. They started visiting every Major League Baseball stadium in the country and made it to 30 states. Braun’s family then decided to make it a goal to see all 50 states, and 10 years later, Braun has stories from every one. Her favorites include Utah because there is so much to do year-round, as well as New Mexico because of its national parks like the White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns.

“New Mexico is just special to me with it being the last state,” Braun said. “I never anticipated it to be so pretty because I feel like the state itself isn’t really talked about.”

Despite her New Year’s fiasco, Braun included Hawaii and Alaska in her top five as well.  In Alaska, Braun felt connected to nature with Alaska’s glaciers and mountains, and she loved how important their culture and traditions were to locals. In Hawaii, Braun loved the vibrant sunsets and watching volcanoes erupt from a helicopter.  She loved Hawaii’s culture and their kindness to even tourists made her feel welcome on their island.

“We were greeted with so many ‘alohas,’ shaka signs and ‘mahalo’ that it felt as if we were being welcomed into their island,” Braun said. “Their culture is so important to them and you just don’t get that from any other state besides those two.”

With all of the places she has been, Braun has a lot of tips and tricks she has picked up, including planning ahead of time. Her family finds brochures full of things to do before they get there, buying tickets to museums or planning other excursions before their trip.

Her trip to the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico was one of their activities planned ahead of time. These caves did not compare to any other cave national parks she had been to, over 1,000 feet deep and 30 miles long.

The family enjoyed traveling so much that after they conquered the United States, they started traveling internationally. But travel outside the U.S. is very different, so the planning is also very different. Braun packs a lot lighter because theft is more common, and because of this, her family packs small bags with limited zippers or openings so it would be harder for someone to take something. 

“We’ve seen so many people [that theft] has happened to, so we always play it safe with smaller bags,” Braun said.

With being to so many different places and experiencing different cultures, Braun quickly learned how different places treat tourists and how to interact in those places.

“I learned mannerisms in certain countries. In France, they aren’t polite, so if you learn some of their phrases, they tend to change their attitude towards you,” Braun said.

Although she is not fluent in any other languages, she learns simple words and phrases of the most common language spoken in the country she is visiting. 

“In France, they upcharge the English menus. So [if you ask], ‘can I have this in English?’ it’s like $10 more than if you just get the menu [in French],” Braun said. 

In different countries, Braun says it is easiest to stay in a hotel in the most popular spots or in the center of a major city. This way, there is usually always someone who speaks English and they are within walking distance of everything. Her family does not usually use tour guides, unless they visit an attraction like the Colosseum where they do not know much. Walking everywhere allows Braun’s family to take things in more than if they drove.

“We’ll have like 30,000 steps in a day,” Braun said. “We just walk everywhere and it’s day on day.”

But taking so many steps is okay, especially when it led to one of her dream spots, the Eiffel Tower.

“When I saw it, it was cool, but when I saw it at night and it sparkled, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so magical,’” Braun said.

This summer, Braun plans to add 10 new countries to her list, including a few in Europe. She is most excited to travel to Iceland and Switzerland. 

“I just like seeing everything,” Braun said. “Places are so different and it’s fun to see different cultures and try different foods.”

Braun’s family creates a photo album for every trip they go on. Along the way, Braun has made many memories but has also learned to not take what she has in her life for granted. 

“Especially going to other countries… you don’t think how lucky you are [more] than when you visit other places,” Braun said.