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Exploring 50 By 30

Taylor Harkins always considered herself an avid traveler. She traveled extensively with her family as a child, and in college, she participated in Semester at Sea, a study-abroad program run by the University of Virginia. Her ship docked in locations around the world, from Morocco to Mauritius. But in 2013, when a friend sent her an online quiz about how many states she had visited, she was surprised by the results. “Eighteen states,” says the member of Presidio Chapter, San Francisco. “I had actually been to more countries, and that was really surprising since I love America.”

She decided to increase her state count by visiting the other 32 by the time she turned 30. With about six years to go, she picked up the phone, called a friend in Michigan (a state she hadn’t been to) and asked if she could visit that weekend.

At press time, Ms. Harkins had increased her state count to 30, with trips to five more states planned for the remainder of the year. “I’m going to New Mexico with my mom, and then taking a father-daughter road trip through Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska before attending a family wedding in Kansas,” says Ms. Harkins, who now lives in Newport Beach, Calif.

For the first year or so, she was limited to weekend trips because of a full-time job that offered only so much vacation time. But since starting her own public relations business last fall, her travel schedule has become more flexible. Still, meticulous pre-trip planning helps Ms. Harkins stretch her travel dollars as far as possible and make the most of each trip. She searches online for deals on hotels and rental cars and explores social media sites like Instagram for ideas on what to do. Once she arrives in a new city, she often turns to natives for advice.

“Locals love telling you what to see and where to eat,” she says. “They get so excited to find out it’s my first time in a state.”

While she prefers to travel with family or friends, or to visit someone, she has explored a few states solo. Last summer she traveled by herself to Georgia and South Carolina before meeting up with friends at a wedding in North Carolina.

On that trip, she ate her first peach ever at a roadside stand and became awestruck while on Tybee Island, Ga., on Memorial Day.

“There was a beautiful lighthouse that I watched get draped with a huge American flag,” she says. “It gave me chills and made me appreciate what our Founding Fathers fought for and were so passionate about this country. Now I have the opportunity and freedom to see and experience it. I know that’s an amazing privilege.”

Ms. Harkins says being a DAR member has given her a unique perspective on her state quest. The goal is not only to experience new sights, foods and people, but also to reflect on each state’s differences and how they all work together to create the American landscape.

“Every trip wows me,” she says. “The fact that we embrace so many different ways of life in America makes me so proud to be a part of it.”

Her travels also remind her of DAR’s reach. “It’s such a neat connector between women who share the same love of country.”