“Since life is short and the world is wide, you sooner you start exploring it the better.” — Simon Raven
My name’s Steve Pafford and I’m a travelholic.
Travel broadens the mind. Yes, it’s a terrible old cliche but most cliches are built on a grain of truth. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘travel’ – Vacation? Meeting new people? Or, maybe, Instagrammable sunsets? While traveling can be exciting and exhilarating, it’s so much more than sipping margaritas on a sun-soaked beach.
It’s no news that travel is good for your physical wellbeing, but a significant amount of scientific research suggests that exploring a new place can do wonders for your mental and emotional health as well.
Being a journalist with an infinitely curious eye and a wandering spirit, travel appeals to my restless, peripatetic nature. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I want to learn, to explore, to conquer.
In fact, ever since I stopped living in the country of my birth five and a half years ago (the sadly not very United Kingdom), I’ve been consciously ticking off as many new territories as possible. In fact, I’m currently traveling the world and the seven seas in order to reach a couple of personal milestones. Just last month I visited Norway and Iceland, making them the 49th and 50th sovereign countries to have set those photographed feet in.
Then I flew from Reykjavik to Boston to tick off the remaining states of America that I’d yet to discover, and revisit a few that I couldn’t find photographic evidence that I’d trod in.
I’ve been coming to Uncle Sam’s land for almost a quarter of a century now. Despite Trump’s messianic machinations to drag it back to the dark ages, I’ve always had nothing less than an absolute blast every time I’ve been here, sometimes staying right to the very day my three month visitor visa was set to expire.
And as I became more acutely aware of that milestone birthday coming up in 2019, I became slightly obsessed with doing the 50/50: the goal obviously being to have walked in fifty countries and all 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) by my 50th birthday on June 26.
Only mother nature seems to have had other plans.
If you’ve been following my Facebook or Instagram you will know that on May 21, just four days after arriving Stateside, I had a heart attack while driving on the freeway from New Hampshire (state 38) to Maine (state 39).
I’ve had to calm the schedule down a bit but I do hope you’ll follow my progress and see if I can get to Hawaii, the 50th and so far final state to join the union, on my 50th birthday at the end of this month.
In fact, being born back in the summer of ‘69 (thank you, Bryan Adams) I reach my half-century in exactly 25 days from now. I happened to have been born on the very same day the first stirrings of the Stonewall Riots and the entire gay rights movement started in NYC. Freaky uh.
Wish me luck, right?
What follows on stevepafford.com for the next 25 days are a series of short and snappy plate pictorials celebrating setting foot in each of the American states and Washington DC. So join me as I rewind to ’95 and a case of going outside of Europe for the very first time.
1. NEW YORK
First visit 1995, last visit 2019
We start with New York and Connecticut. Being London-based at the time, the East Coast was the shortest plane journey you could take to the US. I guess that’s unlikely to change. And I flew in to John F. Kennedy Airport with a couple of acquaintances from England on 11 September 1995.
Ostensibly we were there to catch the first eight shows of David Bowie’s Outside Tour with Nine Inch Nails and Prick, a challenging experience in more ways than one. I was self-publishing a Bowie magazine called Crankin’ Out at the time, which DB decided to personally endorse, and thus, led to the BowieStyle book. One day I’ll go into the whole history of those shenanigans and machinations but now is not the time.
One thing that immediately struck me about America was the shocking condition of a lot of roads and highways. There are potholes so big you’d have a smoother journey driving on the moon.
First visit 1995, last visit 2019
Anyhow, very impromptu, we hired a car and Peter, Neville and myself drove to Hartford Connecticut a couple of days before the tour began. Despite now being based most of the year in Australia and making California my natural point of entry, New York is still the US state I’ve visited the most.
And in a freakily full circle kinda way, just two days ago I found myself passing through the mountainous Catskills region in upstate New York, as I was driving from Saratoga (and my horse naturally won) to Philadelphia PA, so I decided to spend the night in the charming town of Woodstock, of which the famous festival of 1969 was named after and staged just seven weeks after I was born.
And yes, if you’re wondering, sleuthy old me found Bowie’s house. Gargantuan estate more like, though I didn’t hang around for long, as wife Iman and their daughter were there for the summer. And no, I didn’t bump into Lexi this time.
Gee, my life’s a funny thing.
Steve Pafford, owner of a dodgy ticker, currently in Kentucky
Featured image: Microview of the Statue of Liberty from The Battery, NYC, November 2016