Being a Travel Completionist might seem like an monumental task reserved for the super wealthy. Furthermore, goals (such as visiting every country or even every state) can take decades to accomplish. The satisfaction of visiting all of them just never seems to come.
Even if you don’t have the time or the money to be a full time jet setter, you can be a Travel Completionist starting today. The secret: start locally.
Here are some ideas for cheap and quick goals that you can complete in a matter of weeks. All you need is a car (or a friend with a car) and some weekends.
1. Travel your local bike loop
Cities are embracing bike travel as a way to encourage people to exercise more and to get them into the overlooked parts of the city. These bike and walking paths usually take you near rivers, scenic green ways and past historical buildings.
Your mission here, since you are traveling the completionist way, is to travel ALL OF IT. Not all at once necessarily. Each weekend try to ride few miles then the following weekend drive out to where you left off and bike a few more.
To find out if your city has a bike path, Google the term “YOUR_CITY loop. Here are some examples of municipal bike loops:
- Tucson, Arizona has the loop
- Indianapolis, Indiana has the 8 Mile Cultural Trail
- Missouri has the 237 mile Katy Trail
2. Ride your local metro to every stop
What I love about taking any metro is that moment when the doors open and you emerge from the stairs of the station. Everything is different. It is like you have been transported to a new land. You have to get your bearings, figure out which way is north, and make sense of the new environment.
So tomorrow take the Blue line for once. Don’t get off at your normal stop and instead take it all the way to the end. Aren’t you a bit curious? Then when you get to the end of line, climb out of the subway and go eat at the first local establishment you find.
The metro challenge seems daunting at first blush but they number of stations in any one city can usually be accomplished over a few weekends.
There are even several ways you can accomplish this goal. The easiest is just taking the train along the entire line and then turning around and going home. For the more adventurous, you can also get out at each stop and look around the station. But, if you really want to go full Completionist, get out of the station and patronize a local restaurant or store.
Here are some great examples in ascending difficulty:
- Phoenix Valley Metro – 35 stations
- Washington DC Metro – 91 stations
- Los Angeles Metro Rail – 93 stations
- Chicago “L”- 145 stations
- London Underground – 270 stations
- Paris Métro – 303 stations
- New York City Subway – 472 stations (If you are really good you can do it in a day)
3. Visit every city park
Parks are the lungs of the city. They are also a way for your city to showcase its local beauty. Take a walk around the park, read the plaque for any statuary, and maybe test out the slide. To reach true Travel Completionist status you could set the goal to have a picnic in every single park in your city.
The best way to find every public park is to check your city’s Parks and Recreation website for the official list of parks.
4. Visit every National Trust and National Register of Historic Places in your state.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring Americans to preserve historically significant sites. One of the positive side effects of being a Travel Completionist is that you really get a better understanding of the history that surrounds you. Visiting the places in the National Trust is a perfect way to do this.
To find sites near you, visit the National Trust Website and find your locality.
If you really want take on the challenge, try visiting every site in the National Register of Historic Places. The number of designated sites are in the thousands. Even tiny Deleware has over 648 sites.
5. Pick your favorite chain restaurant and try to visit every single one
The miracle of modern food production might mean a homogeneous dining experience, but that doesn’t mean that the surrounding neighborhood is similarly mass produced. When you take the chain restaurant challenge, you get to see how the neighborhood around your chosen restaurant is different.
If the thought of eating at a chain restaurant offends you, try a variation where you eat at every Chinese, Indian, or other regional specialty in your city. Just build a list of them using Yelp.
- Every Chipotle
- Challenge mode: Every Starbucks
- In New York City, this man tried to eat at every $1 pizza joint
- Yuya Abe is attempting to drink a Guinness at every pub in Ireland
6. Try to walk down every single street in your neighborhood
It is amazing to think how long a person can live in a neighborhood and never ventured beyond the block they live in. Don’t be like them.
On your evening walk tomorrow, consider heading out in a different direction. Then the next day, go in the complete opposite direction. Systematically try to walk down every road in your surrounding neighborhood. It is amazing what you might find.
- It can be hard to remember which road you went down so use a tracking app like Fog of World or Moves to keep track of which neighborhood you have traveled down.
- You are bound to discover how many of your neighbors have little lending libraries. See Little Lending Library to find where your nearest one is and head out there tomorrow.
7. Visit every official US National Park unit in your state.
There are over 417 National Park Units in America. Chances are you have some near you. If you live in a particularly large state this challenge might take a while (and several gallons of gas). However, by the end of this quest you will have such a better appreciation of your state.
Check this wikipedia page to locate your parks.
8. Hike to the Lowest and Highest Point in your state
Important: make sure you are in the right shape if you live in a particularly high state
For the full list of High and Low points see the highpointer club:
9. Visit every county in your state
There is a very special sub-species of Travel Completionist that tries to visit every county in the United States. They go by the term “county collectors” and the challenge these folks undertake makes trying to visit all 50 states seem paltry. If you are just starting out, try to get every county in your state.
For more resources on county collecting see this Wikipedia article
10. Visit every Historic Highway Marker in your state
Highway Markers are commemorative plaques placed along drives to encourage drivers to understand their local history. Most highway marker programs originated during the growth of automobile ownership. I assume that local leaders feared that enclosed, high speed travel would insulate drivers from their history. So take this challenge to slow down and learn something about your state.
Not all states have historic highway markers. Here are a few
This list should show you that you can still be a Travel Completionist without even setting foot in a plane. The idea of completionism is that you set a quest with multiple places and work really hard to visit all of them. Many of those sites will be spectacular. Many others will not.
But you can be certain that if you finish just one of these quests, you would be amazed at how much of your state or neighborhood you never knew existed. And that is the point of Completionst travel – to take you to places you would have never gone to otherwise.