‘What does a year in the United States look like?’ This question sparked newlyweds Anna and Carl to embark on a year-long, cross-country documentary project. They are taking the 52 weeks of 2016 to make a short film about all 50 states (plus Washington, D.C.). The Social Lights is partnering with US Anywhere to help with social media strategy and logistics on their journey.
The films seek out unique perspectives to illuminate the states, the people that inhabit them, and the hugely diverse natural landscape of the US. The films will inspire others to dream, travel, explore, and connect with the United States.
Here’s footage from their first leg of the journey – Wisconsin:
We caught up to them in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where they were enjoying some much deserved time at the ocean.
When asked how they planned their adventure, Anna said, “We plan where we’re going and we have lots of ideas about things we’d like to do there, but we wait until we’re in a place to decide exactly what to do. For example, in California, the big parks fill up so our reservations for Big Sur and Yosemite are already made.” But other details of the trip aren’t planned, yet. They are counting on locals and the people they’ve connected with over social media to help them discover the best, and sometimes hidden, treasures in each state.
“We have a spreadsheet with states and lists of landmarks, cities, and a column for people we know in that state,” Carl said. “At our wedding reception, we had a map for guests to record places we should check out.” They have also reached out to followers online to get ideas. Some of their discoveries have been completely accidental, such as the quaint Wisconsin town they wouldn’t have visited had they not gotten a flat tire.
They’ve only been out for five weeks and they’ve already dealt with a flat tire, an unhitched trailer traveling on its own down the highway, and a winter storm that set their schedule back by two days (and froze them inside their trailer overnight).
All these mishaps have taught them something about discovery and expectation. “We learned a lot in Tennessee about expectations, and how we should avoid getting too attached to them,” Anna said. They had planned to visit Memphis while they were in Tennessee, but due to lack of time and a burning desire to see Nashville, decided to skip Memphis. However, their Nashville experience wasn’t ideal. “It was hard to get around, it was cold, and we didn’t have a very good time. Had we just been open-minded, not had too many expectations for it, we would have had a better time exploring and finding joy.”
“It wasn’t warm!” Carl added. They woke one night to a very cold trailer, and quickly realized that they had run out of propane. Luckily, it was an easy fix. All they had to do was switch to their spare propane tank. “The door was frozen shut! Anna went out of the emergency escape hatch, went around, and switched over the propane. We had to wait a couple hours for the trailer to heat up enough to unfreeze the locks.”
After Nashville, they headed to Knoxville simply because they knew someone they could stay with. They had no expectation and they loved it. “It was a charming little city and it was great!” Carl said.
Their curiosity and discovery isn’t just found in the way they travel. Though it’s true they have planned some of the stops on this expedition, they are also leaving their agenda open to discovery. They’re also active on social media, taking suggestions for great places to explore from their followers.
They’ve learned how expectation can get in the way of their creativity as well. “We have expectations to deliver all this content,” Anna said. “We had a hard time making that first state video. We took a step back and had to see it as an opportunity and a challenge.” They couldn’t film any more video as they were already in another state when they began the edit. So they restructured the video and added voice over to tie the story together. “With trial and error, and discovery, we got something we were really happy with.”
SC: Discovered that South Carolina can be a total jungle! #DiscoverSC #vasquefootwear #wellhiked
A photo posted by US Anywhere (@usanywhere) on
“Some of the best things are unplanned. Sometimes discoveries can be the best part of the trip,” Anna said.
The couple hope that their videos inspire everyone to see their home states through the eyes of a tourist. There are things to discover all around us. “We are doing a huge, massive trip,” Anna said. “But, we want to inspire people to do smaller things.” Carl added, “It’s so easy to get into your routine and not break out and see the things right around you.”
Social media has played a big role in their trip. Family members, friends, and followers come along on their adventure through the United States. “We’re getting a lot of connections and messages through every channel,” Carl said. “People are really connecting. They are so excited. People are asking how they can help and giving suggestions.”
“We hoped people would be interested and excited,” Anna said. “The reality that they are excited has been really gratifying.”