Trip of a lifetime
Talk about a road trip.
2011 Eagle River High graduate Ariel Zlatkovski is currently on a cross-country excursion to visit all 50 states in the U.S. As of May 22, Zlatkovski had been traveling for 86 days and visited 17 states.
The purpose of his trip is twofold — to see the entire country and to see how people live in different parts of the U.S., Zlatkovski said via cellphone while in Chicago.
After Illinois, Zlatkovski is heading to Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. Then, he’ll make his way west toward Seattle. After touring the Emerald City, Zlatkovski said he’ll head south down the West Coast, then travel east to Florida.
Zlatkovski has a general idea of his trip, but doesn’t plan more than 48 hours in advance.
“I try to really be loose with it so I can really be flexible and do whatever I want,” he said. “I don’t want to lock myself into anything.”
Started in February
Zlatkovski’s journey began in late February. He flew to Indiana and picked up his car at his brother’s house and drove to Washington, D.C., where the trip officially started.
When a summer road trip following his junior year fell through, the idea to travel to all 50 states was planted in Zlatkovski’s head. After graduating, the valedictorian worked at Anchorage’s Apple Store for seven months until he had saved enough for his trip. Zlatkovski bought a car, then took off.
With no major responsibilities tying him down, Zlatkovski said it was the perfect time for such an endeavor.
When he’s not staying with friends, Zlatkovski uses www.couchsurfing.org to find a place to crash.
Each state ‘unique’
Zlatkovski, who was born in Israel and moved to Alaska at age 5, said every state offers a new experience.
“Every place is unique in its own way,” he said.
Witnessing how the Amish lived in Pennsylvania was one of the trip’s more memorable moments.
“It was a really cool cultural experience,” Zlatkovski said.
Zlatkovski said he’s learned a lot about himself while on the road — and definitely knows to trust his instincts.
That was reinforced recently in southern Illinois when a shirtless man stopped Zlatkovski, demanding to see his ID.
“I slammed on the gas pedal and got out of there as fast as I could,” Zlatkovski said.
Not knowing if he was being pursued, Zlatkovski, who had no cell reception, drove to a nearby house and dialed 9-1-1.
Zlatkovski said the “interesting experience” was an example of how he’s matured over the past three months.
“I feel like I’ve grown up a lot,” he said. “Even though it’s my last hurrah as a kid.”
Though day 100 of his trip is just five days away, Zlatkovski said the months have flown by.
“If feels like I just left Alaska,” he said.
The solo trip is anything but lonely, Zlatkovski said.
“I never feel alone because I am seeing people every night,” he said.
Last stop, Hawaii
Zlatkovski is ending his trip in Hawaii, where he plans to stay for about a month. There, Zlatkovski will figure out his next move.
In the immediate future, Zlatkovski said he wants to write and/or speak about his trip. He got the idea after speaking to a group of high-schoolers in Maine.
He was staying with a teacher, and she asked Zlatkovski to speak to her class. Because the students were so engaged during his hourlong presentation, Zlatkovski decided he wants to share his story with others.
Ultimately, Zlatkovski envisions himself “making the world a better place” via politics or social services.
While Zlatkovski will accomplish something by age 19 that most only fantasize about, meeting new people every day has been the highlight of touring the entire United States.
“The best part is sitting around the kitchen table … and talking with people,” Zlatkovski said. “Seeing what makes them tick.”
Follow Zlatkovski's journey at www.arielacrossamerica.com.
Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or email@example.com