I just returned from Alaska and I'm so happy to be home. It's nice to be in the sunshine and warmth again.

While there I celebrated the fact that I have now visited all 50 states. While I'm very proud of that fact, I've traveled so much and for so long that it was just like, 'well, of course.' 

I understand what it means, I know that most people will never visit all of the states in our country, but this is how I was raised so I didn't treat it as a goal. As a matter of fact, it just sort of surprised me one day: 'Oh, I guess I just have Alaska to visit and I'll have seen all of the states' kind of thing. 

On my trip this summer with my nieces I visited eight states in a week's period. So, this is what I do, this is who I am. 

But let me tell you, the awe I feel when I see something beautiful never, ever changes. I cried when I saw the Grand Tetons (and will every time I see them, and have - this was my second time), I cried when I was standing in the Narrows of Zion, and I cried when I saw Denali (also known as Mt. McKinley to those outside of Alaska - I prefer its native name).

The beauty of nature never, ever ceases to amaze me. It is what propels me forward to the next great beautiful place in this world and it gives my life meaning. 

My father and grandmother were the greatest influences toward that. They both took me places, showed me things and taught me that the world was bigger than Texas (I'm so glad they did, Texas would have never taught me that). My father said 'go waitress in Hawaii, you'll make money and see gorgeous things' (and also, 'turn that TV off and read this book' - thanks, Papa, I did). My grandmother didn't say as much, she just took me to surrounding states and promised I'd never forget what I saw. She was right. She told me, 'whatever you do, go to Alaska, you won't regret it.' She was right again. 

Now the only thing I know is that I wish I had them both to share all this with. I know they would be so proud. 

I'm proud. I'm thrilled to be in an exclusive club that not many people belong to. Most importantly, I am continuing the legacy that my family before me started and can pass on to the family I have now. I hope they love exploring this beautiful world as much as I have. I'm going to try and make sure they do. 

Go travel, it opens your mind and soul. There isn't much like it that compares. I'll be going somewhere again soon, you can believe that!

Nikki Irish