At only six months old, Harper Yeats just completed the road trip of a lifetime, visiting all fifty U.S. states. This makes the Canadian infant the youngest member of the All Fifty States Club, a record previously held by a two-year-old boy from Northern Ireland.
Cindy Lim, 31, an attorney and Harper’s mom, cashed in on the yearlong paid maternity leave that is standard in Canada, while Harper’s dad, Tristan Yeats, 34, was able to take unpaid leave from his job as a civil engineer. This allowed the new family of three to hit the road together, crossing states off their bucket list.
“If we were both going to have time off with Harper, we figured we may as well do something interesting together as a family,” Tristan says.
Harper was born on April 22, 2018. By June 17, the family had given up the lease on their Toronto home, packed up and stored their worldly possessions, bought a Jeep Cherokee, and began their cross-country trek. They started in Maine, and completed the journey in Vermont on October 18. In total, they logged nearly 19,000 miles on their Jeep’s odometer.
The welcome sign tradition
During the trip, the family made sure to document each visited state with a photo of Harper positioned next to a state welcome sign.
Tristan handled both the driving and the route planning, locating each state sign in advance. Using the street view feature on Google Maps along with a list of welcome signs compiled by a fellow traveler, he was able to find signs for each state with a safe place to stop nearby.
“While we don’t always spend the night in every state, we do take a photo in front of each state sign and we always manage to spend money,” laughs Cindy, explaining that her husband relied on a spending app along with a backup Excel spreadsheet to track the family’s expenses on the road.
According to Tristan, the family spent an estimated $7500 (USD) a month. However, that figure includes some things that may not apply to other travelers, including car payments and storage costs for their belongings in Toronto.
Both parents had their own responsibilities while on the road. Cindy was in charge of packing and unpacking at each stop, maintaining the family’s social media activities, handling photo editing, remotely assisting her sister with some online administration work for her business—and, most importantly, ensuring Harper was well-nourished, rested, and getting lots of fresh air and playtime in between stops.
“Fortunately Harper has been able to be exclusively breastfed so far,” Cindy says. “The first couple of months I would pump and Tristan would do one of the overnight feeds, but as Harper got better at nursing, it became easier for me to look after it all. This also saved us from having to transport pumped breast milk with us, which in the warmer months could get a bit tricky.”
Creating the memories of a lifetime
Originally hailing from Australia’s capital city Canberra, both Cindy and Tristan grew up in families that encouraged travel. Cindy fondly recalls annual family vacations and Tristan remembers his parents selling a small business they owned when he was a child, prompting the family to go a three-month voyage to France, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Canada, and the United States.
Although Harper is too young to remember her epic road trip across America, Cindy documented their journey along with their daughter’s milestones on Instagram.
The parents also set up an email account for Harper before she was born, and from time to time they each send her emails to read when she’s older.
“It would be really lovely to have a book we keep everything in, but from a practical perspective, it’s hard to do that when you’re on the road and have limited space,” Cindy acknowledges. “When we are settled back at home, I’m hoping to turn our photos and stories into little story books we can read with her.”
This well-traveled Canadian infant will have lots to read about in those little story books.
She’s already been on her first flight to New York, taken a boat ride on the Big Island in Hawaii, visited the beach, dipped her toes in the South Carolina sand and surf, and celebrated America’s 242nd birthday with Independence Day fireworks in Virginia.
Harper also achieved a variety of personal milestones during her time on the road and experienced lots of “firsts.” Her parents recall that she cooed for the first time in Prince Edward Island, laughed in Mississippi, tasted solid food in Alaska, lifted her head up and experienced tummy time in Arkansas, slept through the night in Louisiana, and more recently, rolled over on her own in North Liberty, Iowa.
“It’s these little moments and memories that make some of these otherwise unheard-of places as memorable to us as the tourist sites we’ve visited, and why they will forever hold a special place in our hearts,” says Cindy.
Due to Harper’s young age, every month the family stopped wherever they were in their travels to fly back home to Canada for Harper’s regular monthly check-up with the pediatrician. From there, they’d head back on the road and pick up where they last left off, marking more states off as they went along.
Beautiful scenery and unexpected experiences
Cindy and Tristan agree that their overall time on the road was easier than they both anticipated, despite their travels being slightly impacted by two recent events—one of the largest wildfires in California’s history, and Hurricane Lane in Hawaii, the wettest tropical cyclone ever to be recorded in the state.
“We thought it might be crazy, uncomfortable, or hard at times. We expected a lot worse,” confesses Cindy. “It went surprisingly smooth,” Tristan agrees. So smooth, in fact, that they’re ready to do it all over again.
“WE THOUGHT IT MIGHT BE CRAZY, UNCOMFORTABLE, OR HARD AT TIMES. WE EXPECTED A LOT WORSE.”
“We are looking forward to going on a similar adventure with any future children we have,” Cindy says. “It may not be the road trip of the USA, but we have dreams of exploring Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America as a family.”
One thing the family has really enjoyed is seeing the changing landscape as they move across the states. One of their best driving days was traveling from Farmington, New Mexico to Flagstaff, Arizona via Monument Valley in Utah.
“The dramatic scenery was truly beautiful, and we took many opportunities to stop, get out of the car, and enjoy the view,” Tristan says. He also mentions the day they were on the hunt for the Wyoming state sign and ended up driving through the Shoshone National Forest, high up in the mountains straddling the border of Wyoming and Montana. According to Tristan, the view into the valley was easily one of the most spectacular scenes of the trip.
One of their most memorable experiences happened in one of the most unexpected places—Tucumcari, New Mexico, home to approximately 5,000 residents. On the way to Albuquerque, the family elected to spend the night in Tucumcari because of its location along their route. Upon arrival, they were pleasantly surprised to discover that the town was like a living Route 66 museum chock full of retro motels, diners, and souvenir shops. It’s also home to an actual Route 66 Museum.
Reaching their final destination
“Harper’s been a trooper throughout this journey,” Cindy said on the day they reached their final destination in Vermont. Tristan added, “We feel very proud we made it, and we’re also happy to be at the end.”
From Vermont, it’s back to Canada for these weary travelers. Since the family gave up their Toronto home, they’ll be staying in an Airbnb for a while, something they’ve grown quite accustomed to.
The family also recently decided to return to Australia in the very near future. Tristan, whose company originally transferred him to Canada, will return to his position in Australia. Cindy remains on maternity leave until January, which should give her just enough time to unpack and make all those photo books for Harper.
As for what their travels will mean for Harper, Cindy and Tristan hope to instill a sense of adventure in their daughter, so that she will make her own bucket list and work on checking it off.
“We’ve always said that although she’s unlikely to remember this trip, we are hopeful that looking back at pictures and hearing the stories will give her the confidence to do anything,” Cindy says. “Even when people tell her she’s crazy.”