This summer, Michael Colbert ’16 is on a mission to travel to every town in his home state of Rhode Island.
The rising junior was inspired to take on this challenge after reading a Boston Globe article about a couple who visited all 351 towns in Massachusetts in two weeks. Their effort appealed to Colbert’s enthusiasm for exploring — and for checking things off lists. “Anybody who knows me well knows that I’m obsessed with lists: to-do lists, bucket lists, travel lists,” he writes on his travel blog, Misadventures with Michael. “He dubbed his project RI39, for the 39 municipalities in the state.
So far, Colbert has visited 20 towns and cities. When the Bowdoin Daily Sun caught up with him recently, he was on his way to spend the day at Block Island. Later, when he had posted his write-up, he noted that the island rightly deserved its spot on a 1000 Places to See Before You Die list. “Overall, Block Island is an incredible destination that sets the Ocean State apart once again,” he wrote. “…It really showcases natural beauty that’s been left to thrive.”
Colbert, who is a romance languages major and government and legal studies minor, said his Misadventures with Michael blog is a “poor college student’s guide to the world.” While he hasn’t traveled around the entire world yet, he has been to many places, including Chicago, Guatemala, London and Italy. “One of my goals is to give local advice so people, when they’re going somewhere, don’t just go to touristy places,” he said. “You’ll find on my blog a few good local restaurants and fun places that are off the beaten path.”
And there’s no need to feature only exotic, far-off places when there’s so much to discover within an hour’s drive from your home. Colbert is a fairly new transplant to Rhode Island; he grew up in Westborough, Mass. This summer he is working two days a week as an editorial intern for the special publications department of Rhode Island Monthly. On the weekends, he works at a coffee shop, which opens up three days a week for road trips.
Colbert’s journeys around Rhode Island have given him an appreciation for his new home. “It has its own distinct culture,” he said, with local delicacies like Johnnycake and coffee milk. “Rhode Island is a lot more relaxed [than Massachusetts.] Even the scenery is different, with miles of coastline that have a more laid-back vibe…People have a lot of pride in the state,” he added.
After taking an online course on how to increase traffic to his blog, Colbert said his audience has been growing. He has connected with other travel bloggers and enlisted guest bloggers to write about Berlin and London. When he mentions a restaurant or other business on his blog, he sends the company a link. “I get shout-outs from businesses,” he said. “They appreciate the attention.”
In the fall, Colbert will study abroad in Italy, where he’s looking forward to doing lots of exploring. One day, he aspires to turn his love of traveling, writing and list-making into a career. “That is everyone’s dream,” he said, “to get paid to travel and write about it.”
Note: On August 12, Colbert wrote his final post and completed his mission. “They said it couldn’t be done,” he said.