Throughout my life I set goals, met them, and then moved on to the next. I loved reading when I was a child, but never thought I could write a book. I didn't even think of writing a book until I was in my 50s. When I finished graduate school, about 20 years ago, I was ready for another challenge. I decided to visit all 50 states. Growing up on a farm in rural Minnesota, the eighth in a family of ten kids, "going on a trip" meant traveling 20 miles to visit my grandparents.

From Maine to Hawaii, I've crossed the border of every state. Most times I traveled alone. I liked being independent and encouraged myself to meet more people. On my 53rd birthday I completed my goal and traveled to my 50th state, Hawaii. When I got off the plane, I felt a sense of awe. It took me 15 years to visit all of the states, but I did it. My nieces tell me I have inspired them to travel more ... and to even travel alone.

A few weeks after I got back from Hawaii, my friend Shelley said, "Now you are going to write a book." She said it as a statement, not a question. After she convinced me that my nieces would enjoy reading about my adventures, I set another goal - to write a book about my travels.

I worked on my book on and off for more than five years. Thanks to a good memory, souvenirs and travel brochures I had kept, I was able to write my travel memoirs. I wanted to share what I learned, so I added "Lori's Learning" to the end of every chapter, such as attending a speech contest in Nebraska which confirmed: "It's fun to win a competition but it's not terrible when you don't."

The writing process was not always easy or fun, but I was determined to meet my goal. In the midst of writing my book, Shelley mailed me the postcard I had sent her when I was in Hawaii. It provided inspiration for me to keep writing and I included it in my book: "Shelley, I have now officially visited all 50 states!! In Hawaii for my birthday - 53 was never this good!"

My book launch was in 2016, and I still get chills when I introduce myself as a published author. A writer friend said to make sure you're proud of a book that has your name on the front. I am proud - and so are my nieces!

Lori Spangler is the author of "Miles of Memories: One Woman's Journey to all 50 States."

Got a story?
We'd like to hear it. For writer's guidelines, go to Email your 450-word personal essay to