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Discovering a Love of Nature One National Park at a Time

Photo courtesy of Jiaji LiuPhoto courtesy of Jiaji Liu

As we celebrate Earth Day, we caught up with Jiaji Liu, a student in Rhode Island, and the person on Facebook who has checked into the most national parks in 2013.

When Jiaji Liu set off on a two-month road trip around the U.S. last summer, he didn’t have much of an itinerary.

A student at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., Liu had traveled as far as Chicago when he read an article about the national park system and set off to visit as many as he could.

He crisscrossed the country alone, hiking by day and couch surfing at night. In 2013, he visited 38 national parks – and shared 28 of those visits on Facebook – including his now-favorites, Montana’s Glacier National Park and Death Valley National Park, which spreads across the California border into Nevada.

Jiaji came back from his trip with new friendships, great trail stories and newborn love for the outdoors. “I’m from Beijing, a huge city,” he says, “but I’ve changed a lot since I’ve come here. I’m definitely not a city person any more.”   

Eventually, he’d love to find a job in the tourism industry in the U.S. before ultimately heading back to China, but for now, Jiaji still has one year of school left before graduation, which means one more summer to explore. This year, he’ll head north to Alaska.