TOPEKA (KSNT) – Few can claim to have visited every corner of the Sunflower State but this Nebraska man is making it his personal mission.
Meet Seth Varner. At 23-years-old, he’s probably visited more of Kansas and learned more of its history than people who have lived in the state their entire lives. He’s challenging himself to visit every single incorporated town in Kansas, both large and small, and bring them into the public view through his social media and publishing company: Wandermore.
Varner, who hails from the small town of Wahoo, Nebraska, got the travel bug back in 2020 while pursuing higher education at the University of Nebraska Omaha. Alongisde a friend, he made it his goal to visit every incorporated town in his home state. The driving force behind this odyssey came from a mixture of COVID and boredom.
“It’s March of 2020, I’m in my second semester of freshmen year of college and everything is going amazing and then bam! World ends within a week, NBA season ends, March Madness tourney canceled, like just terrible things, much more than just sports obviously,” Varner said. “Just not good for anybody anywhere.”
Varner finished Nebraska over the course of two-and-a-half months in 2020. The close proximity of many towns allowed Varner and his friend to visit them in a short amount of time and return home at the end of each busy day. However, he found that he was just getting warmed up. In 2021, he visited all 939 towns in Iowa and did the same with South Dakota’s 310 towns in 2022. Now, he’s set his sights on the Sunflower State’s 627 incorporated towns.
“It’s kind of like doing what you love honestly,” Varner said. “I kind of just happened to fall into that because of COVID, so I feel very fortunate.”
While he had been keeping his fans updated on his Facebook page, he also started printing travel guides with all of his accumulated knowledge of the states he visited. For each state he creates a new Facebook page: his current one goes by “Wandermore’s Visit627 Kansas.”
“The aim of my company now, Wandermore, is basically to encourage people to go out and ‘wander more,’ whether it’s vicariously through my Facebook pages and see what all these small towns have to offer or actually go there for themselves and see like, even if a town has a population of 300 people, there’s probably gonna be an amazing bar there, a historical museum there and people who have all these crazy stories about the town’s past to tell you,” Varner said.
Varner said the objective of his company is to bring lesser-known areas into the public eye. He wants to eventually cover 10 states in the Midwest with Wyoming being his next travel destination in 2024.
“The whole goal of my project is to show that places like Topeka are pretty cool, places like the college cities like Manhattan and Lawrence are awesome as well, but all those little towns sprinkled in the middle all have their own unique kind of culture, their own unique identity,” Varner said. “They’ve got things that they’re really proud about and I try to find the things they are most proud about and share those with all my followers on Facebook.”
Varner said some of the more interesting towns he’s visited include Olsburg, Linsdborg and Concordia. He focuses on uncovering the unique and interesting histories of towns like these through research and tips from locals before setting out on his excursions which can last several days. He eventually hopes to finish his travels through Kansas in September and publish “Wandermore in Kansas” on or near Nov. 25 this year.
“Everywhere here in the Midwest, what people typically call a flyover state, is far from it,” Varner said. “There’s so much more to do here than people could ever imagine.”
Varner said his fame precedes him on many occasions as fans here in Kansas recognize him while he’s out and about. He said there have been many times when locals have helped him get around town and that most of the people he’s encountered have been very welcoming.
“It’s been amazing,” Varner said. “Here in Nebraska, we say ‘Nebraska Nice,’ but I would say it’s just as nice in Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota. I’d say all across the Midwest. We’re all super kind to each other.”
Varner said he’s nearing the halfway marker for all the towns in Kansas. Of the destinations that he has yet to visit, he said he’s looking forward to checking out the state capital in Topeka, the City of Lawrence and the wild west town of Dodge City. He’s also looking forward to checking out Kansas’s Southwest and Southeast corners to see what they offer.
“The point I try to get across to people is there’s something to do in every town, you just got to go out and find it,” Varner said.
You can help support Varner’s adventures through donations. For every $5, he will add a name of a person or business to the back of his travel guide. You can find Varner’s past travel guides online by clicking here. To keep up with his travels in Kansas, go to his Facebook by clicking here.