After 49 states, a world traveler finally comes to Oklahoma. And what does he find?

Getting off a plane on Friday morning, Andrew Chung stopped a random stranger at the airport to ask for directions.

If it had been Los Angeles, where he’s from, or maybe Tokyo, London or Buenos Aires, he might have gotten a rude shrug. Or, if he was lucky, a quick nod of his head to point him in the right direction.

“In New York,” Chung says from experience, “they were like, ‘What? I’m busy. Leave.'”

In Tulsa, the stranger stopped, smiled, and carefully explained where to turn and get off.

“I got a little lost again,” Chung said. “And the lady came and said, ‘No, no. This way. Let me show you.'”

A world traveler since birth, Chung has to think for a moment to remember all the countries he lived in when he was still a child.

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“Uganda, Peru, Thailand. And what is the other? Oh sure, Japan and Korea.

His father was a diplomat, and the globetrotter came with the job. Chung, now in his 40s, works as an internal audit manager, which means he has to travel in his spare time.

Do you have a three day weekend? Why not fly to Luxembourg?

The 4th of July falls on a Thursday and it is also off on Fridays? Book a flight to Bhutan.

“After I graduated from college and started making money,” Chung says, “I decided I was going to try and see as many countries as I could.”

When COVID-19 restricted international travel, Chung set a different goal: to visit all 50 states.

He had already seen 30 before the pandemic.

Montana became No. 31. Then Wyoming and Idaho.

Two years later, North Dakota was No. 48.

On Friday, Chung finally arrived in Oklahoma.

“It was just the way the timing worked,” he says. “It was a bit random.”

Well, that. And the fact that he couldn’t think of a particular reason to come to Oklahoma except to check it off the list.

“There’s nothing like a Mount Rushmore or a Yellowstone,” Chung says. “There are no national parks or big monuments that I really, really wanted to see.”

It highlights the challenge of promoting tourism here. And yet, Tulsa recently declared 2022 to be “the biggest tourist year in the city’s history.”

By facilitating events like the PGA Championship, Tulsa Regional Tourism has sold 231,154 hotel room nights and generated a record total economic impact of $359 million, officials reported earlier this month.

Events like the PGA allow Tulsa to capitalize on its greatest attraction: the people.

“People here are super nice,” Chung says, taking a tour of downtown’s historic Deco district.

“The Midwest has that reputation all over America and even around the world. Everyone knows the Midwest is so friendly. And Oklahoma is definitely up to it.

Why Tulsa instead of Oklahoma City? Chung sought advice from his Californian friends who had been in the state.

“They see Tulsa as the ‘hip’ part of Oklahoma. And I can see that’s really the case. There’s a lot of energy, there’s a lot going on. The most amazing thing about Tulsa is that from the moment I got off the plane, I felt welcome here.

Take a fall color tour in Tulsa.

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