Finding Her Own Future Landscape
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
This ancient Chinese proverb describes the approach Christianna Miller ’14 has taken at several junctions in her life, including her goal of traveling to all 50 states in the country.
“I’ve always had an idealistic outlook on life,” Christianna said. “Whatever the biggest thing is, I want to go for that.”
At age 16, she decided that she wanted to visit all 50 states before she was 30. But she put her travel plans on the back burner while she went to SUNY Oswego, where she majored in communication and social interaction, minored in creative writing and kept busy in a host of student activities, including as an editor at WTOP, a resident assistant in Funnelle Hall and a volunteer on several community service projects.
After graduation, she said she got mentally stuck, lost her idealism and didn’t know who exactly she was anymore.
“I thought, why don’t I take everything I learned in college and apply that to my 16-year-old outlook on life and see what comes from there,” she said.
Christianna’s first cross-country road trip began in 2016 from her home in Ballston Spa, N.Y., as a visit to relatives in South Carolina. After she arrived, she realized how close she was to Florida, where she could visit some college friends. From there, she realized that she was now closer to Texas than she had ever been so she continued west until reaching California.
“I was like a frog jumping from one lily pad to the next,” she said. “My parents were very supportive. They said, ‘We don’t want you to come back here and regret something that you didn’t do. You have youth on your side.’”
So, she resurrected her dream of “50 by 30” to reconnect with herself and think through her next steps in life. She put to excellent use the $3,000 she had saved from the overtime she worked at her job.
2016 Road Trip photos
After her first trip in 2016, she worked to save money for a second trip in 2018 and made it to Hawaii as well. The result was 49 states checked off the list and a greater appreciation for the nation’s multitude of landscapes.
“This country has a lot to offer in regards to beauty and microcultures,” she said. “Domestic travel is very underrated. You can find charm in every place. I learned not to go into a place with expectation. Let it give you something, as opposed to you trying to find something.”
Christianna said these cliché, coming of age road trip experiences have allowed her to immerse herself in the diversity of the states and discover new beginnings in her own country. She enjoyed even the little moments and surprises, such as finding out that the tastiest cup of coffee came from the Grand Canyon for only a dollar in a styrofoam cup.
Whether it was being alone in areas with no cell service for up to 200 miles, or taking in the exquisite landscapes and views while knowing that it is completely up to her to make her way out and onto the next destination, Christianna developed a sense of self-reliance.
2018 Road Trip photos
The trip also taught her to take life as it comes and not to set boundaries that will cram her dreams into a small, defined space.
These are lessons she has applied with great success in her career as a freelance production coordinator, a position in which she started about a year after her road trips around the country.
Her career began when she received a phone call from a friend who said that he needed her to cover for him the following day on set as a production assistant. He explained that the job would be easy, “do as you’re told and be of assistance,” he told her.
Upon arrival she realized that this wasn’t a little job, as Al Roker ’76 was the main star on set. Being the eager Oswego alumna that she is, she ran up to Al expressing her gratitude for all that he has done to support Oswego over the years. (Being a rookie on the set, she didn’t realize staff members weren’t supposed to talk to the talent, but Al responded to her warmly, in true Laker style.)
“It was like this signal back to Oswego,” she said. “The universe puts the puzzle pieces together, so this is the path I’m going in now. That job led to another job, which led to another job.”
Her job, which she described as being like “a wedding planner but only for commercials and music videos,” has allowed her to experience something new every day.
She coordinates and oversees the behind-the-scenes of these productions from contacting the many vendors, finding the locations for the shoot and making sure they have the correct equipment on set, to handling payroll, ordering catering and interfacing with the high-profile talent to ensure that the shoot all runs smoothly.
Christianna has worked on music videos with some of the biggest names such as Drake, Ariana Grande, Maroon 5 and Dua Lipa, and commercials with Chanel, Disney, ESPN, Target, Google, Apple, Facebook and more.
As the world begins to resume post-pandemic “normal activities,” 29-year-old Christianna is starting to think about completing her 50 by 30 goal. Her final trip, which she named A-Last-ka and was originally slated for May 2020, is coming back into focus.
“The clock is ticking for that trip,” she said. But she also learned another important lesson from her solo travels.
“It made me realize that life is very long and you can live a million lives in a single lifetime,” she said. “You should want to. You don’t have to live your life in a box. You can make your box as big as you want, and as much fun as you want.”
Christianna’s Quick Picks
Best Place to Relax? Seattle
Worst Place? Mississippi
Place to Visit Before You Die? Montana
Biggest Disappointment? Mount Rushmore. (Long drive only to have the clouds obscure the view.)
Best Music for the Drive? Taylor Swift’s 1989, Spotify’s Classic Road Trip Songs
Best place? Home (New York)