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Woman embarks on journey to make a friend in every state

Shari Leid's 50 States Project celebrates life and friendship.

PORTLAND, Maine — Making a new friend at any age can be tough. 

One woman has decided to do just that, with a stranger in every single state, making Maine her 42nd stop on this unique journey.

Shari Leid, of Seattle, began her 50 States Project in January of this year. 

Her mission? To plant a seed of friendship across the United States by sharing a meal with someone she doesn't know in every state.

"I wanted to make it meaningful, and what makes places meaningful are always the people," Leid said. "So, I thought it would be interesting to go to every state and share a meal with someone I didn't know."

For the past nine months, Leid has crisscrossed the country, meeting up with total strangers who have since become close friends. 

She reflects on this transformative experience, by saying,  "You find what you're looking for, and going to these places with the idea to find friendship, I'm finding that."

Leid's heartwarming project has garnered national attention, including a feature on the Today Show

However, for her, it's not about the headlines, it's about the people she's met—individuals ranging in age from 20 to 60, all from different backgrounds and walks of life.

"My only criteria was that they connected with me via email or phone since I would be flying to meet them for dinner, and it's hard to get to a lot of places from Seattle," Leid explained.

Currently in Maine, her 42nd state, Leid is meeting a woman from Cushing for the first time. 

"We were in this online group for entrepreneurs, and I had a few states where I needed to find people, so I put those states on the board, and she reached out and said, 'Hey, I'm in Maine,'" Leid shared.

Leid says she believes that there's something genuinely special about sharing a meal with someone: "I usually ask them, since it's their place, where would you like to meet? I can do anything from a coffee shop to a fancy place or a dive bar. It brings a personality out when you literally break bread with someone."

While it may initially be uncomfortable to ask a stranger to have dinner with you, Leid insists that it gets easier with time and is a skill worth cultivating.

As she wraps up her 50 States Project at the end of September in Omaha, Nebraska, Leid's journey serves as a reminder of the power of human connection, even with those we've never met.

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