BOZEMAN — Like all of us at the beginning of the pandemic, Montana native Matthew Wurnig was trying to figure out what to do with all this extra time.
That’s when the idea of '50 Dates 50 States' was born, which all started out virtually. But then he made it his mission to take them out in person, and he just finished his 50th date in Bozeman.
“I had that plan from the very beginning," Wurning said with a smile. "People were like, are you going to finish in Hawaii because Hawaii is paradise? I was like, Montana is paradise. Montana is my home state. I think it would just be cool to see me come back home, wrap-around there, and make it the 50th state.”
The journey back home took more than five and a half months, tacking on more than 30,000 miles in his personalized '50 Dates 50 States' pickup.
He documented every date on his TikTok, building a following of more than 300,00 people and 10 million likes.
“One of the coolest things about my whole journey is seeing fans throughout the whole U.S.," Wurning explained. "When I’m driving, people will be honking, or they’ll film, or they’ll take pictures, which is really cool because at the end of the day the core reason I started this whole journey is because I like to just make people smile, and I like to make people feel good.”
Montana State grad CeCe Paharik, a Billings native, was the lucky lady for date number 50, and to celebrate the big finale, the two of them had quite the day in Big Sky Country.
"We decided to go ziplining," Wurning said. "We went horseback riding, which I got bucked off. I literally fell for her. Then we came here to this brewery, and then we’re going to have a nice photography session later.”
“We had a really good time," CeCe Paharik added. “I felt really special. You’ve got to save the best for last.”
As fun as it was to go on 50 dates with 50 different women, he says the real prize was the lessons he learned along the way.
“I think the two biggest things I’ve learned on this journey is that one, the smallest idea that starts right here can blossom into something amazing and spectacular," Wurning said. "The other thing I’ve learned throughout traveling through the whole U.S. is we’re all really not so different. At the end of the day, we all like to have a good meal. We like to have a good drink. We like to have a smile on our faces. We like to laugh. All those things, so it’s really cool to just see that common ground between the whole U.S.”
Matthew doesn’t know what’s next for '50 Dates 50 States' but says he’s going to enjoy these next few months back at home and then head back to the drawing board.