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Richmond couple travels to one of Earth’s most forbidden places

Posted at 8:30 AM, Dec 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-06 23:58:25-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The travel bug that bit Katelyn and Howard Newstate must have taken a really big bite. The newlyweds have the postcards to prove it.

Since August, the Newstates have lived up to their name.

"We’ve gone and camped in 28 different states in the one year we’ve been on the road," Katelyn said.

“We’ve racked up 25,000 miles in our home," Howard added. "Most homes go zero miles."

The couple is touring North America on four wheels full-time.

Katelyn, from Virginia, and Howard, from Ohio, tied the knot in June. The couple travels wherever the compass points.

"It was truly what direction you want to go and what do you want to see along the way," Howard said.

"Not having a plan definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone," Katelyn said.

Careers in marketing and public relations allow them to work remotely. The couple is proving that life on the road isn’t reserved for retirees.

"We are the next generation of RVers," Howard said.

While seeing all 50 states remains a goal the adventurous couple, they are not limited to North America.

In October, Katelyn and Howard traveled abroad to one of the most forbidden places on earth.

“When my husband came up with the idea of going to Chernobyl I said, ‘You’ve had some crazy ideas before, but this takes the cake. I thought, ‘No way,’” Katelyn recalled.

Chernobyl is the landmark in Ukraine forever linked with disaster.

In April 1986, the nuclear power plant exploded killing hundreds and exposing countless others to deadly radiation.

“For me, it was the epitome of danger and despair. And tragic loss,” Howard said. “The Soviet Union actually masked how many people were affected by it.”

People in cities and towns like Pripyat were forced out. They never returned.

“To think about that. You’re pulled from everything you’ve ever known and told you can’t go back to your home. Very sad,” Katelyn said.

“People will not be able to live there safely for 100,000 years. It is mind-blowing,” Howard said. “It looks like those post-apocalyptic sets that you would imagine. Only it's real life."

Thirty-three years later, the site is becoming a destination for tourists. The Newstates were curious, but cautious.

Visitors must apply to enter.

Once selected, each tourist mush adhere to strict guidelines like wearing a radiation monitor and refrain from touching anything.

Despite the past danger Chernobyl is safe for short term tours.

"You can be around something that is highly radioactive, but if it is in a short time its no more dangerous than an X-Ray,” Howard said.

For Howard and Katelyn, Chernobyl ranks as the ultimate bucket list moment. The Newstates tour lasted nine hours. Their education will last a lifetime.

"We’ll never do something that puts us in danger or puts us in harms way or is irresponsible. That is why we do our research. Definitely glad I went and grateful for the experience.”

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