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Traveler writer explores North Dakota gathering history, friends

Posted 5/24/24 (Fri)

By David Olson

FARGO — Seth Varner is a traveler who collects facts and histories of the places he visits, which for the past several years has been Midwestern states.

He makes a point of hitting every incorporated city in each state and this spring and summer that state is North Dakota, which has 355 incorporated municipalities.

As of early May, Varner, the CEO of Wandermore Publishing, had made it to 76 North Dakota towns and cities, including Fargo, where he had brunch with Sarah Fisher, of Horace, North Dakota, at Space Aliens Grill & Bar.

Fisher had reached out to Varner about a month eralier after hearing about his mission to write travel guides and histories of Midwestern states he crisscrosses with his black SUV, whose Nebraska plates spell "TRAVELR."

Fisher, it turns out, has a quest of her own — to spread kindness and awareness about the importance of organ donation.

Her son, Cameron Bolton, died following a car crash six years ago and because he was an organ donor his death has helped 124 people so far, according to Fisher, who said part of her outreach involves placing small plastic bags in places where people will find them.

The bags contain blue painted rocks and information about Cameron's story.

Fisher mailed 355 painted rocks, one for every incorporated town in North Dakota, to Varner, who agreed to place them in communities as he makes his away across the state.

"I was super thankful he was willing to take them," Fisher said.

Varner said he has completed travel guides for four other states — his home state of Nebraska, as well as Kansas, Iowa, and South Dakota.

North Dakota will be the fifth state to get the Wandermore treatment, he said.

Varner says his self-published paperback books are a combination of travel guide, history book and "living photo album."

The photo album part, he said, is accessed using unique QR codes that connect people via the Internet to images of specific communities.

Varner said he took 750 photos during his stop in Fargo. His idea for the roadtrips began in early 2020, when he decided to recreate an adventure from his boyhood days that involved him and his father traveling across Nebraska for a genealogy project. That trip included taking pictures of things like town population signs and churches.

Today, Varner takes selfies in similar settings in each of the towns he visits.

Varner estimates he has sold about 9,500 travel guides so far, which he sells on his website and at museums and travel centers.

He expects to finish his tour of North Dakota in September and publish what he is calling "the most comprehensive guide to North Dakota's incorporated towns ever written" just in time for Christmas.

"I have so many different stories, I've met tons of people who helped revitalize small town history," Varner said.

People can follow Varner's progress on his Wandermore in North Dakota Facebook page.

Seth Varner, right, is in the process of visiting every incorporated community in the state of North Dakota. He met friend, Sarah Fisher, at Space Aliens Grill & Bar during a stop in Fargo on May 8, 2024. Chris Flynn / The Forum