Yes, I am a pilot. It started as a matter of practicality from my step-father, who was a private pilot for a long while. He lived in NM and worked all over, but it was hard to get wherever he wanted to go. He started just flying to Midland, TX (which has a freakishly large airport for a small city) to get on a Southwest plane, then he got a bigger plane.
I followed suit after the Army after getting a large taste of flying private for oil companies. Usually in the back of a King Air, but it was so much better than commercial, especially because I am freakishly tall.
Anyway, I worked up from a 172 just like you have to now been flying a Mooney Acclaim S. I like it because it has great instruments, is a turbo, and de-icing and I live on the top of a fucking mountain. (Also, the cabin is such I could remount the pilot seat back about six inches.) Actually easier to fly than a 172 with all the electronics. (Just remember to put down your gear before landing.)
Anyway, I can make it to where ever I want to go in West Texas/New Mexico/Oklahoma in a matter of a couple of hours. Makes life much easier when you live 4 hours from the nearest major city.
Whatever you do, get instrument rated. Otherwise, you are not really a pilot. Also remember: there are old pilots, bold pilots, but no old, bold, pilots. I'm a nut about many, many things, but take zero chances when flying.