Most Americans wait until retirement before they follow up on their big travel plans.
But not Mikah Meyer. At just 30 years of age, the Washington-area resident is already embarking on an adventure of a lifetime.
World record road trip
Meyer plans to travel across America and visit every site within the U.S. National Park Service, a trip that will take him to all 50 states over a three-year period. If he achieves his goal, he will be the youngest person to visit all 411 sites, and the only person to do so in one continuous trip.
And he plans to do it using a custom-fitted van as his base.
Meyer will be using that modest but essential home-on-wheels to visit national parks, and so much more.
Sitting on rock: Hiking toward the top of Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park in October 2014.
“So when I first started planning this trip, I too thought of the 59 big national parks: Grand Canyon, Acadia, Yellowstone,” Meyer explained, “but then I learned that this National Park system is way more than these capital “P” parks. It’s everything from national seashores to national monuments to national historical sites to national battlefields. It's this entire system that's so much more than just vistas.”
Healing power of travel
This isn't Meyer’s first road trip.
The Nebraska native has already traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and to many parts of the world. It’s an annual ritual that was born out of a painful personal experience.
“My dad passed away at age 58 before he got to retire, when I was 19 years old, and it really made me realize that life is short and we don't always get the retirement or the time that we think we’ll have to fulfill our dreams. So I wanted to do my dreams now at age 30 while I'm still alive to make sure I can reach them.”
A Father’s Day tribute
That's part of the reason for his journey, which will be the 12th installment of his annual road trips; to honor his father while fulfilling his own dream of “seeing America's amazing National Park system.”
Constitution gardens, a park area in DC, May 20, 2016.
He launched his journey in April, in the nation’s capital, and has been visiting many Washington area sites in the weeks leading up to his departure, which he’s scheduled for Father’s Day, June 19.
“I lived in DC for four years and didn't realize that there were about 40 national parks within 30 miles of my house,” he said. “We always hear people say, ‘oh I've never gone to that place that’s just down the road,’ and I think it's easy to forget about all the amazing places that are close to us.”
First stamp in Passport book, Washington Monument Lodge, April 29th 2016.
He receives an ink cancellation stamp in a special Passport To Your National Parks ® book for each site he visits within the National Park Service and has accumulated over a dozen so far. The book is issued by the National Park Travelers Club, an organization that helps visitors track their National Park visits.
His first stamp came from a visit to the Washington Monument… “because I wanted something iconic; something all Americans and people around the world would recognize, but maybe not know is a national park.”
Financing a dream
Meyer has been saving for his trip for the past four years while working two jobs in the Washington, DC area. But says he’s only fully funded for the first year.
“So I'm really counting on crowdfunding donations, possible corporate sponsorships and basically people visiting my website and helping out in any way they can,” he said, “whether that's donating or even just subscribing to my social media.”
He’d like to be fully financed during his trip he says, so he can focus on really absorbing and experiencing the parks.
Sharing his experience
Meyer plans to share his journey on social media.
“It's important for me to show everyone around the world that the United States has this amazing national park system that has so much to offer beyond just the Grand Canyon.”
Floating in air: Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park as part of a "Mission and Retreat" trip with the Methodist Wesley Foundation student ministry Mikah Meyer was part of at the University of Memphis - May 2009.
Anyone interested in following him on his journey can visit his website www.TBCMikah.com (TravelBeyondConvention) and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
“For me personally, the goal of this trip is to experience one of my dreams so I can know whenever I die I can say that I've done something about what I’ve always dreamed about.”
He plans to end his journey at the Lincoln Memorial… just a short distance from where his adventure began.