Mikah Meyer was set to travel through Boise recently, one-third of the way through his three-year odyssey to visit every National Park Service site in the country.
He was 30 years old when he started 13 months ago — an age he figured was perfect to do something so ambitious.
“It was my last moment where society would excuse me for doing something crazy,” Meyer said. “In your 20s, everyone thinks you’re still figuring it out and they are a lot more gracious. Once you hit 30, it’s, ‘OK, you need to have your whole life figured out now.’ ” Plus, the road trip is a way for Meyer to honor and connect with his late father. His dad died at 58 when Meyer was 19.
“At age 29, my dad had lived half his life and hadn’t known it,” Meyer said. “ … He never made it to retirement.” Meyer, who grew up in Nebraska and was living in the Washington, D.C., area when he quit his jobs to travel the country, has incorporated Sunday church visits into his schedule. His dad was a pastor and Meyer was part of the professional choir at Washington National Cathedral, so he offers to speak about his travels and sing at the churches he visits.
In return, he gets the comfort of spending his Sundays in the church community and often donations toward his trip.
During a recent Q&A, part of his Meyer’s talk centered on his experience “growing up as a closeted pastor’s son in a state where I didn’t meet my first openly gay adult until I was 19 and moved away,” he said. His boyfriend has joined him for about 60 percent of the trip.
“I found that this trip is a real opportunity, especially speaking at churches, to talk about growing up gay in the Christian church and how to make it more supportive and more welcoming to everyone,” Meyer said. “My goal is to have my own travel show — to be the first travel personality who is openly gay. So many people like myself grew up without a role model.” Meyer has visited more than 180 of the 417 National Park Service sites so far. He lives in a van, so he times his trips based on weather. He’s headed to the Pacific Northwest for the summer. He hit most of Idaho’s NPS sites in May, including Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve and City of Rocks National Reserve. He’s on his way to his last Idaho stop — Nez Perce National Historical Park, which is spread across Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
He called Craters of the Moon and City of Rocks “amazing places.” “Because they’re not capital-N, capital-P national parks like Yellowstone or Arches, I think people overlook them,” he said. “A lot of this trip has been finding places like that that are less popular but really interesting.” Meyer’s goal is to become the youngest person to visit all of the NPS sites (follow his journey at tbcmikah.com). According to a Washington Post story on Meyer’s trip, 37 people had visited all of the NPS sites — with the youngest finishing at age 39.
Meyer also is unusual in that he’s trying to hit all the sites in one trip rather than over a lifetime.
He has gone on road trips annually since his father’s death. His dad enjoyed road trips and his sisters considered driving to college with their dad among their favorite memories, Meyer said.
“For me, it’s a way to get that experience with him without him physically being here,” Meyer said.