Young Traveler Hopes to Visit Every National Park

    18 June, 2016

    Many Americans dream of the day they can retire and take a long-awaited road trip across the country. But Mikah Meyer believes that life is too short to wait.

    At 30 years old, he is about to start an all-American road trip, one that he hopes will take him to every U.S. national park.

    If he reaches his goal, he will become the youngest person to visit all 411 sites within the National Park Service. He will also be the only person to ever do so in one continuous trip.

    Meyer's trip is driven by tragedy. He was 19 years old when his father died.

    "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."

    Every year since his father's death, Meyer has taken a road trip. But nothing quite as extensive the one he is about to begin.

    To honor his father, Meyer will start his trip on June 19, Father's Day in the United States.

    Mikah Meyer at Constitution Gardens, a park area in DC, May 20, 2016.
    Mikah Meyer at Constitution Gardens, a park area in DC, May 20, 2016.

    He has already spent the last few months visiting the many National Park Service sites near his home in Washington, DC.

    "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. It's just down the road. I think it's easy to forget about all the amazing places that are close to us."

    Meyer's first plan was to visit all 59 of the major national parks in America, like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite.

    "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."

    Meyer's trip will take him to all 50 states. He will be on the road for about three years, driving and living in a special van.

    Meyer receives an ink stamp in his National Parks Passport book for each site he visits. The passport book is issued by the National Park Travelers Club, an organization that helps visitors follow their national park visits.

    His first stamp of the trip came from his visit to the Washington Monument. He said he wanted his first stamp to be "something iconic, something all Americans and people around the world recognize, but maybe not know is a national park.

    He saved for his trip for four years and worked two jobs. But, he says, he is only fully funded for the first year. After that, he says, he hopes to raise money online and through sponsorships.

    Floating in air: Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park as part of a
    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.

    Meyer plans to share his journey on social media. He also started a website for his trip.

    He says, hopes to encourage more young people to visit the country's national parks. The average age of visitors to Yellowstone National Park, for example, is 54.

    "It's important to 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..."

    He plans to end his long journey at Washington's Lincoln Memorial, just a short distance from where his adventure began.

    I'm Ashley Thompson.

    Julie Taboh reported this story from Washington. Ashley Thompson adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    van - n. a vehicle that is larger than a car, that is shaped like a box, that has doors and windows at the back and sides, and that is used for transporting people or things

    iconic - adj. widely known; symbolic

    fund - v. to provide money for (something)

    sponsorship - n. an arrangement in which a sponsor -- or supporter -- agrees to give money to someone or something