The death of a loved one changes everyone in different ways.
For Mikah Meyer, the death of his father proved both tragic and inspirational.
When Mikah was only nineteen, his father passed away. Aside from the trauma of losing his father so young, Mikah was moved by a detail he found particularly heartbreaking.
His father passed away without taking any of the trips on his "bucket list" and seeing that regret changed something in Mikah.
He vowed he wouldn't wait until the end of his life to take the trips he dreamed of taking. It took a few years of savings, but when he was 30, Mikah set out on what would become a record-breaking road trip.
When he first set out, he didn't have much. Mikah traveled in his trusty van, with a map, a camera, some gear and only enough money to do a fraction of the trip.
Oh... and his undeniable swag...
Along the way, though, the trip garnered national attention.
Slowly, Mikah started picking up sponsors, speaking engagements and donations that allowed him to just keep going. Believe it or not, the van only broke down on him once.
National parks within the continental U.S. weren't all he wanted to do, though. In total, Mikah traveled to all fifty states, plus six US territories. The images he shared along the way truly highlight how diverse and beautiful the United States is and Mikah's sense of fun and humor.
His father inspired the trip, so Mikah decided to use his platform to inspire others, particularly members of the LGBT community who might hesitate to travel out of fear or shame.
Mikah shared his adventure, and message, on his Instagram: @mikahmey.
Mikah achieved his goal on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
There were plenty of fun, and wet, moments along the way!
Not just national parks, Mikah hit up places like Baxter State Park in central Maine.
It took him over three years, but Mikah finished his trip off back in his adopted home of Washington DC with a walk up the steps to the Lincoln Memorial.
Waiting for him were members of the media, friends, family, social media followers and Chris Calvert. Chris is one of a small number of people who have been nationally recognized for visiting all of the National Parks.
It took Chris decades to do what Mikah was able to do in just three thanks to the power of social media and marketing.
Though their timelines were very different, both men took similar lessons from the experience.
"The National Archives are the repository for our most important documents. The Smithsonian museums are our repository for our most important things. The National Park Service is the repository for America's most important places. These places define America. It's like the soul of the nation. It is our story, our land, our history. It defines who we are as one people." - Chris Calvert
"I really got to know the American story. More than just natural wonders, the Park Service sites tell our American story." - Mikah Meyer
If you have never visited your local state and national parks, maybe it is time to start a bucket list and hit the road this summer.
Safe travels everyone!