On Sept. 8, a young man named Mikah Meyer passed through Montevideo on a journey running across Minnesota to show that even in the midst of a pandemic, there are still ways to find adventure.

On Sept. 8, a young man named Mikah Meyer passed through Montevideo on a journey running across Minnesota to show that even in the midst of a pandemic, there are still ways to find adventure.

Meyer is 34 years old, and first gained notoriety after spending three years living in a self-converted cargo van visiting all 419 National Park Service sites, setting a world record as the first person to do that in one continuous journey.

Meyer grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, and would visit Minnesota frequently with his father, who was a Lutheran pastor, and would come to Minnesota for religious work.

“After I finished my journey, I moved to Minnesota in May of 2019,” said Meyer. “I decided that Minnesota was the best state America had to offer as far as quality of life, for what I was looking for.”

According to Meyer, it was incredible seeing the diversity of America on his national park journey.

“Seeing the diversity of not only our natural landscapes, but the National Park Service preserves, sites that have to do with our Labor Rights heritage, Womens’ Rights heritage, Civil Rights heritage, LGBTQ Rights heritage, and Native American history. It was cool to not just see the most beautiful places America had to offer, but see everything in our history that makes us Americans today,” Meyer said.

It is difficult to imagine spending three years living life in a van without the luxuries society takes for granted every day, but that is exactly what Meyer did.

“I don’t think I could do that again,” he laughed. “But I sort of had this blind ambition that nothing else mattered except finishing this goal. Every day I’d get up and do what I had to do that day to get closer to my goal, and what I had to do that week and that month for that year for three years.”

After three years and his journey at an end, Meyer was tired of the van life and wanted to enjoy the luxuries of running water and climate control again.

“I wanted the opposite of what I had for three years, give me people and buildings and theater!” he said.

After his journey, Meyer became a public speaker and would share the lessons he learned and inspiration he received on his journey with colleges, corporations, community groups, and churches.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck the nation and came to Minnesota, causing a statewide lockdown last spring, Meyer lost all of his speaking gigs immediately. Like many Americans, Meyer was stuck at home, bored, and unsure of what each day would bring.

“I was eating all the food that makes you feel good in the moment but not afterwards; I was staying up until 5 watching Netflix and sleeping until 2 p.m. Just a wreck, watching the news, freaking out all day, as I’m sure many of us were. The world was upside down,” Meyer said.

The only constant, to Meyer, was running, and going outside and exercising was one of the few things Minnesotans were still able to do as long as social distancing was practiced.

“Running was the only thing I had,” he said. I’d run off and on for the past two years and thought, ‘I’m going nuts inside this house.’ It was the one thing that every day, I was in control of. I could control how far I ran, my breath, while the rest of the world was spinning out of control around me. I really enjoyed that, and I started running 30 minutes, which turned into 60 minutes, and eventually I ran over two hours, 15 miles, which was more than I’d ever run at one time, within two weeks of the initial stay-at-home lockdown.”

So Meyer had a new goal, which was to visit all of Minneapolis’ 180 city parks over the course of the summer. Living in downtown Minneapolis, after the murder of George Floyd, he explained that a lot of the streets he was used to running were completely transformed.

Meyer said, “Now there were murals everywhere, and protests, and people were asking for justice, and I would still go on my daily runs and each day I would run to where stuff was happening. As I was doing that I was thinking, ‘I can’t solve systemic racism for the world, but I can use my profession, my privilege, and my platform, and do what I can to make it better.’”

One of Meyer’s jobs is traveling and sharing his adventures on social media, and that’s when he had the idea to run across Minnesota.

“I said, ‘Even if we get locked down and we can’t leave Minnesota this fall, I can still do this adventure,” he said.

At this point the metro area had city-wide curfews, and at home Meyer had an idea to create a logo to spread awareness for LGBTQ people who live in rural areas, where it is generally more difficult to feel safe and accepted, and find allies.

“I call it the Outside Safe Space Symbol, and it was inspired by the upside down pink triangles that we now see in elementary schools so that kids know this is a teacher where you can find a safe voice, if you don’t have one at home or among your friends,” Meyer explained. “I realized from my parks journey, hearing from thousands of people who had similar experiences, that those who are LGBTQ feel safe in downtown urban centers, at a symphony, at a theater, places you would expect.

“But most of us don’t feel that same safety, or anything near it out in rural areas, or outdoors in nature, at national parks,” he continued. “The idea was to create a symbol that allies who live in rural areas and support LGBT people can wear a pin on their backpack, or a sticker on their water bottle, or a patch on their gear, as a nonverbal communication to share the message, ‘Hey, I appreciate you, I’m a safe person, I want all of you out here to hopefully change the narrative, and if there are more allies that we know of, allow them to be seen.’ And if there aren’t, hopefully build support for this idea that you don’t just have to live downtown, and you aren’t just safe downtown for LGBT, and that you can experience all of America.”

At this time of year Meyer would normally be speaking at colleges, but with the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 he is unable to continue his normal work, and thought this would be the perfect time to spend six weeks running across the state. His route runs from east to west, starting at the South Dakota border and ending at the Wisconsin border.

“I started on September 4, and the goal is to end on National Coming Out Day, which is October 11,” he said.

Meyer chose that date partially because of the date’s significance, but also to document as much of Minnesota’s beautiful autumn scenery as he could in his photos.

He said, “Last year we had a snow blizzard on October 10 so I knew I couldn’t wait too long. Before this I averaged running seven miles a day every other day, and I thought, ‘I bet I could ramp up to six miles every day and double what I’m doing.’ I did the math and it worked out to about six weeks, and six miles a day.”

With the help of the Montevideo Chamber of Commerce, Meyer was able to visit some of the local tourist sites the town has to offer. He plans on using his days off to learn about the area and inform Minnesotans what there is to see near them and encourage them to still find adventure, even during a pandemic.

“It’s so perfect to go out and see these places because we are trying to social distance. So go out, and get out into what’s around you.

“When I was doing my national parks journey,” Meyer continued, “every state and territory I went to, people would say ‘Oh, I didn’t know we had those in our state, I’ve been to the ones out west, far away, etc.’ and nobody was going to the parks and sites in their own state. So I feel like this is a great time for all of us, but particularly for Minnesotans to take advantage of what Minnesota has to offer while we don’t have any other distractions.”

Meyer posts about his journey in real time.

“I want to provide Minnesotans an adventure from their phone, so if they want to go to my website, Instagram or Facebook, every day I’m sharing the miles I ran and where I ended, just to give people something live and exciting to follow before winter,” he said

Those who wish to follow Meyer’s inspirational journey across Minnesota can find him on Instagram @mikahmey, on Facebook as Mikah Meyer, or to learn more about him and what he does can visit his website at mikahmeyer.com