Is the sequel ever as good as the original?

jump into the Skagit River

I posted a photo every day of my journey. Check ’em out!

I flip-flopped like a politician throughout August. One day, I thought I’d leave Seattle in time to be home by Labor Day. The next, I planned to arrive in Tempe the day of ASU’s first big home game against UCLA. Finally, I decided to rent an apartment in Greenlake and stay until October.

If you like your insurance, you can keep it.

In the end, the decision was taken out of my hands. I rented the apartment and still made it home in time for the UCLA game. Football wasn’t the deciding factor. My grandfather’s rapidly declining health was. I arrived home just in time to see him (and write his obituary) in mid-September.

My second meander was far different from my first. This time, I was outside Arizona for 85 days but on the road for just 17 of them. The vast majority of the time was spent based out of Seattle.

These were great times connecting with family, rafting with new friends, and having my own place in Greenlake. But these were not the deeply-inspiring times I experienced last summer.

So, like, what was the point?

As this trip wound down, I thought about a question I expected to hear. How was Meander 2.0 different? The big thing is that it was less intense.

There were fewer go big moments. Shorter hikes. Longer morning coffees. More time sitting by lakes and rivers rather than walking around them. More nights at “home” playing Settlers of Catan with Doug and Nicole or Legos with my little cousins.

Beyond the activities, my senses were duller too. There were fewer emotional moments. Fewer highs. Fewer lows. More evenness, much like the life I’ve worked to create back home. Here are a few thoughts as to why:

I’m used to adventuring. My first meander was epic. And in the months since it ended, I had smaller adventures to Southern California, Flagstaff, and Las Vegas and Havasu Falls. This summer, I tried to show up with fresh eyes, but some things you can only truly feel once.

I saw fewer new things. Eighteen months ago, I’d never seen a glacier. I’d never camped on a roaring river. I’d never seen redwoods or sequoias or Washington’s amazing moss-covered pines. On my second meander, there were quiet moments when I was still awestruck. But, sadly, there were also times where they felt commonplace.

I isolated less. Last year, I traveled large stretches alone and left my cell phone off for days at a time. My primary means of coping with loneliness was journaling or writing a postcard. This summer, I made a point to stay in touch with my people back home by (gasp!) calling them on the telephone. And I spent far more time among family and friends from Seattle.

I had less to figure out. Last year, I constantly wrestled with various emotional challenges. Finally, after eight weeks on the road, I had run out of things to process. My mind went quiet. That continued this summer. It seems like life just gets easier with every passing year.

So, like, now what?

Honestly, I’m not sure. Last year, I came home with big plans. Some materialized. Some didn’t.

This year, I feel a bit rudderless, a bit uninspired. There are no big plans. I’m just kind of blah – perhaps in part due to grandpa’s passing and in part due to other, smaller disappointments.

There was no doubt upon pulling into my driveway, that I love my home. I’m excited to return to my little communities, plant in my new garden beds, and even get back to something more closely resembling full-time work.

But the road doesn’t stop calling to me. I’m already thinking how I can make Meander 3 more like the original and less like the sequel. Hell, is it May yet?


  1. Hmm, I wonder if Meander 3.0 might seem different with some company? I’m thinking of taking a couple of weeks up in the PNW to finish up some park units…

    • Matt Meanders says

      I’d love to play a small part in your NPS journey. A rafting trip in North Cascades would be a nice exclamation point on the PNW for you …

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