NM. LOL. I’m not meandering this summer.

I walk outside. It’s hot. Damn hot. I remember the one (count ‘em, one!) triple-digit day of last summer’s Meander in Nevada City.

I wonder if I’ve made a mistake.

Last Thursday, I received the answer to the lingering question that forced me to kill time hiking at South Mountain. I learned that I didn’t get the temporary digital marketing gig that I thought was the only thing that could keep me in Arizona through the summer.

For a few days after the news, I proceeded as though Meander 2.0 was a go. I invited a friend to rent my house. I contacted road trip buddies. I researched campgrounds.

And then I changed my mind.

NM. LOL. Contrary to photos of my bearded face posted to Facebook, there will be no Meander this summer. Sorry for being a tease, y’all. I just don’t feel like it.

No Meander? WTF? Why not?

The Meander was founded on three principles: No girl. No gig. Just the road. That’s fine for one summer. Great, actually. But not two in a row.

The truth is, I want a girl. No, wait, I want the girl. Alas, the road offers up more flannelled forest cougars with one front tooth than, ya know, potential soul mates.

I like my gig. I’m a digital marketing consultant with some amazing clients. I’m socializing a luxury tile manufacturer, email marketing a therapeutic eyewear seller, and just plain gettin’ things done for one amazing entrepreneur who lets me be me (and meander whenever I like).

And, finally, there’s the road.

I’m not afraid to admit that it’s hard out there. And I’m a bit of a chicken about plunging back into the isolation of traveling the way I traveled last summer. For every shirtless hiking selfie I posted to Facebook, there was a tough night in my tent wishing I was home with friends and family.

Again, sorry for being a tease. This summer, I’m chillin’ … figuratively. Not literally.

OK. What you doin’ instead?

Instead, this summer I’ll keep it local. Kinda. My summer travels will commence with a Las Vegas-Havasu Falls trip in late May. I’ll commit some sins in Sin City, then pay for them by carrying a 30-pound pack 10 miles into and out of a canyon. The summer will end with Camp Tontozona and a trip to Arches and Canyonlands in August.

In between, I’ll enjoy our scintillating summer sunsets at Tempe Town Lake. I’ll work on my handstand. I’ll watch Game of Thrones (spoiler free!). I’ll camp and cabin up north, visit the beach in SoCal, and maybe even tuck in a week or two in Seattle.

The quiet of summertime in Tempe has fostered some of the most spiritual times of my life. This summer, I’ll embrace it.

Of course, there’ll be times when I’ll second-guess this decision. I’ll get cabin fever during long weekends at home. I’ll burn my bare feet getting the mail. I’ll grumble as I dash through the oppressive heat from my AC’d house to my AC’d car.

I’ll be left to ponder …

What’s the temperature in Washington right now?

And who do I know with a pool?

summer in az

Why is my passenger seat so often empty?

Twice on this journey, I’ve invited friends to share in the adventure with me. These were people with whom I’m very close, with whom I have a deep connection on multiple levels.

Just me and a 49er in Nevada City

Just me and a wooden ’49er outside Nevada City. As a solo traveler, I take a lot of selfies.

And yet, occasionally, I found myself resisting both visits.

Don’t get me wrong. We had great times. These were positive experiences that I’ll treasure as part of the Meander. However, at times, my heart simply wasn’t open to companionship.

When a friend is in the passenger seat, Me Time becomes We Time. And We Time creates a whole different set of challenges for me.

Me Time and We Time in the past

Believe it or not, I tend to like things my way. (If you’re reading this blog, you probably believe it.)

So, my resistance to We Time is not unique to the road. Since my engagement ended in October 2010, my heart has been mostly closed to real companionship.

This is apparent in my dating life. For a year after the breakup, my heart was closed due to the pain and my desire to rebuild. And in my last nine months in Arizona, it was closed as I wound down my Bulbstorm and Tempe Leadership commitments and prepared for my trip.

During both of these periods, I dated – at times thoughtfully, at times not so much. Regardless of the approach, I always found one reason or another to call it off. In between these periods, I let my guard down for a few months in spring 2012 and had an amazing summer with a great girl.

I treasure Me Time. Paradoxically, I’m awful at creating space for myself. I crowd Me Time out of my schedule with business networking and social engagements and dating for the sake of dating.

At what point upon my return will I clear my schedule to create space for Me Time? And then at what point will I open my heart to create space for We Time?

Me Time and We Time in the future

I’ve already considered ways to structure my life when I return to accommodate Me Time. For example, I want to camp alone once per month and I want to finally commit to another can’t-miss yoga class.

Reading Huck Finn on a cold day at Crater Lake. Now there's a guy who enjoyed travel companions.

Reading Huck Finn on a cold day at Crater Lake. Now there’s a guy who enjoyed travel companions.

As for opening my heart to We Time, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s already happening.

I mentioned that I’ve attempted to date in the years since my breakup. I’ve also tried to forge non-romantic friendships. It wasn’t easy at first. I kept a lot of awesome people at arm’s length.

Slowly but surely, I got better at connecting. I got better picking up the phone (to text or Facebook, certainly not to call!). I got better at asking for help. I got better at being myself and being honest.

I now have a wonderful circle of close friends and I’m tighter with my parents than I’ve ever been. Plus, I have an ever-widening network of people who share common interests, from hiking to business to civic engagement.

I believe that the progress I’ve made with non-romantic relationships will serve me well when I return home and resume dating. And, for the first time since October 2010, perhaps my passenger seat will be open to We Time over the long haul.

Wanna read more? I may not be good at connecting with humans. But I love connecting with Jeffrey pines, coastal redwoods, and ducklings.

One dead duckling and my choice to be vegetarian

I crushed a duckling with my car yesterday. At least, I’m pretty sure I did.

Driving the two-lane freeway past Clear Lake on my way from Nevada City to Mendocino, the car in front of me swerved right.  The car in the opposite lane swerved left. Between them was a terrified duck. You could see her confusion as she was caught between the two vehicles.

Geese at Donner Lake.

Geese at Donner Lake.

No problem, I thought. The road wasn’t busy. As soon as I passed, she’d complete her trek.

I swerved right too. And that’s when I saw the trail of ducklings behind her. I tried to pass over them, but there were too many. A quick glance in my side mirror left me fairly confident that at least one had been killed.

I was devastated. My first impulse was to turn back. Clearly there’s nothing I could have done. I spent 30 minutes on the verge of tears. I calmed down as I wrote this blog post in my head. Hours later at the Mendocino Botanical Garden, I welled up and called a friend to discuss my feelings.

I know. I know. It’s just a duck.

It’s hard for me to think in those terms any more. Just an hour earlier, I saw two deer grazing in rolling yellow hills. The day before, I swam with geese in Donner Lake. At Yosemite, I pulled over to watch deer and marmots and a coyote and I swam with trout in the Tuolumne River. In Big Sur, I delighted as I watched the silhouette of a sea lion darting past in the blue-green surf.

These were all beautiful incarnations of life. Just as my duckling was. Just as much of our food is.

Coyote at Glacier Point.

Coyote at Glacier Point.

For me, vegetarianism is a personal moral choice. It is not a moral absolute. I do not judge meat eaters, just as I’d ask that vegans don’t judge my consumption of eggs and dairy. However, I do challenge those who eat meat to go kill an animal or at least watch an animal be killed.

Many of us are so far removed from our food sources that we’re incapable of making a conscious decision about our diets. Instead, we hide its animal nature by frying it, or cooking it well done, or covering it in seasoning or cheese or ranch. (And don’t get me started on KFC’s chilling “I ate the bone” campaign.)

Deer at Tuolumne Meadow.

Deer at Tuolumne Meadow.

My old coworker Casey is one of the most voracious carnivores I know. He’s also an avid hunter. He knows exactly what he’s doing. My parents have hunted and fished and raised animals throughout their lives. They’ve made a fully-informed choice to eat meat and that’s fine by me.

In 2011, Mark Zuckerberg recently made a yearlong pledge to only eat meat he personally killed. As he told Fortune, “I think many people forget that a living being has to die for you to eat meat. So my goal revolves around not letting myself forget that and being thankful for what I have.”

Bravo, Zuck.

I too have been close to the source of my food. I’ve wounded dove and then finished the job by removing their heads with my hands. I’ve had animals in my backyard one week and on my plate the next. For me, today, meat cannot be an option.

That said, tuna has been a bit of a staple on this trip. It’s an easy source of protein on the go. I have six cans of tuna in my car right now. The next time I meet a group of backpackers, I’m giving the cans to them. I’m finally fully forgoing fish to go all in with my vegetarianism.

The tuna are beautiful manifestations of life too. Just like my duckling.


Got a question about my trip? I’m compiling a mailbag to commemorate one month on the road. Leave your question in the comments!