Eyes, mind, and heart open to new experiences

I stayed at a friend’s house last weekend while mine was rented to travelers through Airbnb. Giving up my bed (or any bed) is a key piece of my plan to not go broke during the Meander. (What’s the Meander?)

On Sunday, with my day’s work done, I jogged toward Papago Park. The jog devolved into a slow, appreciative walk as I discovered a multiuse corridor stretching along a waterway from the city’s treatment facilities south to about Mill and Curry.

Moeur Park in Tempe

An unexpected pre-Meander meander through Tempe’s own Moeur Park.

The water flowed south through man-made waterfalls and hardscape built from urbanite. Mallards swam in pairs in riparian areas dense with reeds, palms, and mesquites. Walkers and bikers traveled along the shoreline while hobbyists played disc golf on an 18-hole course.

All of this is within three miles of my home for the last 12 years. I had no idea it existed.

This is the kind of fortuitous encounter I’m most excited to experience on the Meander.

When I visited Seattle two years ago, I fell in love with Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks. But unexpected moments defined the trip as well. I saw a four-our inning at a Mariners’ game, spent hours wandering downtown, and built light sabers out of pool noodles with a cousin I hadn’t seen in two decades.

Last summer in New Mexico, Taos’s art galleries and the natural wonders of the Jemez Mountain Trail didn’t disappoint. But I’ll also always remember stumbling into a free visual arts exhibition on a late-night walk around our hotel in Santa Fe.

This summer, I’m excited to trace the footsteps of Chris McCandless and to explore Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Crater Lake. However, I’m also excited to see what’s in Turtle Bay Exploration Park along the Sacramento River in Redding, Calif. I don’t know anything about it beyond the name and I’m not going to Google it before arriving.

I’m also eager for the conversations with locals that didn’t happen in Seattle because I was shy or in New Mexico because I was with my girlfriend. If I learn nothing more than how to connect with strangers even briefly, the Meander will be worthwhile.

The unexpected is why my itinerary is written softly in pencil. There are a few firm dates dictated by campsite reservations or friends’ flights. But, for the most part, I plan to not have a plan.

Eyes, mind, and heart open to new experiences.

My itinerary is very fluid. Know a can’t-miss spot? Got a friend with a couch? Let me know in the comments!