Denise Meeker of Wayfare to Wellness

As she's gearing up to live on the road and travel full-time, Denise shares a bit of her life philosophy and advice for wanderlusters in the times of COVID.

Denise Meeker is the primary voice behind Wayfare to Wellness, a conscientious travel and lifestyle blog that isn't afraid to get real, raw and authentic in its conversations. Denise--with her partner Reed--are gearing up to live and travel full-time out of their converted van to see the entire United States and beyond (COVID naturally added a bit of a speed bump to these plans), and to say we're inspired by them is an understatement. In addition to committing to a life of exploration, Denise is championing authentic, hard-but-important conversations about BIPOC representation in travel, mental health, the outdoors, and so much more. We're honored to share a bit of her story with our community, below.

We love your story of when you told your partner, Reed, that you wanted to commit to traveling more during the intermission of The Little Mermaid. Talk about going for it! Tell us a little about what led you to that moment.

On August 11th, 2018, the day after my birthday, my partner Reed surprised me with tickets to the little mermaid, my favorite Disney production. Giddy with excitement, we arrived at the show and sat down for a pre-show dinner. After we ordered, Reed turned to me and said “you’re a year older now, how do you feel?” I pondered his question and realized that I felt the same. I felt exactly the same. Something about that realization didn’t feel right to me. I was working at the same job, I was living in the same state and had never ventured outside of it. I wasn’t pursuing my love for travel and writing. It was on that day that I turned to Reed and asked him if he wanted to travel together, and voila, the seed was planted. Two years later, we are close to making our travel plans a reality. We are finishing up our self-converted van and have plans to travel all of the United States and hopefully beyond. 

On your blog, you open up about so many important issues--your vulnerability, honesty and perspectives are so refreshing and important to hear. How did you decide to share so openly, and what have you learned since doing so?

I have not always been one to talk openly about myself and the topics that are near and dear to my heart but right around the time that Reed and I decided to start moving towards the life of our dreams, I realized that it was time to pursue my passion for writing. As a Black woman who aspired to be a travel and wellness blogger, I wasn’t seeing many faces and voices like my own being showcased and shared. I was also seeing the lack of conversations and resources made specifically for Black, Brown, and travelers of color. As a Black woman, the experiences that I have while traveling are different from other travelers, and in order to make it so that travel is safe for all, we need to have these conversations and normalize the experience of Black and Brown travelers. I realized that I wanted to open up the conversation to all so regardless of your identities, we can learn and grow from one another. I realized that in order to normalize it, I needed to start talking about it. 

You talk a lot about a sense of belonging, creating space for all as well as finding yourself, juxtaposed with feeling uncomfortable, exploring new places, experiencing new things, and etc. This is something we think a lot about at Compell’d, but we’d love to hear from you: what do you learn about yourself when you find yourself in a new-to-you experience?

I believe that challenging ourselves to be uncomfortable is necessary to grow and learn, and I also believe that we need to discuss those challenges so that we can share our learnings and experiences with others and help them learn from us. We all want to belong and to feel seen and heard. We want to matter and when we hear of experiences from others who have lived through similar things, we can find connection and community and that can empower us to get uncomfortable and then pass on our experiences with others and continue the cycle.

When I find myself in a new and potentially uncomfortable experience, I have an opportunity to stretch myself in ways that I haven’t done before. I find myself feeling both nervous, and excited and that’s a beautiful place to be. What encourages me to keep going is the knowledge that I can use my experiences to help create space for someone to come after me. There’s something powerful about stepping outside of our comfort zones and learning from people, places and experiences that are different from what we have lived. There’s a whole wide world out there waiting to be discovered!

"I believe that challenging ourselves to be uncomfortable is necessary to grow and learn... When we hear of experiences from others who have lived through similar things [as us], we can find connection and community and that can empower us to get uncomfortable and then pass on our experiences with others and continue the cycle."

You grew up in Colorado, but have been all over the world and are gearing up for living on the road full-time: tell us about how you typically explore and find your favorite spots when you’re on the road.

I personally love to learn about a new place through curiosity and through meeting locals and asking them where they love to go and what they recommend. I love to find places that typically go unexplored and overlooked. Finding places by simply being curious and flexible to opportunities, keeps our travel fun and exciting. That’s why most of the lists that I'll build through Compell’d will be unique and off of the beaten path. 

"I love to find places that typically go unexplored and overlooked."

Any advice you’d share with someone looking to shake up their life to explore and travel more? Especially these days?

Oooh, one of my favorite topics! There are so many ways to travel, by boat, car, trailer, plane, train--the list is nearly endless! Currently, in the time of COVID-19, we have to make sure that we are traveling responsibly. Local travel is the safest and best bet right now- but don’t fret! I can bet you anything that there are amazing and unexplored places just under your nose. First of all, how much time and money do you have? I believe that travel doesn’t need to be fancy or far away to be rewarding. We all can access some sort of travel if we are willing to get creative. I typically start by asking friends, family, servers, strangers, or anyone I encounter for travel destinations. Because we are all staying away from strangers and most other people for that matter, utilize the internet! Ask in forums, on Instagram, Facebook, and anywhere else you frequent online for local hikes and outdoor spaces to go. If you do venture out: don’t forget your mask and hand sanitizer. Leave if the trail or space is too crowded, and most importantly: stay curious and come at it with new eyes and excitement for adventure. 

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Denise! Your lists are full of so many incredible resources, you're inspiring us to daydream about vanlife, too :)

July 8, 2020

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