Gay outdoorsman and explorer Mikah Meyer is a world record holder. His three-year trip to all 419 of America's national parks brought him to the forefront of not only the travel industry but specifically, inspired LGBTQ adventurers across the world.
That was no small feat considering a large amount of the LGBTQ+ community is still uncomfortable in outdoor spaces especially when travelling with their partners or showing public displays of affection.
In fact, one question Meyer is asked the most is how to encourage like-minded gay explorers and make sure they're safe too? He answered them by creating something very special.
Inspired by the "Safe Spaces" logos which are placed on homes and businesses that symbolize LGBTQ+ safehouses, Meyer began to sketch a logo of his own. One that would let people know that everyone could enjoy the true meaning of the phrase "parks and recreation."
After all, hiking, biking, and kayaking aren't just for straight people. That's a gross misconception to say the least.
"I set out to create an 'Outside Safe Space (OSS) logo," he writes. "Something non-verbal that an LGBTQ+ person could wear to represent their presence, and also something allies can pin to their backpacks, stick on their water bottle, wear on themselves or post in their office, to signal that LGBTQ+ people are supported in being 100% themselves around them."
In 2005 Meyer suffered a great loss. His dad passed away. In his grief, he decided to get away from it all, and with his first year of college at a close, there was no better time than the present. As much as his trip was a planned exploration of nature, it also spirited him away to personal, unexpected places. As much as at was a journey outside, the real discoveries happened within.
Anyone who has suffered the death of a loved one will tell you that grief is also like a hike, perhaps the longest you will ever take. The trail is filled with ups and downs, obstacles, and finally, if you're lucky, a great openended vista on which to reflect not only how far you have come, but what still lies ahead.
For years since that inspirational breakthrough, Meyer has found some peace by devoting his life to outdoor exploration and making others' dreams come true. For LGBTQ+ people, inspiration is often the catalyst for self-acceptance because fear is the greatest saboteur.
Having discovered the healing power of earth's raw beauty and being gay himself, Meyer felt more than ever that Mother Nature is the community's most therapeutic ally. And what better way to let people know that than to brand her as such?
Thus a new beacon for the community was born. The symbol, co-created by Kevin Keller, is the shape of a colorful pine tree with each of its boughs representing something significant in the community.
The tree pin details include:
The Rainbow Flag
The Trans Flag
The Bi Flag
Triangles for all queer identities
Skin tone tree trunk as the foundation since all of the above exist in diverse people
Plus some hidden symbolism
Writes Meyer: "The trans and bi colors have specifically been placed nearest the trunk, as symbolism of the role these communities played in the genesis of the queer civil rights movement, and as the largest/strongest branches, in acknowledgement of the times they have been overlooked compared to other members of the community."
Since its introduction The OSS has become a hallmark to allies, enthusiasts and people who have yet to embrace their dreams. Much like its creator, the symbol is a bold reminder that although the world is filled with many obstacles, it's nothing that a great pair of hiking boots and an eagerness to explore can't help you overcome.
"Let’s build a world where everyone sees themselves and feels safe and free to be who they are, wherever they are!" adds Meyer.
For more information on the #adventurepride project including where you can get your own gear, click HERE.