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A US Trekker Says Goodbye


Trekkers hang out doing what they do best... smiling!
When I accepted the position as a US Trekker, I knew I would be traveling around the country writing dispatches for the website. But that's like saying that a scuba diver swims. Or that an astronaut goes up into space. Of course, they do -- but there's so much else involved! To get a dispatch written, we had to drive to a specific (pick one) town, swamp, fort, national park, river, mountain range, monument, cemetery, landmark or library. Then we had to (pick all) research, interview, photograph, write, edit and post the story, usually in less than 48 hours. We also had to find a place to sleep, squeeze in a school visit once a week, map out the next assignments, perform periodic car repairs, and eat. And we had to do all of this for under $15 a day.

How did it begin? With a car, a cooler with some food, camping stove, books, a phone, and some money. For the next eight months, we tried to live as cheaply as we could, often spending hours explaining to hotel managers, park rangers, museum directors and even parking lot attendants why we shouldn't be made to pay! To be a Trekker, we had to agree to live simply and spend as little as possible. Otherwise, the project wouldn't last until the end.

Looking back, I remember the late-night-random calls from the other Trekkers, sometimes to vent about an interview gone sour, at other times to share a funny story. I think of the emails we sent each other filled with stories, jokes, a photo attachment and a forwarded article. The inside jokes that permeated our conversation and the way one look between us said everything. It's true. The Trekkers -- my friends, soul mates, and companions -- were the only ones who really, truly understood what I was going through.

'We're not worthy, Jeff!'
The ideas of the US Trek are the reason we all signed up in the first place. The Trek is about giving voice to the voiceless, presenting different views and making a difference. We travel around the United States, find the hidden stories, present them to students, celebrate diversity, right the wrongs, be aware, be positive, be passionate. It is Jeff Golden, the founder, who brought this vision to us. He kept us trekking through all the problems, frustrations and dead-ends. And he taught many of us to live without compromising our ideals.


Our Final Farewell

We set out to question and challenge the history we've been taught. We trekked through America as outsiders, measuring success in the number of stories we uncovered, smiles we shared, people we met and tears we shed. A good day was finding inspiration from a labor-rights leader in Pittsburgh, or feminists in New York, or a Native American chief in New Mexico. An even better day was all that plus the kind gestures of strangers -- a free car tune-up in Ohio, a warm bed in Georgia, an unexpected meal in Indiana.

People were so generous in part because they thought what we were doing was so cool. Friends, acquaintances and even complete strangers confessed that they wished they could quit their jobs and set off trekking too. I don't blame them.

The Trek is over, but the spirit, energy and idealism that made it happen has grown stronger in each one of us. When we hit the road last year, we knew we weren't just going to be writing about history, we were going to be making history. In our quest to lift history from the textbooks and bring it to life for students, we ended up doing more. We came alive too.


Please email me at: daphne@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Rebecca - Learning about life by living it - with gusto!
Irene - Baby, I was born to run (all over this country)
Jennifer - To America the beautiful and the friendly
Neda - So what exactly is a "trekker" anyway?
Nick - Taking the road less traveled
Stephanie - Make the Trek part of who you are
Stephen - Have a little faith and it will get you through