Four Months and a Lifetime Worth of Experience Later...
As I sit down to write my last dispatch, I am reluctant to begin because when I finish, it means the trek is over. Just when I am finally getting the hang of things, it's about to end. When I began the trek four months ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I just thought it would be a good way to travel the country for free. I knew it would be great to learn about American history and be back in touch with students. And on top of all that, I would also be a writer. It all sounded so exciting, but in the end it was even so much more than I bargained for.
I did not anticipate the feeling of pride in being an American. I have traveled through over fifteen countries and four different continents. After each trip, I have always come home curious to travel the U.S. I have wanted to know my own land and culture and now the trek has given me this chance. Seeing America from inside people's homes was an amazing way to gain the experience. The constant generosity shown to us on the trek was a never-ending surprise. Someone offering a place to sleep, a warm meal, and a cup of coffee… these were the basics that before the trek, I never stopped taking for granted. How simple the pleasures of life became on the road. I remember showing up to someone's house after one of our long drives. Our hostess showed us to our room where a soft bed, clean towels, and Internet access awaited us. It was a trekker's dream come true. I also remember the long drives, where a golden field, a red barn, or the setting sun was all we needed to break up the monotony of the road. From its landscapes to its people, America is a beautiful country and I am proud to be a part of it.
I can't write a final dispatch without sending out some thank you's. It may seem like an academy award speech, but here it goes. Thank you to everyone who made a donation to the trek, who gave me a place to sleep or put food in my belly. Thanks to the guys in Arizona who changed Sally's tire and the muffler shop in Illinois that didn't charge any labor for fixing the Warrior. Thanks to the people who gave us directions when we were lost (and Steph and I got lost a lot!) and thanks to Kenny, the tow truck driver, who got Nick, Irene and I back to San Francisco at the end of the trek. And thank you to Mother Nature for the sun and the clouds, the rain and the snow, the trees and the flowers, and for the magnificent Grand Canyon.
Cheers to Genesis and all of the volunteers at the office in San Francisco who worked just as crazily as we did to make sure our stories went up onto the Web site. And to our Jeff, whose vision, support and confidence allowed us to believe that we really could make a difference.
Lastly I want to thank my fellow trekkers. Here's to learning to maneuver a stick shift, to 15 hour drives and outdated guidebooks, to long talks, deep debates, and unstoppable giggles. To elevator rides, burying our faces in the snow, and the Belzoni sheriff, to blinding dust storms and the worst British accents you ever did hear. You have all made an indelible imprint on who I am and I will be forever grateful to you.
So I guess I would like to finish up with a little advice from this wise old trekker. Whatever you do in this life, begin first by listening to your heart. I don't write those words lightly and I know it's not an easy thing to do. I am just learning how to do it myself and sometimes my own heart doesn't speak loudly enough for me to hear. If you listen though, it will not lead you astray. You are powerful. Your passions are important. I hope that our odyssey will inspire you to create your own odyssey. It might be to another country, it might be across the U.S. or perhaps your journey will begin in your own backyard. Like me, I am sure you'll be surprised at the possibilities that await you.
Is There Life After the Trek?
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Links to Other Dispatches
Rebecca - Learning about life by living it - with gusto!
Daphne - The Odyssey Trek: A cult of the BEST kind!
Irene - Baby, I was born to run (all over this country)
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