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Make The Trek Who You Are


Okay. I'll admit it. I refused to admit that the biggest adventure of my life would be ending in about six hours. So when our alarm clock went off at 6:30, I tried to play it cool. I acted as though it were just another Odyssey morning. I had to take down the tent, roll up the sleeping bags, stuff them in the car and dash out of the RV park before anyone noticed we were there. Then it was just a quick trip to the nearest gas station to wash up. (It's amazing how clean you can get out of a sink!) Then we would find a funky cafe for breakfast and set out for yet another fun-filled adventure.

In other words, if I pretended the Odyssey wasn't ending, maybe it wouldn't.

Road Runner's playground
It's amazing, really. Back in August, I didn't even know how to drive a car (much less a stick shift)!. Now I've traveled more than 45,000 miles across 40 states. Before the Trek, I'd never really sat down and talked with a Native American. Now I've visited a dozen reservations, danced at powwows, dined with tribal chiefs, and developed a close friendship with Trekker Nick. I used to have only some understanding of my own people's history. I now know all about the Alamo, the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, the United Farm Workers, the Chicano Movement, the Border Patrol, bilingual education, and what it means to be a Tejano. The Odyssey has introduced me to so many things: alternative lifestyles, inspiring non-profit organizations, revolutionary heroes, events of historical significance, immense natural beauty, Krispy Kreme donuts.

Steph, her uncle, and their favorite guy!
I've also learned how to be adjoined at the hip to another human being for twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for a month at a stretch. In many ways, this has been the greatest aspect of the journey.

And now, for some final thoughts:

If you can't find a hero out there, strive to be your own. Become the person you look up to most. That's easier than it sounds. It is extraordinary to think of the impact that a single person can have on this planet -- regardless of age, education, or economic background. The Little Rock Nine were barely sixteen years old when they integrated their all-white high school. Dolores Huerta, the co-founder of United Farm Workers, started a revolution while she was raising eleven kids alone! If they can do it, so can you!

Stephanie and Nick atop the Castillo de San Marcos of St. Augustine Florida
There will be obstacles to overcome. The "Real World" will try to place some very shallow expectations on you. It will want you to get a full-time, corporate job with medical insurance and a dental plan. It will want you to marry a member of the opposite sex, move out to the suburbs, and bear enough kids to fill up an SUV. This is not an easy path from which to stray. For starters, your friends and family will think you're crazy. (Most of mine do!). But that's okay. They'll get over it. This is your life. Go out and do exactly what your soul desires. Service, adventure and personal growth are the greatest currencies in life -- not money. We'll never see a penny for our work this past year, but we'll be living off our "paychecks" forever.

Be grateful to live in such a gorgeous nation. Let's all do our part to keep it around for generations to come. Recycle. Ride your bike. Cut down on consumption. Our nation is in serious danger of becoming an extended strip mall. The only way to stop it is to support locally owned businesses and mom 'n pop shops. Otherwise, you'll have the sad experience of traveling 1,000 miles in search of something new, only to find the same bagels, coffee and bookstores that exist in your own hometown.

This dispatch wouldn't be complete without a look at our policy. There is much to be desired. Consider what we did to so many countries. We removed elected leaders and replaced them with military dictators who killed millions of people -- all for our own economic reasons. Then there are the crimes we're committing within our own borders. Think about what we're doing to minorities and the poor. Educate yourself about what your nation is doing. If something upsets you, be offended. Then do something about it.

Steph and Jen are feeling groovy in the recording studio
Despite our nation's politics, our people give me hope for the future. During the Trek, Americans have shared their homes with us. They have sent us away with a brown bag lunch and a smile. Total strangers have handed us the keys to their homes. The National Park Service never once made us pay to explore their lovely parks. Few museums made us pay admission. Hotels gave us discounts and sometimes let us stay for free. This has restored my faith in not only my country, but humanity. There truly are some beautiful people out there. Go out and meet them.

I have come to terms with the fact that the Trek as I've known it is nearly through. But I take comfort that its spirit, philosophy and lifestyle have forever become a part of me.

I implore each and every one of you to embark on Odysseys of your own.


Please email me at: stephanie@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

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)
Jennifer - To America the beautiful and the friendly
Neda - So what exactly is a "trekker" anyway?
Nick - Taking the road less traveled
Stephen - Have a little faith and it will get you through