Logo Click BACK to return to Basecamp
Lost Teachers
Search Info
White beveled edge

Meet Neda

Neda Archive



Trekker Treasures -- Lessons to last a Lifetime!

Yeah, it's kinda beautiful eh?
"But what do you do exactly?"

Ah, a question for the ages. I can't even tell you how many times I've been asked that over the course of the year. And I can't even tell you how wonderful it feels to be able to answer, "Oh, I'm a Trekker of course!"

It happened again sitting with Stephen, Becky and Stephanie in Wyoming on the second to last day of the Trek. We were in the Tetons National Park and had just finished a lovely hike tromping through knee-deep snow to go sunbathe on a rock out by Taggart Lake. Lunch had turned into a parking lot picnic of PBJ sandwiches and the creation of a fondue party with a container of chocolate frosting and any tidbits of food we could scavenge from our cars. We started talking with a man and a woman who had just returned from a bike ride and were intrigued by what we were doing. Stephen gave the spiel.

"Well, we're part of a group of 8 educators traveling around the United States for a year documenting United States History for K-12 students on a website."

As he talks, I smile. Or maybe it's more of a smirk. Because I have a secret. "Oh if only you knew what really went on, if only you knew the half of it," I think as I chuckle to myself.

A year ago, sitting in my room reading the job description, I too was among the unknowing. Don't get me wrong; the job description itself is pretty incredible. In fact, after I read it the first time, I had to look at it again and again, just to make sure it was real (a common experience, I think). Had someone read my mind and created a job based on all my passions? I knew that I was in for something good.

But how was I to know that I would have the most amazing year of my life?

That I would drive over 45,000 miles on a journey through time, space and emotion.

That "Trekker" would mean journalist, photographer, driver, explorer, activist, researcher, teacher, student, and about 769 other jobs.

That even if I didn't shower regularly, I would be bathed in constant positive energy.

That I would experience the sense of discovery, flexibility and freedom of being on the open road.

That I would see so many different ways to make a difference.

That every single day would be such a gift -- a wonderful adventure to unwrap and unfold.

That I would learn so much about all sorts of interesting topics, from voting rights to prisoner rights, from contra dancing to communes.

That I would spend Halloween going trick-or-treating with Irene and my newfound friends in St. Louis. I would spend Thanksgiving playing silly games with Becky and my cousins in Atlanta. That I would watch election results from my brother's hotel room in New Orleans and part of the Super Bowl in a diner in Pittsburgh with Daphne. Spend a lovely Easter brunch with Stephen in Boulder, Colorado. And spend my birthday enjoying the company of Trekkers amidst the breathtaking beauty of the Tetons in Wyoming.

That I would reconnect with old family and friends and meet so many new ones along the way.

A cell phone and a AAA card:  a girl's best friends!
That I would come to take in car troubles as a normal part of everyday life -- 5 flat tires, a break-in through our window in D.C. and sliding off an icy road into a snow bank in Colorado... all in one month? Hey, no problem!

Neda forages for food
That some of the best meals I would eat would include a Mac 'n cheese dinner on the side of the road in Needles, California, a picnic lunch under a tree in Tupelo, Mississippi or a bowl of cereal on the side of a cliff in Mesa Verde, Colorado.

That my existence would be so dependent on the kindness of others... and that I would not be disappointed.

Chillin' with Elvis at the Heartbreak Hotel
That I would start talking to inanimate objects in the car -- Sally the wobbly Pez Head, Bob the dashboard surfer, and of course Elvis, who came into our lives in many forms, from the Valentine's Day balloon (yes, Daphne, I will love you tender!) to the romp through Graceland.

That after traveling in several different continents in the past couple years, I would discover how exotic my home country really is.

That so many strangers would touch my life.

That I would soak in such a diversity of landscape, from the red rocks in Arizona to the Louisiana Bayou to the badlands in South Dakota.

That I would meet so many amazing people doing so many amazing things, and want to take part in all of them.

That my 5-star hotels would be campgrounds and couches all across the land.

That I would canoe with alligators, swim with manatees, eat breakfast with prairie dogs, watch a moose fall in a frozen lake (but get out again, don't worry), and frolic with herds of deer, elk and buffalo.

That I would sing, laugh and dance my way across the United States (coming next: US Trek-- the musical!)

How was I ever to know?

The woman in the Wyoming parking lot watched as we enjoyed our picnic. Stephen was trying to make Raisinettes by spreading the chocolate frosting on a clump of raisins. Becky was checking out her newly sunburned neck and also eyeing the Tetons behind us, wondering if climbing them was a challenge she would ever want to face. Stephanie was munching on some peanut butter and weaving together a tale from Texas for our listening enjoyment. And we were laughing, smiling and basking in each other's presence. "You guys are still friends after 8 months on the road together?" the woman asked incredulously.

I guess it is pretty amazing. After the "what do you do?" question, we often get asked if spending so much time with one person makes us want to pull our hair out. Oh sure, being cooped up in a car for a month straight with the same individual can seem a bit tiring... but these are Trekkers we are talking about! Being around them is a blessing, for they have been my teachers and friends, my inspiration and motivation. They have served in every role, from psychiatrist to entertainer (you should hear Jen sing and see Stephanie belly dance!) and even to hair stylist (Becky and Stephen have both done great jobs cutting my curly locks!).

And of course, there is our fearless leader, the wind beneath our wings, the cream in our coffee, the man, the myth, the legend: Jeff Golden. To realize that the dream world you are living in is actually a reality that has been created because of one man's vision is a pretty amazing and humbling experience.

I feel so blessed to have had all these experiences and to have been able to share them with you. I really would like to get some magic pixie dust and sprinkle these feelings of hope and happiness all over each of you.

But now that you know my secrets, you don't need any magic dust. You can just become a Trekker yourself.

Back on the California coast
Although the U.S. Trek is ending, the trekking is not. If being a trekker means always striving to learn and discover, to meet amazing and interesting people and to share with others, to find ways to make a difference, to truly understand the meaning of living each moment to its fullest, then by golly, I am going to be doing it all my life!

So, hurry up, jump on the bandwagon. It's all the rage, I swear. You can make a difference. You can touch people's lives, and you most certainly do already. You can live so that every minute is full of energy and life. There is no day like today -- so start trekkin'! And when people ask what you are doing, you can just smile. You too will have experienced the wonders.


Please email me at: neda@ustrek.org


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)
Jennifer - To America the beautiful and the friendly
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