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Abeja Dispatch

Great Wall, Great Trekkers! Now what?!
August 2, 2000

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As far as the eye can see, the Great Wall winds its way along the mountain ridge. It's our last day in China, and thus, the last day of the Odyssey World Trek. Tomorrow we fly from Beijing to San Francisco. We leave at 9:30 in the morning and arrive almost 15 hours later, at 9:15 in the morning that same day. Time is weird like that when you cross the International Date Line.

Far below, Jasmine and Kavitha sit by the reservoir chatting. Occasionally I can hear their laughter echoing through the misty canyon. That's one thing I've learned on this trip: Americans are really LOUD! I smile remembering the countless times the World Trek Team has been asked to keep it down in restaurants or buses.

Poem for Katy

Stars guided
those who came first.
Magellan and his sailing ships.
Marco Polo, a camel caravan.
Columbus had no clue
what he would find.
And me
A backpack
A laptop
A string of Lonely Planets
I find my way
to the Internet Café
through the smog of modern cities.
Will I ever see the stars again?

Yang-Yang has gone on ahead, so I'm sitting here alone, letting my mind wander. In the last 18 months I've been to 31 countries, and other trekkers made it to 4 others on top of that! The journey we've just taken hasn't even been possible until very recently in human history. Imagine, for example, back to when Marco Polo journeyed along the Silk Road to China. He didn't cover HALF the distance we did, but then again, he didn't have the Lonely Planet Guidebooks, ATM cards, laptops and Internet cafés, or a long-distance calling card!

Despite all of these modern conveniences, there have definitely been times when I didn't think we would make it. Some that immediately come to mind are the time when Kavitha, Shawn, and Monica were lost in the Darien Gap, or the day when we were all thrown in jail in South Africa! This journey has also had its share of danger: There was the time that Kevin got malaria and the incident where Kavitha was stuck on an island with angry buffalo and crocodiles in Zimbabwe . On top of all that, there have been other times when I was ready to quit, like on that unending bus ride from Mali to Dakar, Senegal, or when I was in India and wanted so much to stay and help the people of Umbergaon.

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Of course, I stuck it out, because the great times have outweighed the frustrations. From meeting several winners of the Nobel Peace Prize to meeting street children, and from crossing deserts to climbing high mountains, this has been an unbeatable adventure!

Magellan may have been the first to sail around Africa, but I'd bet that we're the first people to use the Internet to beam dispatches back to schools from 35 different countries. Columbus surely took a huge chance, but who ever dreamed of carrying heavy old laptops in backpacks around the world? I'm actually amazed that more stuff wasn't stolen, like Shawn's bag in Panama or Kevin's pack in South Africa.

18 Months, 35 Countries!


El Salvador
Costa Rica
South Africa
Ivory Coast
Burkina Faso


Bold means we focused on that country

Italics means that I, personally, didn't go there, but at least 1 trekker did

Time is now moving faster than ever, it seems. There were so many times (especially at the beginning of the trek) when we couldn't find any Internet cafés, or if we did, they were ones that had only just opened up. We've done an amazing thing. Let's face it though: In ten years, it'll already be so out-of-date that it's going to be like watching an old black and white B-movie. Even now, I'm coming home to a world of mini-discs and disc burners, not to mention two whole years of television, music, and movies I don't know!

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Looking back to when we first left America, it overwhelms me to think about everything that I've seen, and how much we've all changed. I have family all over the world!

I'm sure you all have some of the same questions that my friends and family have been asking, so let me just answer a few of the most frequently asked ones right now, to get them out of the way.

Question 1: What's with the guys? Why have women dominated the World Trek?

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larger view
Answer: Very good question. Thanks for asking. This is something we've discussed among ourselves many times, and I want to make one thing clear: The gender imbalance on the Odyssey World Trek is in no way due to the men's wimpiness. It's instead because we are a group of amazing, strong, committed, and slightly insane women. Different men have left for different reasons, and if any of the women had been in their shoes, we'd have stopped too.

Question 2: So Abeja, now what are you going to do with your life?

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Answer: I'm going to sleep a lot. Then I'm going to call all of my friends and have a big party. After that, I'll climb a mountain. Everything beyond these things is uncertain, so don't ask again, ok?

Question 3: When's the book coming out?

Answer: Do you want to help write it?

Question 4: So, will you be doing the Odyssey US Trek this fall?

Answer: I'm insane, but it's not clinical yet. I'm taking a break!

And with that, I am now typing the very last words of my very last dispatch. Thanks for reading, and stay in touch with the Odyssey and with the world. After all, it's getting smaller every day!


p.s. - Please e-mail me at

Jasmine - Homecoming
Kavitha - The End! World Trek is Done!
Kevin - Bienvenue à Paris! Welcome to Paris!
Monica - We're Comin' to America! What Next??
Jeff - Our Founder says Farewell to the World Trek and Hello to the U.S. Trek
Yang-Yang - Yang-Yang says One Last Goodbye

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