Alumni Update: Leila Lemghalef

The Roadtrip Nation philosophy is something everyone can relate to deep down. It’s truly an amazing project, and it certainly changed my experience forever.

As a Canadian, I had seen some of the U.S. before, like Cape Cod; Washington, D.C.; the Big Apple; Disney World; and Disneyland to be precise! And I had so been wanting to make a proper trip across the U.S. to get more familiar with it. I also happened to be in my last semester of university and about to step out onto the job market. One night in February 2006, totally out of the blue, Michael called me asking if I wanted to travel across the U.S. filming a documentary. Within two seconds, I said yes.

I remember how overjoyed Mike, Alex, and I were when we got the great news that we were picked for the Roadtrip. We knew we were in for a treat, and we wanted to make the most of the opportunity for ourselves and for everyone that would watch the documentary. To this day, I remain grateful to have taken part in this adventure. It was a privilege, thank you Roadtrip Nation family! I am more than happy to contribute my story so far and to revisit some special souvenirs.

Each interview was unique according to the individual. But the underlying message was always the same! “Believe in yourself no matter what.” So simple and beautiful, right? Like everyone, I found out soon enough that it takes confidence and courage to believe in and express yourself fully nonstop. Thankfully, I have high hopes that the reward will always be greater than the cost, as long as you respect your own blueprint. Our mentors on the Road were overflowing with sure evidence of that!

It was amazing how open they were and how much personal life knowledge they shared with us. There were so many words of wisdom. Something that stood out for me is that success is not a jackpot you just win or not, but you create it through endurance, one experience at a time. One of the other salient themes was “Think for yourself,” or “Be who you are.”

So many consecutive pep talks, but none was a fairy tale. I saw that a lot of small achievements make up big achievements. I saw the importance of performing to your highest standard and I saw that it’s better to try your best even if you make a mistake than to stay inert and make none. The message I kept hearing was “Don’t deny yourself the chance to be all that you can be and don’t deprive everyone else of your potential either.” There was some discipline involved. You have got to try and have got to avoid asking yourself “Do I feel like it?” every time there’s a roadblock. You always need to get back to the Open Road.

We made the cold calls, we studied the RV driver’s manual, and we finally got on the airplane, destination Los Angeles! It was so exciting to meet Mo and Simon at the airport! We spotted them right away because they couldn’t conceal their smiles and they had the video cameras. We had spoken to them for so many hours already on the phone.

There was a heat wave that summer. We went through so many gallons of drinking water. I think water and gasoline were our major expenses. The RV tank could take half an hour to fill up. We called the RV the greenhouse, both because it was our green living quarters and because it generated heat similarly to the greenhouse effect (maybe that’s an exaggeration?). We may have shed a few pounds in sweat, and we definitely had a hard time finding a decent shower, but we were loving it, because of the purpose at heart.

I can’t list all of the moments I cherished, but I can say that I felt a profound connection to my own humanity and to nature. Plus the little things! I spotted a road runner on the side of the road in Nevada, I slept in the same vicinity as the Colorado black bear, and I drove across heavy winds in Kansas. I so loved basking in the late afternoon sun on Malibu Beach. Five weeks later in New York City, we had grown so much on the inside in so little time! The energy of the big city and of the summer nights gave us the extra boost to keep our days filled to the max right until the end. And then our final night in Long Island with the other teams and the Roadtrip Nation family was amazing underneath the stars! That was an unforgettable party.

The next day it was back to my hometown of Montreal! I stayed put for a couple of years, putting my journalism degree to use and staying true to the Roadtrip Nation commitment to find the Open Road. I had a really great time working for local media. I wrote articles and got involved in radio and editorial projects. In 2007 and 2008 I worked full time creating online videos for, which was such a blast! I got to keep interviewing amazing people.

In 2008, I moved to England. I did a master’s in politics and communication at the London School of Economics. As you know, the economy was a fragile house of cards, which made it an interesting time to study under the direction of the U.K.’s former financial services authority chairman. My studies focused on the relationships between media, politics, and the citizen. My Roadtrip Nation memories helped me through the massive workload. I was then hired by a major legal publisher in London as a researcher and writer.

I took advantage of the proximity to see some of Europe and I wanted to soak up my surroundings until the last second. My last weekend in London, I turned 26 years old. I got on a train to visit Windsor Castle, I took a boat to see the site of Greenwich, and I did one of my most favorite things: I went to see a show in London. The following day, I packed all my things, and by the middle of the week, I was up in the sky flying back home.

In 2010, I made my debut for Reuters reporting on Canadian economic and markets News. In 2011, I worked several contracts on a flexible basis and continued to write articles. I got the chance to meet Michael Jackson’s brothers for one of my assignments, and I was a little starstruck, I must say. I recently wrote for a Mohawk community newspaper on the South Shore. I have diversified my occupation some more! I’m glad to say I’m still a stringer for Reuters News, and I promise to keep you posted on what comes ahead.

- Leila Lemghalef, Montreal Online Series

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