Jenna Sykes and Andie Dekroon say it was "fun to see how alike" they were after doing the show together
Despite being eliminated on the only the second leg of the 17th The Amazing Race, University of Georgia student Jenna Sykes, 21, and her birth mother Andie Dekroon, 44, a stay-at-home mother of 10 from Atlanta, learned a lifetime of lessons about each other. They spoke with PEOPLE about the pros and cons of teaming up with someone they’d met in person only once and how it changed their relationship forever.
How much interaction had you had prior to the show?
Andie: When Jenna was 19, we started writing old-fashioned letters. We slowly got to know each other. One day, I saw she had Tweeted, “Watching Amazing Race, I want to do it.” I love the show and I knew we had an adventurous streak in common so I went out on a limb and asked her to apply. She loved the idea.
Jenna: We weren t complete strangers because we had written a lot, but the first time we heard each other’s voice was on the application video. Once we knew we were being considered, we decided to meet.
The teams that often do the best are ones with long-term relationships like siblings. Were you worried you would already be at a disadvantage not knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses?
Jenna: It was definitely a concern. We had to prepare separately, which was tough. We went through a list of things that might come up and talked about what we were good at. We had to really trust each other to be honest and learn what we said we d learn beforehand. What was awesome was that after the first leg, we got an immediate feel for each other.
Was there any one thing that you blame for going out second?
Andie: It was 100 percent bad luck with cabs. We had researched online in London and found a map that would take us right from the airport to the memorial in Accra. We showed it to the driver, he ignored it and took us a roundabout way – so we got there last. Jenna did awesome selling the sunglasses and we passed some other teams. We got in a different cab that was even worse than the first. He kept telling us he knew where we were going, but took us to the other side of the city. It wasted so much time we could never make up.
Jenna: It really was very frustrating to lose because of something out of our hands. At the same time, we were glad neither of us made a mistake that could be pinpointed as the reason we lost. There’s no blame to live with.
What did you learn about yourselves or each other from competing?
Jenna: It was fun to see how alike we were. We have similar temperaments and handle situations in the same way. A lot of couples yell at each other and waste time fighting and we had an advantage in that we weren t in a position to do that. When things start to fall apart, we get calm and push through. We had not panicking in common.
Will you continue your relationship now?
Andie: We are definitely friends now. We Facebook, e-mail and text. We don’t live in the same place so we won t be seeing each other every week. It’s neat that some of my kids have gotten together with Jenna – and that s been fun for them.
Would you recommend this for other birth moms and children?
Jenna: Andie and I are very unique in that we’re both very fulfilled in our lives. We’re not needing for something in each other and that’s what made this work and what makes our relationship healthy. That’s very rare so I wouldn’t suggest it to just any birth parent and child.
Andie: If things had not been so comfortable between us and if we weren’t both adventurous travel lovers, it wouldn’t have been so easy. I also don’t regret my decision. I did the best I could do for her at the time – and she has a great family.