Loyola University Maryland was selected as one of five schools to be part of NBC’s Rokerthon during the final week in March and ultimately broke a Guinness World Record for the most people crab walking with 494. It was a month-long process that began all the way back in early February. It was a true team effort.
Here’s how it all came together:
Wednesday, February 8th: I receive an email from Philip Caulfield (Loyola grad & Senior Editor at TODAY.com) detailing what Rokerthon is and including this link to the application: http://www.today.com/series/rokerthon/rokerthon-2017-t107447.
Wednesday, February 15th: I receive a follow-up email and a reminder that the deadline is approaching (it was midterm week at Loyola, so I was swamped!). Later on in the afternoon, I forward the email to marketing & communication and undergraduate admission, simply to gauge potential interest. From here, it takes off.
Thursday, February 23rd: With Loyola graduate and videographer Chris Singlemann taking a lead role, Loyola submits its application to NBC’s third annual Rokerthon and invites Al Roker to campus to try and set a Guinness World Record for the most people crab walking (See pictures & submission video below):
Monday, March 6th (First day of Loyola spring break): I receive a call while in Florida from Cecilia Fang of NBC. She tells me Loyola made the short list. Guinness World Records suggests we go for a different record attempt. We ultimately decide that Loyola would attempt to break Northeastern’s previous record of 376 people crab walking for two minutes.
Thursday, March 9th: Loyola receives confirmation that it has been selected as one of five schools nationwide for Rokerthon 3. I receive the news around 5:30 PM in Fort Lauderdale.
Monday, March 13th (First day back from spring break): The first Rokerthon planning meeting is held in Humanities.
Duration: 3 hours
Attendees: Sharon Higgins, Gary Epstein, Joe Bradley, Rita Buettner, Teddi Burns, Colleen Campbell, Ryan Eigenbrode, Amy Filardo, Joan Flynn, Gerald Ford, Brian Linnemann, John McKiernan, Genna Mongillo, Clayton Myers, Brian Oakes, Arthur Sutherland, Stephanie Weaver, Raven Williams, Jennifer Wood, Beth Steiner, Birgit Albrecht, Erin O’Keefe, Michael Puma, myself, etc.
Thursday, March 16th: Loyola releases its “How-to crab walk” video.
Friday, March 24th: A smaller meeting is held in Humanities to go over all logistics.
Attendees: Sharon Higgins, Gary Epstein, Joe Bradley, Joan Flynn, Brian Linnemann, Amy Filardo & myself.
Monday, March 27th (The week of Rokerthon): Loyola’s final group meeting is held before the big show on Thursday.
Attendees: Sharon Higgins, Gary Epstein, Joe Bradley, Joan Flynn, Rita Buettner, Brigid Hamilton, Bryan Haunert, Charles Hiebler, Scott Kelly, Brian Linnemann, John McKiernan, Genna Mongillo, Clay Myers, Tim Attolino, Sara Scalzo, Chris Singlemann, Christina Spearman, Beth Steiner, Stephanie Weaver, Kiki Williams, Rebecca Winkler, Nick Alexopulos, Colleen Campbell, Patrick Durkin, Timothy Fox, Jennifer Wood, myself, etc.
Wednesday, March 29th: Al Roker is picked up and greeted at the airport by a Loyola pep rally and escorted back to campus. He spends the day meeting President Father Linnane, checking out the library and Boulder Garden Cafe.
Thursday, March 30th: The official day of Rokerthon at Loyola. Event services works through the night and transforms the quad. 500+ students begin to line the quad in hopes of being granted entry into the “crab walking” field. By 5:15 AM more than 1,000 students, faculty, alumni and community members are on campus.
8:15 AM: 500 previously registered members of the Loyola community go for a Guinness World Record on national television. According to sources, viewership was over four million.
8:30 AM: Loyola University sets a new Guinness World Record with 494 people crab walking for two minutes, on national television.
Brett Hollander – the voice of Loyola men’s lacrosse and radio personality at WBAL – was kind enough to invite me on for an interview. LINK: http://www.wbal.com/article/229171/21/loyola-senior-finds-school-unlikely-route-to-national-spotlight.
WBAL-TV covered Rokerthon at Loyola, too:
And it had a chance to catch up with Mr. Roker himself:
The Baltimore Sun also weighed in: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/education/higher-ed/bs-md-ci-loyola-today-show-20170328-story.html.
An NBC producer put it best in a text post-Rokerthon: “One of my career highlights and I have been all over the world.”
I want to personally thank everyone in the Loyola community and beyond for rallying around our selection to NBC’s Rokerthon. I could never have gotten to this point without our team. Plain and simple.
To see this go from an idea on paper to what it is now will probably go down as my favorite Loyola memory of my four years at Loyola.
On February 23rd, when we submitted our video, all I could do was dream that we’d have a chance. We’re now Guinness World Record holders.
One thing I know for sure is that Rokerthon will still live on (at least for the time being) at Loyola. I’ve seen Al Roker fatheads hanging in residence hall windows, offices and even classrooms.
If nothing else, I hope that Rokerthon at Loyola provided a smile for those entrenched in today’s controversial world and inspired prospective students and their families to consider becoming a member of the ever-expanding Loyola University Maryland family.
Before we part ways, be sure to take a look at Chris Singlemann’s recap video – I think you’ll enjoy it:
Colonel and Civil Air Patrol member Joe Winter – who just so happens to be a professor of mine at Loyola this semester – was kind enough to allow me to take a glimpse into his life as a visitor to the Maryland National Guard just outside of Baltimore, Maryland.
As a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas College, where he received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Sports Management, Colonel Winter put his sports knowledge to use by helping to build an organization called Loyola SuperFans.
The student-led group is dedicated to the promotion of the university’s athletics program and the support of the student-athletes.
SuperFans is best known for its commitment to creating electric atmospheres at Ridley Athletic Complex, home to Loyola men’s and women’s lacrosse. The organization shined bright during Loyola’s 2012 National Championship run, as head coach Charley Toomey led the Greyhounds to a victory over powerhouse Maryland.
With all that said, Colonel Winter’s resume reaches much more than just sports.
The New York native has traveled to Ghana and Singapore as an ambassador for Civil Air Patrol in the International Air Cadet Exchange. Ever since this experience, he’s had great influence in the local Maryland Wing hosting of international guests.
“Having the ability to serve around the world is a pretty powerful experience. There’s a tremendous amount of pride when you put this uniform on,” he shared.
The planes featured in the photos provided below just recently returned from fighting ISIS in Turkey. At any given time, Colonel Winter is prepared to fly a plane to wherever necessary. He jokingly refers to flying as “air therapy” because it offers a step outside reality.
In addition to being a member of the Civil Air Patrol, Colonel Winter is an Air Force officer at the 175th Wing where he is assigned as the Wing Executive Officer.
“My brothers and sisters here at the 175th wing performed admirably in preparing our nation and protecting our interests abroad,” said Winter.
The Jesuit education has played a major role in his life on the military side.
“No doubt my experience of working at a Jesuit institution, and sort of the Jesuit ideals and the core values of a Jesuit education, have shaped my decision-making process in the military; have shaped the way that I supervise my staff; the way that I mentor and lead the troops that serve alongside me,” Winter explained.
Colonel Winter doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.
“I’ve committed my life to the military and I will certainly continue to do so as long as they keep me in. They’re going to have to be kicking me out. I’d only hope my relationship with Loyola, too, stays. There’s nothing better than teaching,” said Winter.
I want to extend my thanks to Colonel Winter for his flexibility and generosity. Readers and viewers have a chance to enjoy the story of a selfless and committed man.
Watch our full interview here:
A special thanks to my Loyola production team: Jenna Ertel, Nick Robinson & Morgan Sandlas.
From the fans who cheer at every game to the praise that follows every win, the benefits that come with playing sports make the lives of athletes seem lucky and, sometimes, even enviable. But despite the charmed appearances, more athletes are suffering from mental illnesses today than in the past. Olympic swimmer Allison Schmitt, however, is working to change that.
Developing after the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Schmitt’s depression slowly worsened until 2014, when actor Robin Williams committed suicide. As a fan of Williams’ work, Schmitt said his death disappointed and shocked her. It also led her to consider taking her own life since news reports later revealed that Williams had been battling depression, as well.
“Nobody wants to show weakness,” Schmitt said during her talk. “And especially, no athlete wants to show weakness to their competitors. A lot of us look at [mental illnesses] as weaknesses.”
Schmitt said that perception kept her from telling others about her pain. Her hesitation changed, however, after her 17-year-old cousin, April Bocian, committed suicide in 2015. Determined to prevent additional deaths due to mental illnesses, Schmitt admitted to her friends, her family and the media that she had been battling depression.
While it’s true that Schmitt didn’t cause the 8-percent jump by publicly acknowledging her struggle, the coincidence did offer some insight. Specifically, mental illness among athletes was a growing issue, and the decision to share one person’s experience wouldn’t solve it.
So Schmitt changed her approach, transforming herself from a victim to an advocate for people – and, in particular, athletes – coping with mental illnesses.
“It’s OK to ask for help,” she started saying at talks, including the one at Saint Francis. “Seeing a psychologist and speaking about it is one of the tools we humans can use.”
“I’d never go up to someone and say I was in the Olympics,” she said. “But if it’s about mental health, and I can use that platform for mental health and to de-stigmatize the negativity around it, I’m willing to do that.”
So far, Schmitt’s strategy seems to be working. Since opening up about her own battle, other Olympic swimmers, including Michael Jamieson and Greg Louganis, have gone public with theirs. And while the Olympians’ renown helps call attention to athletes’ mental health issues, accelerating effort to solve them, Schmitt adds that it also yields other benefits in the meantime.
“I can relate to athletes really well,” Schmitt said. “That helps me speak about it, and I hope it helps to relate to me and know they’re not going through anything alone. Other people are going through the same, or similar, things.”
Mental health issues can be complicated, not only because of the numerous illnesses that exist but also because of the many factors that can contribute to them, especially for athletes.
For a discussion of some of them, check out the video below:
From Homer Glen, Illinois, women’s lacrosse attacker Frankie Kamely didn’t know much about Loyola’s rivalry against Hopkins before she became a Greyhound. But, during the past three years, the junior says she has not only learned about it but become part of it, too.
“Coming from an area like Chicago that’s not even around here and being brought into this rivalry is something really cool,” she said. “It’s so historic. And it has gone both ways, back and forth, throughout the years.”
Those words were never truer than on Wednesday, Feb. 22, when the Greyhounds played their season opener against the Blue Jays at Ridley. After defeating Hopkins the past two years, Loyola lost to its neighborhood rival 12-8.
The game began to slip away from the Greyhounds in the second half. Tied 6-6 at halftime, the teams broke out early with back-to-back goals. Hopkins freshman Lexi Souder found daylight sneaking one past Loyola goalie Taylor Caldwell at 28:27, giving the Blue Jays a slight edge. But moments later, Greyhound Sabrina Tabasso scored her only goal of the game by powering her shot past Hopkins goalie Caroline Federico. Despite the heavy defensive pressure she was under, Tabasso interlocked the two teams at seven a piece.
But things turned sour after that – at least for Loyola. While the Greyhounds suffered a 27-minute scoring drought, the Blue Jays went on a 5-point run. Hopkins attacker Emily Kenul started the sequence by netting her fourth point of the day and the 100th of her career. She was assisted by fellow attacker Maggie Schneidereith, who later helped midfielder Nicole DeMase bring the game to 11-7. In between, Blue Jays midfielder Haley Schweizer and attacker Miranda Ibello each recorded a point. To finish the run, Ibello returned with another goal, putting Hopkins ahead 12-7.
“Lacrosse is a game of runs,” Greyhounds Head Coach Jen Adams said. “We let them go five on our two goals. I don’t think you ever win a game of lacrosse at this level with that.”
To Loyola’s credit, though, there were a few redeeming plays in the second half. With help from freshman Caitlyn Gunn, senior Megan Boepple snuck in a goal with 33 seconds remaining in the game. And, before that, Caldwell put her defense skills to the test, resisting two close shots by Hopkins. Those saves, combined with the three she racked up in the first half, added to five in her first collegiate start.
“Caldwell is not the reason we lost this game, and I think that’s one thing I can stand here and confidently say,” Adams said. “It’s disappointing that we came away with a loss, but I actually thought she did a great job and played competitively.”
Adams recognized attackers Kamely and Cami Whiteford for their strong performances, as well. The junior and senior each entered halftime with hat tricks, respectively.
“Tonight, I think Frankie and Cami, they both played a phenomenal game of lacrosse,” Adams said. “They finished their shots; they had great looks. In terms of them, the consistency of their game, I thought it was good. And, you know, if we can keep getting that, plus add some more people into their mix, it will look like a different story.”
Adams called the game a “tale of two teams.”
“You saw our first-half team: They could compete with anyone in the nation,” she said. “And you saw our second-half team that made a lot of errors and couldn’t finish their shots and that really let Hopkins run away with it.”
The 90-second shot clock rule is new to college lacrosse this season, and it’s something that teams are still trying to grasp.
“They capitalized on using the full 90, sucking and taking away the time and opportunity that we had until it was basically out of our grasp,” Adams said. “I think they did a great job in taking strategy away from us and not even giving us the chance to get a sniff or touch of goal.”
Last year’s battle of North Charles Street between Loyola and Johns Hopkins resulted in a double overtime victory for the Greyhounds.
“This was the largest gap there’s been between us, and that just motivates us even more and makes the rivalry even stronger,” Whiteford said. “I know that, next year, this team is not going to let Hopkins do that again.”
As a senior, Whiteford won’t be around to help the Greyhounds avenge this year’s loss. But, with one more year until she graduates, Kamely will.
“Yeah, next year’s gap will not be four goals,” she said. “I can tell you that.”
The Greyhounds continue to trudge on through one of the nation’s most difficult schedules as they travel to Princeton on Wednesday.
Bob Trosset shared his post game thoughts here:
Contributors: Blake Lubinski, Kendra Farrell & Bob Trosset
BALTIMORE – The Loyola women’s lacrosse team fell short against neighborhood rivals Towson, 15-8, in a non-conference match up Sunday afternoon. The Tigers ran away with the first three goals of the game in the first seven minutes before the Greyhounds went on to a three-goal run to answer.
For the next 18:34 and more than half of the second half, Towson couldn’t be stopped compiling a 10-0 run. By 9:50 in the second half, Loyola trailed 13-3, leading to a running clock.
In a late run by the Greyhounds, the team was able to tally five more goals before the game concluded. Unfortunately, the late finishes weren’t enough to pull within reach of Towson’s goals.
Sabrina Tabasso, who dealt with ankle issues in Loyola’s season opener against Johns Hopkins, delivered a pair of free-position goals with less than two minutes left. The 2016 All-Patriot League First Team honoree must stay healthy in order for the Greyhounds to compete against top level competition.
The statistics were about as uneven as the results of the game yielded. Towson outshot Loyola, 30-18, and won more than half of the draw controls.
Despite what the score board showed, the Greyhounds were victorious in their own right. Loyola Head Coach Jen Adams spoke of team goals after Wednesday’s loss to Johns Hopkins.
Looking forward past the Towson game and towards the rest of the season, Adams made it clear, “My goal moving forward is that someone else can step forward and take the reins for a little bit. “ She went on to clarify sharing, “That did not happen tonight. We need more support, and I’d love to spread it out.”
Objective in mind, Loyola had seven scorers in the Towson match, including freshman Holly Lloyd’s behind-the-back goal which was the first of her career, along with Katrina Geiger’s first goal since 2015 due to an injury that sidelined her during the 2016 season.
“These girls know what it’s going to take,” said Adams. Adams is aware of the team’s potential, which features eight experienced seniors.
Moving forward, the Greyhounds will face more elite teams, such as Penn State, Florida, and Syracuse. The next Loyola game is Wednesday, March 1, against Princeton in New Jersey.
Bob Trosset shared his post game thoughts here:
Contributors: Blake Lubinski, Kendra Farrell & Bob Trosset
Going into Loyola’s Feb. 8 women’s basketball game against Navy, the Greyhounds backup forward Ashley Hunter was frank.
“I wasn’t really expecting much,” the sophomore from Abingdon, Maryland, said. “It’s always ‘Be ready to play if your name is called.’ You never really know if you’re going to go in or not.”
For most of the game, it didn’t look like Hunter would get a chance as senior forward Lauren Daugherty was already on the court. But that changed halfway through the third period when Coach Joe Logan called Hunter’s name.
As Hunter stepped onto the court, Loyola was trailing 19-30, thanks to Navy’s eight offensive rebounds in the first four minutes of the third quarter. But after freshman guard Stephanie Karcz scored two points for the Greyhounds, Hunter followed with a layup, completing Loyola’s 7-0 run and narrowing Navy’s lead. A few minutes later, Hunter picked up another two points, giving Loyola a nice boost and quadrupling her previous points-per-game average.
“Tonight, she was ready,” Logan said about Hunter during a press conference after the game.
Staying in through the end of the match, Hunter played for 14 minutes, nearly twice the number she played during the whole 2015-2016 season. During that time, she proved herself on the court, reaching a career-high seven rebounds in addition to seven points. Although Loyola fell 43-55, Hunter was able to slow the Midshipmen from completely dominating the points and possession by managing six defensive rebounds, the highest number for any Greyhound that night.
“It’s encouraging,” Hunter said about her accomplishments after the 7 p.m. game in Loyola’s Reitz Arena. “After not playing for a while, it kind of gets hard to motivate yourself to want to work hard every day in practice and show the coaches that you can go in. So getting the opportunity to go in and then really taking advantage of that was just motivating and encouraging.”
In addition to Hunter, another backup, sophomore guard Abby Omdahl, also made an impact on the game. Brought in for the fourth quarter, she converted a 3-pointer less than a minute into play in spite of Navy’s strong defense.
“Abby coming in and making that ‘three’ right off the bench – it was a tough shot,” Logan said. “I think it got everyone else going.”
That was the case for Greyhound guard Bri Betz-White, a team standout coming in with 940 career points. Although Betz-White sunk a 3-pointer to get the Greyhounds on the board in the first period, she collected only a modest 12 points during the first three quarters. But in the fourth period, the junior from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, returned to form, earning nine points in ten minutes. That comeback, combined with the points she claimed earlier, added to the 20th time this season that Betz-White scored in the double digits.
But that’s not to say topping her record was the force driving Betz-White’s performance.
“There’s just a fire that comes in you like, ‘I’ve got to score; I’ve got to help the team,’” she said. “It’s never a motivation of ‘I need to get mine’ or ‘I need to get to this many points.’ It’s more like, ‘I need to score so we can win.’”
As much as Betz-White tried to turn the game around, though, her effort was in vain. Loyola was off to a slow start with an 11-0 run by Navy until the seventh minute when Betz-White knocked down her first 3-pointer. Her teammates followed up with an 8-0 run, but Navy responded with a 4-0 run, ending the first quarter 8-15.
“We’ve just got to start games better,” Logan said. “We were down 11-0, and then we cut it to 11-8. I just think that, at times, we weren’t competitive.”
In the second quarter, the Greyhounds fought harder to catch up. Despite twisting her ankle during the first period, Karcz broke an early scoring drought with seven minutes and 30 seconds remaining. Betz-White, Daugherty, and Lisa Mirarchi grabbed two points each for Loyola, but Sarita Condie, Taylor Dunham, and Ashanti Kennedy answered with equal shots for Navy. After an additional 3-pointer by Condie at the buzzer, the two teams were 16-25.
During halftime, Logan said he focused on encouragement, not discipline.
“These guys will tell you – I’m not a yeller or a screamer,” he said. “It was just kind of like, ‘Take a deep breath. Relax. We’ve gotten good looks.’”
Those “good looks” were an advantage over the other time the team played Navy earlier this season. During that game, the Greyhounds lost 51-77 after scoring only five points in the first period.
“When we played them the first time, they made eight ‘three’s’ in the first quarter,” Logan said. “So we really wanted to run them off the 3-point line and kind of play a 2-point game…. Rebounding was also going to be a big point of emphasis, and we wanted to pound the ball from inside because they’re not really that big. And we did that.”
But perfecting the team’s strategy is still a work in progress, Logan said. While Loyola is tied for fifth in the Patriot League, Navy shares the top spot with Bucknell. By taking on the Midshipmen’s tight defense and explosive offense, though, the Greyhounds are learning how they can continue to improve.
“I think the plan now is going to be to go to Ashley,” Logan said. “She did a great job of taking advantage of this opportunity…. So that’s a positive moving forward.”
Bob Trosset’s thoughts post game: https://youtu.be/lraopqKUR9c.
The Greyhounds’ next game is against Holy Cross on Wednesday, Feb. 22. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in Reitz Arena.
Last week, I was a visitor to the Maryland National Guard just outside of Baltimore, Maryland.
Colonel and Civil Air Patrol member Joe Winter – who just so happens to be a professor of mine at Loyola this semester – was kind enough to allow us to take a glimpse into his life.
As a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas College, where he received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Sports Management, Colonel Winter put his sports knowledge to use by helping to build an organization called Loyola SuperFans. The student-led group is dedicated to the promotion and publicity of the University’s Athletics program and the support of the student-athletes.
That said, Colonel Winter’s resume reaches much more than just sports.
Colonel Winter has traveled to Ghana and Singapore as an ambassador for Civil Air Patrol in the International Air Cadet Exchange. Ever since this experience, he’s had great influence in the local Maryland Wing hosting of international guests.
The planes featured in the pictures provided below just returned from fighting ISIS in Turkey. At any given time, Colonel Winter is prepared to fly a plane wherever necessary.
In addition to being a member of the Civil Air Patrol, Colonel Winter is an Air Force officer at the 175th Wing where he is assigned as the Wing Executive Officer.
I served as interviewer for fellow seniors Nick Robinson, Morgan Sandlas and Jenna Ertel, who will be editing and organizing the footage for their capstone class in video production.
I’m told the official video is expected to be released by late March or early April.
We owe a huge thank you to Colonel/Professor Joe Winter for his flexibility and generosity.
I look forward to sharing the story of a selfless, versatile and committed man.
Production crew (All Loyola Class of 2017): Nick Robinson, Morgan Sandlas & Jenna Ertel
More than 300 miles separate Loyola University Maryland and the College of the Holy Cross, but during a recent men’s basketball game, only a few points kept the two schools apart.
The tight competition started early on in the contest, held in Reitz Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 25. Senior Jarred Jones scored the first points for the Greyhounds just 17 seconds into the game. Senior standout Malachi Alexander responded with a bucket of his own for the Crusaders and the fast-paced play was set from there on out.
At the end of the first half, Loyola led Holy Cross 31-27 in what was a defensive-minded two quarters of play for both teams. Loyola Athletics Sideline Reporter Bob Trosset shared his thoughts during half:
In the second half, Loyola led by as many as nine, 42-33, at the midway point of the second half.
“We scored on four free throws in the first two minutes,” said Chris Taormino, a Loyola senior who watched the game. “It was really exciting and I think fans felt more confident that Loyola would win.”
The Crusaders refused to go away, though, as they found a way to win the second half, 35-34.
All in all, Kostecka’s career-high 20 points, along with solid double-digit scoring contributions from Jones and Gregory, was too much for the Crusaders to handle as Loyola marched on to a 65-62 victory. They improved to 4-5 in Patriot League play.
Since its victory over Holy Cross, Loyola triumphed in another close competition this past Saturday defeating Lafayette 70-62. Jarred Jones notched his 1,000th career point in the road contest.
On Wednesday, Feb. 1, the team takes on Lehigh in Reitz Arena. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. on the Patriot League Network.
Contributors: Blake Lubinski, Kendra Farrell & Bob Trosset
Following my 2015 fall semester abroad and part of 2016 summer in Rio de Janeiro, it’s fair to say I caught the travel bug.
In August, less than a week after returning from Rio, I used a portion of what I earned while working the Olympic Games to book a flight to Bangkok, Thailand for $640.86.
16 days. Three guys. One backpack each. A $1500 budget. And an undeniable desire for adventure and discovery.
On December 29, 2016, three of us were supposed to board a China Eastern flight out of JFK to Shanghai, China just after midnight. Only two of us did.
Rule # 1 in the 2005 comedy Wedding Crashers (one of our all-time favorite movies and something we referenced often throughout our trip) is simple: Never leave a fellow crasher behind. Crashers take care of their own.
Rule # 1 was broken before we even left the state.
My lifelong friend, Anthony Umina, spelled his name wrong (Anthony Amina, if you must know) when booking the flight back in August.
After debating back and forth with China Eastern employees in broken English for hours (we arrived to JFK six hours early) on the phone, he was left with two options: wait 24 hours for processing of a new e-ticket or book a separate flight to Bangkok on the spot and hope for a decent refund.
At the eleventh hour, Anthony (later known as “tree boy” in Thailand because of his 6’7″ stature) booked an early morning flight to Bangkok with a layover in Korea which meant he was going to do his first airport sleepover before our 16-day backpack would even begin.
Take a look at a few snaps from that night:
After these initial bumps in the road for our crew and over 24 hours of travel with two layovers in China, the 16-day backpack adenture was underway.
The first stop on our itinerary was Bangkok, where we would stay two nights in Chinatown. We spent time exploring the famous Buddhist temple Wat Arun, small Thai villages and hopped on a long tail boat for a canal tour to see the way locals live right along the water. Take a look:
One of my personal favorite moments of our Bangkok experience was the time we spent in Central World Plaza during New Year’s Eve celebrations. It’s the closest thing Thailand has to New York’s Times Square and it was extra special this year as the country is still mourning the passing of its long-time king. Here’s a look at the atmosphere moments before the ball dropped:
Once 2017 came, we hit the road from Bangkok to Ayutthaya via train for a small day trip. We went from the hustle and bustle of the big city to a quiet and subdued town with hundreds and hundreds of years of history written all over it. Here’s a look at the inside of the train:
We made the best of the few hours we had here checking out old ruins, spectacular temples and getting an overall feel for the former capital of the Kingdom of Siam and international trading port. Here are the views from the day:
Once nightfall hit, we boarded a sleeper train bound for Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. It was a trek lasting 13 total hours with tough sleeping conditions on a loud and fast-moving train. Nonetheless, we got it done and arrived at what would become our favorite three-day stint of the entire trip.
Upon arrival, we quickly found a small backpacker hostel for 200 Thai baht per night. It worked out to be just over $5 a night. We were thrilled with the deal, service and people we met during our stay.
One of the days was spent on an excursion to Maewang, which is a small village outside of town. From hiking to a waterfall to elephant riding, this day was everything we hoped it would be. Take a look:
On January 5th, we hit the road for the southern islands and tropical weather. Our first airport sleepover. Well, for some of us it was our first. Others were veterans, thus had the advantage and knew how to sleep properly…
After a night in Phuket, we took a ferry to Koh Phi Phi for what would end up being the most brutal three-day stretch of our entire 16-day trip. For three straight days, heavy winds and rain rocked our worlds and turned the beautiful island into one big mudslide. This made the already cramped living conditions within the hostel that much more sticky and damp. Combine that with the fact that each of us got sick for one whole day. We wont forget the eighth of January anytime soon. Trust that.
On a serious note, we were saddened to learn of the passing of many Thai people throughout southern Thailand who couldn’t escape the flooding. We’re thankful to have had shelter and good fortune during a tough stretch on the road. Here are a few shots:
Following the Phi Phi Islands, we left the monsoons behind us and ferried to Krabi and stayed in another backpacker hostel on Ao Nang beach. This served as our final leg of the trip and helped rejuvenate our bodies before the return home. Take a glance at limestone, street food and sunsets:
If you want to learn the art of bargaining, book your flight to Thailand right now. Everyone’s out to get your money, and for good reason. Tourism is Thailand in a nutshell. We were always on our toes in order to ensure we were receiving the best bang for our buck.
It took some effort, but we reached a deal for custom made suits each going for $150 a piece. I even splurged and bought two!
Our final day in the islands was spent in the Hong Islands whipping around in a speedboat, snorkeling and taking in the scenic limestone. The trip was capped off with great weather, lots of laughs and a whole lot of damn fun.
This wasn’t just a backpack trip for me. It represents my fifth continent I’ve stepped foot on and my third big adventure in less than a year and a half. It’s a trip I personally funded, which I think makes it that much more rewarding. After my semester abroad, I set a lofty goal to reach all seven continents in my lifetime. This was just another step to do doing so.
Thanks to my “wolfpack” brothers Anthony Umina and Grant Gallup for forming a band that will be telling and retelling stories that these 16 days helped produce for a lifetime.