How to travel Europe without money: A Red Bull challenge

3. 11. 2020 | News article is for adventurous people so read if you’re a university student who likes travelling and challenges. One hundred teams of three from all over the world travelled for seven days across Europe without money, paying only with cans of energy drinks. The challenge called Red Bull: Can You Make it? was taken on by two Czech teams as well.

In Vienna, participants were given 24 cans which they had to exchange for everything they might need on their journey like food, transport and accommodation. They were forbidden to bring money and mobile phones and had one week to get to Berlin. The goal was to visit as many countries as possible, track progress at check points and complete tasks.

One of two Czech teams called Airborne ( included Kristina Vítková, Markus Krug and Ondřej Vašíček. Over the course of seven days, they took 12 different means of transport, exchanged 141 cans, visited 5 countries and travelled 2 199 kilometres. Besides Austria, the team also visited Slovakia, Italy, Switzerland and finished their journey in Germany. We interviewed Kristina and Ondra to tell us about their incredible journey.

How did you discover this challenge?

K: I saw it on one girl’s Facebook. It seemed interesting so I started to put together a team and scout people I’d like to invite. Markus was the first one who came to my mind and also our common friend from Germany. The German friend couldn’t join us in the end because team members had to come from the same country so I called Ondra. He was hesitant but I persuaded him.

So you didn’t know each other?

K: I knew both boys but they didn’t know each other. I was positive that I could make the journey and I was looking for cool people who speak foreign languages and can benefit the team. I didn’t want an all-girls gang and I thought that if I pick two nifty boys who will get along, it’ll be fine. And it was.

How long did you prepare for the journey?

O: It was rushed but it took some time, one month I guess. Three weeks beforehand and then all those parties when we returned. Ok, not all of that counts as obligations, but still.

What kind of preparation did you have to make?

K: We had to come up with a sign up video. Markus is a cameraman so it was great. We were also inventing all kinds of answers to questions like what animal is every team-mate, what’s your craziest experience and how do you plan to make the journey.

Do you know how many Czech teams originally signed up?

K: 120 teams, they picked two. The second team was an all-boys party, people who have known each other for a long time, live together and attend the same school. So both groups were quite different. They took it as fun while we had lots of team building. It was a very personal challenge. Boys didn’t know each other at all and even though I did, I didn’t see them for quite some time.

Did you expect to be chosen?

K: We were positive but still quite surprised. They called me from Red Bull when I was at work teaching two clients English, I’m a teacher. When they told me we were picked, I started to cry and the students with me. It was shocking but in a nice way.

When did they let you know?

O: Two weeks before the journey. We were thinking about the strategy like how to pass check points and general planning. For instance, we thought of taking a white plastic sheet to write on our next destination so we didn’t have to always look for paper boards. Well, to be honest, we basically had no idea what we signed up for. You can’t prepare for something like that.

K: We didn’t take a map. It’d come in handy as we were always searching for a map first.

How many things could you bring?

K: As many as we’d be able to carry. But there were things we were forbidden to take like money, credit cards, phones and our own camera. We also couldn’t take valuables that we could potentially exchange for something else like gold.

What were the biggest problems you encountered?

K: The hardest part was finding accommodation. When a person arrives somewhere and has a room booked in advance, one can enjoy the place more. We always arrived somewhere in the evening and spent three or four hours looking for a place to sleep. At our first night, we found a place at four o’clock in the morning.

What was the most interesting thing you exchanged?

O: Four cans of Red Bull for a whole package of beer. We wanted to exchange just four cans for four bottles but the Swiss told us that it’s either four for the whole package or none. So we ended up with a whole package. We could then give the beer as a present to others to make them happy because until this point people were constantly helping us.

What surprised you the most?

O: I was pleasantly surprised how helpful people are when you tell them what you’re trying to accomplish. Of course, at the beginning they refuse to help because you approach them and want something. It’d be unpleasant for me as well. But when we finally got our lift and told them our story in the car, they became unbelievably helpful. They gave us food and took us were we needed to go even though they originally didn’t plan to go there themselves.

Did you argue during your journey?

O: We mostly had personal crises, mainly related to not being able to find accommodation. Fortunately, we took turns so when one team member was experiencing a crisis, other team-mates cheered that person up and when two of us had their crisis at the same time, the third one could help. Not even once all three of us went through a crisis together so we made it. We never argued. Well, once we had a little bit hotter debate with Markus over how many cans to spend but it wasn’t an argument really.

Did you experience something funny?

K: We were hitchhiking at a gas station near German Karlsruhe, it was around half past eleven at night. A Jaguar car arrived and custom officers were discussing something with the driver for 15 minutes. As the policemen were leaving, they saw us and stopped. They wanted to take us but they didn’t have that many free seats. However, they told us they’ll arrange transport and went back to the Jaguar driver. They told him something and he took us. I suspect we were his punishment instead of a fine. He must have been overjoyed when we hopped into his white leather interior wearing muddy sneakers.

O: Another time we were hitchhiking in front of Milan. One car got a flat tyre on the highway so it had to stop at a gas station. We went to help the driver and found out he was heading to Switzerland where we needed to go. A truck driver was helping out as well. We were talking, telling jokes and looking forward to our potential ride. But then they picked up a huge painting from behind the car we didn’t notice before and it took the whole trunk as well as back seats. The driver just waved us goodbye and left.

What tasks did you have to complete when you reached mandatory checkpoints?

K: For instance, in Bratislava above one bridge, there’s an 80 metres high lookout tower in shape of an alien flying saucer with a restaurant inside. The task was that one team member had to step out with a mountain climbing gear and go around the restaurant from the outside.

O: The best task was in Venice. We got a poster with a photo of a wanted person, a map of one part of the city and we had to find this person. So we were running through narrow Venice streets like in some action movie. Luckily, we found that person.

How did the challenge enrich you?

K: We got to know each other and became very close. You also find out what you’re capable of. It wasn’t fun, really. Until you get into a situation like this, you can’t know what awaits you. When we started in Vienna, it was only then that we realised it won’t be as easy and we though.

Would you take on this challenge again?

O: We get this question a lot. Three days after our return I wasn’t so sure—it was a very difficult week. But now…yes, definitely.

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