“You should be singing in the rain as you’re team No.1!” bellows Phil Keoghan, the Emmy-nominated host of Amazing Race US, his excited voice reverberating around my living room. Raucous cheering follows soon after as the winning duo celebrate their triumph.
This American reality-adventure series, already in its 30th season, feature 11 globe-travelling teams of two competing for the US$1 million (RM3.87 million) prize. In a nutshell, the teams have to deduce clues, navigate themselves in foreign areas, interact with locals, perform physical and mental challenges, vie for airplane, boat and other public transportation options on a limited budget provided by the show.
But what if there’s a race with no budget provided at all? And what’s more, the contestants are not allowed to bring their cash, credit cards and smartphones. Now that’s a challenge that Red Bull, an energy drink created by an Austrian company in 1987, is throwing up.
This April 10 to 17, 200 selected teams comprising adventurous and up-for-anything university students, selected from 60 countries around the world and from nearly every continent, will depart from one of the five starting points in Europe — Budapest, Madrid, Manchester, Rome and Stockholm. They will have only one week to make it to the final destination — Amsterdam!
But here’s the catch: instead of cash and credit cards, the students will be exchanging cans of Red Bull for everything they need on the journey — food, a place to sleep, transportation to the next location and so on.
Already in its second outing, the previous challenge in 2016 saw a Malaysian team, Hibiscus Tigers, finishing 27th out of 165 teams and No. 2 in social media reach in Asia. This year’s challenge will see another team of three flying the Malaysian flag. Calling themselves Team K.A.T, which stands for Knowledge, Attitude and Teamwork, it comprises university students Syed Abdul Kabir Syed Ahmad from APR-Aviation Training Centre in Shah Alam, Aiman Ansari Mohd Hamizan and Batrisyia Ismail from KDU College in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
It’s business as usual at the Red Bull Malaysia headquarters in Jalan Gasing in Petaling Jaya. I didn’t have to wait too long for the trio to arrive. After a brief introduction, we adjourn to the meeting room for our chat.
With their sunny disposition, I could immediately see why they’ve been chosen for this challenge, triumphing over 70 video submissions from fellow Malaysians. Batrisyia or fondly known as Trish, is a petite 22-year-old who hails from Brunei. Her long hair trailing down to her waist, she looks sweet in her dark red lacy blouse which she pairs with blue jeans.
“We’re unique in our own ways. I’m the adventurous type and I can do all the physical stuff,” begins 21-year-old Syed Kabir, an avid backpacker and extreme sports enthusiast.
“I’m adventurous too, but not as much as Syed. I’m good at communicating with people. I can talk my way out of anything,” says Aiman, who’s studying Business & Marketing.
“And I’m the glue that will hold the team together!” chimes the bubbly Trish, drawing laughter from her teammates.
Asked about how they got themselves involved in the first place, Aiman shares that he stumbled upon a pamphlet for the challenge. He didn’t think twice about joining and roped in his childhood friend of 15 years, Syed Kabir, and his classmate Trish, both of whom, he adds with a chuckle, didn’t need much persuasion.
“We lepak (hang out) at a mamak restaurant one night and in less than 30 minutes, they all agreed to join,” recalls Aiman.
Their 1-minute video, which showcases aptly their respective personalities and their reasons for why they should be chosen garnered 4,700 votes and also the nod from a panel of Red Bull judges.
It’s not a race, it’s an adventure
While Amazing Race is what it is, a race, the concept of this challenge is totally different. It’s not really about which will be the first team to arrive at the destination; the emphasis is on the adventures one encounters along the way.
Selected teams will create their own paths by visiting a minimum of six checkpoints in various European cities, completing as many tasks on the Adventure List as they can, and posting photos and videos that can in turn build their support base among their family, friends and followers.
There’s also a strict code of honour to follow as well besides the no use of money ‘policy’. There should be no pre-organised mode of travel. For example, participants can’t arrange a friend to drive them around. Also, there’s no parting from the team at any time. All activities must be completed as a threesome. The teams found breaking any of the rules would be disqualified.
Suffice to say, it would be a huge coup to win the grand prize — a chance to experience an immersive, once-in-a-lifetime experience from Destination Red Bull, which offers extraordinary trips into the world of Red Bull, with exclusive access to prominent figures and unique experiences. To emerge the victor, the team must get the highest score which is based on the Checkpoint Challenges, Adventure List tasks and Social Following achieved.
To prepare themselves for this challenge, the trio did a lot of research and studied previous challenges carefully. They also did some research on the European countries that they would be exploring, focusing in particular on the language and culture.
“We’ve also tried exchanging the drinks at some food stalls here for practice,” divulges Syed Kabir.
Did it work? i ask, feeling amused.
“Oh yeah, we got apam balik and three cendol,” shares Syed Kabir, with a chuckle, as his teammates nod enthusiastically.
To ensure that they’re physically ready, Aiman and Syed Kabir have been going to the gym and doing plenty of sports.
“I’m quite active as well. I may not look as tough as these guys but I do play sports. In fact, I play touch rugby in college and I was in a touch rugby team back in Brunei where I come from,” shares the 22-year-old Trish with a smile.
As this is their first time travelling and working together, their friendship will also be put to the test. Together, they hope they will work harmoniously as a team until the finishing line.
“We hope this challenge can help us with our social and communication skills, which would be really helpful in the future when we enter the working world,” says Trish.
But have you ever been in a situation where you’re without your phone? I pose curiously to the Generation Z (the demographic cohort after Millennials and born in the mid-1990s) youths.
“No!” the trio exclaim simultaneously, before breaking into hearty chuckles.
“Not even a day without it,” confides Syed Kabir. “I’ve backpacked a lot, but I always have cash and my phone with me. This challenge will definitely be something else.”
Most of Generation Z have used the Internet from a young age, and they’re generally comfortable with technology and interacting on social media. Luckily for the participants, they will be given an official phone with unlimited data to post photos and videos to get the points they need.
Since the day the trio were announced as the chosen team, they’ve already been getting a lot of support from their friends and family. They hope the support will continue until the finish line.
“There will be other students from over 60 countries. I hope Malaysians will give us all the support so we can get the points,” says Syed Kabir.
The trio also express hope that through this, they will be able to inspire others to join this challenge in the future and show that nothing is impossible. “As long as you never give up, you will survive,” says Syed Kabir, smiling.
So, do you think you can make it? I ask, before preparing to take my leave.
“Yes! Malaysia Boleh!” they exclaim in unison, determination and delight etched on their young faces.
All the best guys! Malaysia Boleh!